Current position of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the tools, top right, to change the map style or view data layers.
SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
December 10, 2015
All Downwind From Here
37°09.1’S x 178°58.5’E
Description of location
33 miles from rounding East Cape.
Sunshine, favorable currents and the wind at our backs. Oh, and did I mention 29 knot winds?
The last twenty-four hours have been marked by strong winds as we make our way down the East coast of New Zealand toward Napier. A Watch was particularly excited to discover, in preparation for our daily Navigation & Weather report, that as more seasoned sailors, we managed to have our rhumb run exceed our log run by 6 miles over the last 24 hours—an indication of efficient sailing. Most notable of all was the fact that 32 of the 109 miles sailed in the last 24 hours (mind you we always log distance in nautical miles) were traversed over a mere five hours on A Watch’s shift this morning—roughly 1/3rd of the day’s sailing progress!
Undoubtedly the best parts of SEA Semester often occur during these times of Force 6 (roughly 30 knot) winds. For one thing, these high-speed winds led to many Southern Royal Albatross sightings this morning since their 8-foot wing spans require windier latitudes. Truly a spectacle! Even more of a spectacle was today’s ship-wide afternoon class. Allow me to set the scene: 30 knot winds paired with twelve foot seas while learning
about celestial navigation below deck, swaying side to side with a similar tilt of the gimble tables trying to stay upright in order to keep up with Captain’s unparalleled mental math for calculating our current latitude position—a skill that us budding mariners will also work to develop just in case the many GPS’s aboard the ship fail…unlikely of course. In a nut shell, our experience as students aboard a fully rigged ship today doesn’t get much saltier than this. Except, oh wait, it does.
Not long after Captain Burke came up for air after cruising through sextant training, calculating coordinates, and how to effectively use the Celestial Almanac, the alarm sounded for an Abandon Ship drill—a weekly occurrence we practice along with our Man Over Board and Fire drills. Right away the sound of the alarm sent all of us to our respective stations on deck—in my case the forward starboard life raft with the rest of A watch to grab our designated emergency supplies. This gluten free gal just so happens to be in charge of the emergency Fig Newtons in case of Abandon Ship. Not sure I have ever been in charge of anything more essential in my young life. After a successful run-thru of the drill, and only one crew member dowsed in seawater from a rogue wave, A Watch returned below deck for an impromptu lesson in Sail Theory from Third Mate Rocky, sailing savant.
We covered everything from the basics of sailing downwind versus upwind to the implications of Mama Seamans’ forward-positioned Center of Lateral Resistance that makes her particularly weather helm compared to SEA’s Atlantic counterpart, the Cramer ship. Essentially this means that the Seamans’ pivot point is naturally located closer to the bow meaning she has the tendency to round up into the wind—something anyone who has ever been at the helm figures out the hard way. But, I digress. Mid-way through Rocky’s explanation of the mechanics of gybing the ship, we hear Julianna call down the kitchen aeration vent, “Hey galley we are about to gybe!” This way, Becks our steward can stow kitchen knives in preparation for a starboard tack that would tilt the ship in the other direction.
All in all, today is evidence of the fact that we have settled into our bizarrely amusing little microcosm here at sea. We live with less—less square footage per person, fewer showers—so that as a ship we can live with
more—more tight-knit hat-making circles (pun intended), more smelly snuggle sessions, and late night snack binges before watch. Of course it is not the same without our dear friend Travis and we think of him often. We’ve even made a habit of shouting #9 collectively every time we go through roll-call!
Otherwise, the Hanukah celebrations are in full force aboard the ship and Christmas carols can be heard at every lab turn-over. From all of us aboard S-263, hope everyone is having a holly jolly start to their December!
Stay Salty My Friends,