Current position of the SSV Corwith Cramer. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the layer tools, top right, to change the map style or to view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer
July 23, 2016
The Chief Engineer
42° 03.77’ N, 011° 28.23’ W
Ship’s Heading & Speed
Trysail, Main Staysail, Course, Topsail, Rafee, Jib
NXE Force 4, sunny
For all those keeping score at home, I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about our majestic sailing vessel, her crew scurrying to and fro to learn their lines, haul up massive sheets of canvas, and charge through the howling seas to another exotic destination.
Now, let’s talk about the toilets.
I’m only sort of kidding. Corwith Cramer is more than a mode of transport. She’s also home for as many as 38 crew, faculty, and students. So in addition to providing sailing adventures and a platform for science at sea, she needs to be able to deliver some “creature comforts” as well.
Let’s start off with power. True, we do separate ourselves from the chains of cellular devices and televisions, but at the same time, we need things like lights, computers, science equipment, navigation equipment, etc.. Providing power for these things are the large “Main Generator” for most days, and the smaller “Deck Generator” when we have a lighter load and need to give the Main a rest. Either of these acts as a source of 120V power to outlets throughout the ship, or higher-voltage 3-phase power to heavy-duty equipment such as pumps, watermakers, and the lab hydrowinch.
Water is also a concern. All the fresh water we need, we either have to bring with us from port, or make with our Reverse Osmosis desalination units. While these machines are often the biggest source of headaches for the ship’s engineers, they also do their job well: we’ve been operating at a 100-150 gallon daily surplus of potable water, which means we left Douarnenez with two full tanks and one slack, but will arrive in Lisbon with four full tanks and one slack.
The Cramer is also chock-full of safety equipment. Float switches in bilges to give us early warning of flooding. Heat sensors and smoke detectors throughout the vessel, tied into a monitoring system. Fixed fire-fighting systems in the Engine Room, Chemical Locker, and Galley. Multiple, redundant pumps that allow us to either fight a fire or remove water from a flooded space. The engineer aboard is responsible for maintaining this equipment, and testing what can be tested regularly.
There’s all the connect-y bits that link up systems – plumbing, wires, conduits, ducts, etc.. Regular surveys of these systems allow us to catch small problems before they become big problems. Overhauls are planned for maintenance periods.
And finally, the toilets, or rather, the “heads”, as they’re called at sea. As any boat owner will tell you, heads are finicky pieces of equipment, and each one has its own quirks. New crew aboard the Cramer must learn the secrets of making each one work properly, but the rule above all others is: When in doubt, get the Engineer.
Which leads into the best and worst part of the job. Engineers aboard the Cramer do not stand watch with the rest of the crew; they are allowed to set their own schedule and work the hours they please. Some days, this makes for a rather peaceful existence, but those days are counter-balanced by the fact that the engineer is always “on-call”. One can be woken up in the middle of the night for something as small as a trivial question or as large as a major problem. Some days fill up entirely with things to fix and check and diagnose, and you end up taking meals on the fly because you don’t even have enough time to sit down.
But I find those days to be the most gratifying – it’s a powerful feeling to feel the high level of trust your shipmates put in you, and living up to that trust is a reward all of its own. In my eyes, that is the real goal of sail training, and beyond academic credit or scientific data, the most amazing accomplishment of SEA Semester crew and students.
A quick shout-out to: my family at home; my X-wing opponent; Eisbar; my “hunting” partner; a certain little bird; and my motorcycle, “Layla”.