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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

February 21, 2015

Training concludes, sails are set, as C257 begins our cruise track!!

Thomas Hiura, Carleton College

Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

I snapped this image of the moon, Venus, and Mars, all brightly visible the night before our voyage began.

Ship's Log

Anchored in the harbor in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Souls on Board

We spent the bulk of this morning anchored in the bay off of Old San Juan. Getting to that spot from the dock involved some impressive maneuvering by our crew, led by Captain Sean Bercaw. Despite the fact that we were docked in something of a corner with the wind blowing towards the shore, Captain Sean guided us off the dock as if he had done it hundreds of times before (probably because he has).

Once we were anchored offshore in the bay, we ran through emergency drills, practicing the individual roles given to us which Jeff wrote about in the previous blog post. Every single person onboard has their own role to play in the event that disaster should ever strike. For example, if there were a fire down below, I would be responsible for closing ventilation above the engine room; a small part to play in a larger strategy of compartmentalizing the ship and keeping the fire from spreading or growing. Running emergency drills started to give us students a sense of the sheer realness of the voyage we signed up for. It also helped us understand how seriously SEA takes onboard safety (as evidenced by their excellent track record).

Around midday, as a brief break from emergency procedures, we all went into the saloon (to stay dry in the midst of an approaching squall) to talk about oceanography with Jeff. As a class we assembled a list of geological, physical, chemical, and biological observations we had made about our surroundings while anchored. After another round of emergency drills, we had a chance to sit down and enjoy one of the most comforting of meals ever created: tacos. Once we had each won our individual battles against the behemoths of meat, beans, cheese, and vegetables we had put before ourselves (maybe I'm speaking for myself here), and once our mouths were comfortably de-saturated of the SSV Corwith Cramer's mysteriously spicy passion fruit hot sauce (I'm definitely speaking for myself here), we went back up on deck for one last round of pre-voyage lessons before setting the sails.

After we each had a chance to go out on the bowsprit and practice tying reef knots on the rolled up sails, and after we collectively rolled up the mainsail (which involved infinitely more punching than I had anticipated), it was finally time to set sail.

I have to be honest: beginning our voyage already feels like a bit of a blur. Apparently we had to pull out of the dock in a bit of a rush in order to make room for an incoming cruise ship. Before I knew it, the main stays'l had been set, then three others, until we were sailing under our four lowers (mains'l, main stays'l, forward stays'l, and jib) away from the shore. It was an absolutely breathtaking experience to sail away from Old San Juan, watching the beautiful fortified city shrink smaller and smaller amidst an ever-expanding horizon of blue.

After all the anticipation of applying to SEA Semester, being admitted, attending the shore component in Woods Hole, flying to San Juan, and joining the Cramer, here we were. I don't think anything could truly prepare us for the sheer intensity of what this experience would amount to. Seasickness hit hard today, striking students who had sailed smaller vessels before as well as newcomers to the ocean like myself. Students clipped their harnesses to steel fixtures as they clutched the rail of the Cramer, orally expelling semi-digested proteins into the Atlantic. The unexplainable awe of taking to the open ocean left me unwaveringly convinced that I would never be able to accurately orate the intensity of this experience to my mom. Sailing northeast out of San Juan is tough, and I'm told the powerful easterly trades winds of the Atlantic will continue to batter us until we can sail under a few of the northernmost isles of the Lesser Antilles.

Maritime studies faculty Craig Marin (who graduated from the amazing Carleton College during the very year I was born), taught me how to take the helm and steer. While I was in a state of distress - I had never done anything like this before - Craig calmed me down and coached me through the steering process as we sailed a course of about 035 degrees. Seeing Craig's collectedness, and noticing the preparedness and steadfast positive spirit of the professional crew around me, I knew we would get through these choppy waters and emerge better for it. In spite of initial shellshock, it really has been an awesome day, and I look forward to many more with this incredible crew. As I started to slowly gain my "sea legs" in the bumpy conditions, I couldn't help but think of the modern classic hip-hop song "Sea Legs" by Run the Jewels. Check it out if you don't mind profanity.

Captain Sean's words ring true: "The ocean does not care that you're on a student vessel. If you're not careful, it will eat you." I'll be sure to be careful.

- Thomas

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean, • Topics: c257 • (1) Comments


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 Nanny&Papa; on February 25, 2015

Dear Sarah,  Love reading of your sailing trip.  Everything on land is going to seem so easy.  Keep up the good work.  We are so proud of you and your decision for your semester ABOARD.  WE look forward yo your blogs.  Thing here are fine.  Love , Nanny



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