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SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer

February 18, 2016

The Basics of a Salty Caribbean Sailor

Riley Mehring, Whitman College

Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

Ship's Log

Anchored in Francis Bay, St. John

Description of location
Anchored among other sailboats and yachts in Francis Bay, surrounded by steep green islands on 3 sides.

Weather / Wind
Clear skies, warm, sunscreen and sweat-worthy temperatures

Souls on Board

Yesterday was our first day on the open sea as we made our transit from Gallows Bay, St. Croix to our current mooring at Francis Bay, St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. While I would like to say it was a 100% delightful crossing, I spent a significant portion with my head stuck over the railing so as not to vomit on our beautiful ship. I am told by the crew that keeping your eyes on the horizon will help with the sea sickness and despite my regurgitation of breakfast, I am thankful for the view.

We students are just beginning to pick up on the basics of how to be salty Caribbean sailors - how to wear your deck harnesses correctly, knowing to walk backwards in your snorkeling flippers so as not to trip over yourself, accepting that you will always lose a battle of you vs. the Caribbean sun without copious amounts of repeatedly applied sunscreen, and for goodness sake do not brush your hair below deck (nobody wants to clean that and we do A LOT of cleaning). One of my biggest accomplishments thus far has been learning how to gracefully carry a full plate of food up the ladder from the main saloon onto the deck to watch the sunset while eating a delicious dinner made by our fantastic steward, Tia.  Of course all of this is in addition to the actual lessons we are receiving on how to sail. Within the next week we are expected to know the names of all 85+ lines, an extremely daunting task. I can just see the beginnings of baby calluses on my palms and I am proud.

In our first 3 full days on the Corwith Cramer, we have already conducted two coral reef surveys. Today, after a 30 minute walk on a road cutting through a dense mangrove forest scattered with termite nests and a stop at an old sugar plantation on St. John to get our history fix, we arrived at the our snorkel location around Water Lemon Cay on St. John. Here, we donned our rash guards and smudged anti-fog lotion into our snorkel masks before wading in, carefully avoiding the sea urchins. While collecting data on hard and soft corals as part of my snorkel survey, I looked up to see our group of 27 flipper clad sailors conglomerating in one area and making excited squealing and bubbling sounds through their snorkel mouthpieces. On the sea floor was a nurse shark, resting between two rocks.

Thinking it would not be such a great idea, several of the students refrained from attempting to pet it. Other squeal-worth sightings included sting rays, trumpet fish, a barracuda, and sea turtles. After a quick rescue boat ride home to our mooring, we all settled down to change, eat, and no, not rest, but get back to work.

Wish me luck in not getting sunburned,


Leave a public comment for students and crew to read when they reach their next port and have access to the internet!

#1. Posted by tish saburn on February 19, 2016

Great summary, Riley! I loved reading this today! It’s so hard for those of us stuck at home in the cold, gray winter weather to imagine all of you snorkeling, sailing, hiking through mangroves and lotioning-up to prevent sunburns!!
ahhhh, wish we could all trade places! Have fun everyone!

#2. Posted by Leni Cahn on February 19, 2016

Ahoy Matey! So glad you haven’t fallen overboard yet.
Your Mom, Gramps and I are viewing this epic journey together and enjoying reading about all the adventures.
Gramps is green with envy.
Love, Yaya

#3. Posted by Michelle Weiss on February 20, 2016

Hopefully the sea sickness will pass as you get your sea legs.  Keep applying that sunscreen & most of all keep smiling!

#4. Posted by Dianne Reilly on February 20, 2016

Hope your all enjoying the scenery and beautiful water, fisheye.
Hope my nephew Tim is okey, haven’t heard from him!!!
Be safe and enjoy, what an experience.

#5. Posted by Pauline de Lange on February 21, 2016

That must have been an amazing experience! I hope we get to see some under water shots of those coral reefs soon!

Good luck with the sea sickness and sunburn

#6. Posted by Jodie Condon on February 21, 2016

Ahoy Captain Nolan and Corwith Cramer Crew,

Experiencing your voyage and adventures through the informative blog posts & awesome pics has been great! The words and the camera lens are certainly providing us land dwellers an exciting view of your time at sea. Thanks for sharing your world! 
We look forward to learning more and wish you optimal sailing conditions.

PS. Here in Southeast Michigan we hit 50 degrees yesterday, yet still dreaming of your daily sunny and 80 degree temperatures.

Best wishes to all,
Condon Family

#7. Posted by Mrs.Keenan on February 21, 2016

Caroline and Crew, what an amazing adventure! I can’t wait to sail along with you on this journey! Stay well…sending you wishes for sunny skies, and smooth seas…much love from OC, Mrs.Keenan

#8. Posted by Catherine Deneuve on February 21, 2016

Writing from Cherbourg. All of this sounds fun. I just found the blogpost page and read everything, very interesting.
Brutus says hi



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