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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

October 20, 2016

You Know Nothing, Jon Snow

Spencer O’Bryan, Carleton College

The Global Ocean: Europe

Above: We’ve still got some work to do: Dan Mayer holding up the Rock of Gibraltar. Below: In memoriam. Our feathered friend who perished aboard the Cramer on October 10th, 2016, my birthday.

Ship's Log

35° 46.0’N x 008° 01.1’W

Description of location
Gulf of Cadiz

Ship Heading
270° psc

Sail Plan
Motorsailing 5 knots under single reefed mainsail and staysails. 

Winds E x N Beaufort scale 1, Seas E x N 2 feet.

Souls on Board

(We’re working on it, Jack Tar)

When I was growing up I would always ask my family questions. Favorites were, “If you were a Harry Potter character who would you be?”, or “If you had to live in a book what would it be?” These questions bordered on the thin line between childhood curiosity and the determination to never have a moment of silence I could not fill. The question I most remember is “If you were an animal what would you be? My mother said a polar bear (usually she is a better forward thinker), my sister a fish and my father a snake. When asked what I would be I responded “a little brown bird”. Curious, my mother asked why that was. I said that if I were a little brown bird I could travel anywhere and fit in perfectly without attracting attention. Indeed, I wrote a story about a little brown bird that visited the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World and had many adventures there.

As we are now exploring some of the same territory on the Cramer, I am compelled to compare myself to that little bird and notice how at the start of this program, I felt so unlike it. When we stepped aboard the ship in Barcelona we quickly realized how much there was to learn. We have had to become used to a new sleep schedule, been exposed to and employed a multitude of new terminology, heard new sounds, learnt new faces, and perhaps most pressing of all - fostered a new sense of identity. As we stepped aboard the ship we assumed the responsibilities of a crew member, and thereby became part of a node in the larger network that was our tall ship. This ship is our home, our transportation, our workplace and our classroom. Reflective of that is the complexity of the roles we play: community member, passenger, worker and student.

At first it was difficult to determine where we belonged and what we could safely do. Like new sailors of the past, we struggled with mastering a new skill set (under less of a punishing captain), and fell into place in the hierarchy aboard. We toed the line between being proactive and responding efficiently to tasks set forth by our watch officers, preoccupied with the sense that if we acted too quickly or without double checking (triple checking - let’s be real), we could sink the ship. We have since grown more comfortable aboard with our roles: learning our knots, standing and running rigging, and practicing line handling and timely response to commands. Looking forward it is clear that we still have much to learn, but looking back must acknowledge and be incredibly proud of how far we have come.

We departed Barcelona, sailed hundreds of nautical miles through foul weather and fair, and arrived in Cadiz at the precise time of day planned. It amazes me how the mariners of yore navigated the Mediterranean using the stars and a sextant. Even with GPS, AIS and radar, it would take longer than it did Ulysses for me to navigate using those tools. Even though the advent of modern technology has made maritime navigation easier, there is still much specialization and much to master. Some of the skills we have learned are highly specialized - mastering a ballantine coil, fishing the boat falls or tying a midshipman’s hitch, though others are more translatable than we could ever have thought.

We learned not only to manage our vessel, but also to manage ourselves. It is a certain sort of individual who can steer through large swells or stand lookout on a hitching bow from 0100 to 0700 and still wake the morning watch with a smile and a joke, who can rinse a Neuston net full of cnidarians and laugh at being soaked through their clothes with seawater, or can cheerfully explain how to tie a bowline knot the fifth time in a row.

We have these examples for us in our fellow students, whom we rely upon for encouragement and resilience as together we conquer our fear of heights and climb aloft, or huddle together for warmth and solidarity in fifteen foot swells.

We have learned much about ourselves and each other in the duration of this program and will learn much more in the weeks to come. I am incredibly excited to see what’s next on the horizon, and fittingly, as I am about to nestle in my bunk, more like that little brown bird.

- Spencer

Much love to everyone at home!

Categories: Corwith Cramer,The Global Ocean: Europe, • Topics: c269  life at sea • (2) Comments
Previous entry: Capturing Cádiz    Next entry: Cádiz II: Electric Boogaloo


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 Rose Sword on October 21, 2016

Beautifully written!
Hope you made back to Cadiz safely!

#2. Posted by Mama on October 28, 2016

You are still my favorite little brown bird!



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