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. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
December 05, 2015
35° 00.48’S x 173° 44.43’E
We all aspire to saltiness. Saltiness does not crystallize overnight or even over a period of a couple of weeks. The term ‘salty’ is reserved for only the crustiest individuals. Yesterday the most seasoned sailor I’ve ever laid eyes on drifted past our anchorage. This human incarnate of Poseidon himself was so well tanned I could barely see the ink that covered his chest and back. Of course his sailboat was complete with a makeshift shack, multiple bicycles and a cat. Captain said ‘he looked pretty salty.’ He was so damn salty. That’s how salty works. Its not about knowing the rigging or waking up for watch—its that real-deal haggard lifestyle that forms that real crust.
We strutted out of Bay of Islands a few days ago felling quite salty. We were tossing up sails like it was our job. Mains’l, Mainstays’l, Forestays’l, boom boom boom—looking really professional in front of those dolphin watching tours in their nerdy boats. (The dolphins that they had been chasing promptly recognized our tallship’s salt content and darted from the motorboat’s bow to our own, turning our bowsprit into front row seats for a dolphin fiesta.) As the excitement surrounding our departure began to wane, we settled ourselves down on the ole teak of the quarterdeck to have our daily afternoon class. As we cruised out of the harbor and into the open ocean we were all quite nonchalant about seasickness. We’d been through the big stuff before that we thought of ourselves as pretty well adjusted. We were terribly wrong.
The ship started doing that perfect combination of roll, yaw, and pitch that turns even the most iron-stomached novice sailors into barf-machines. (For the fans back at home: The SSV Robert C. Seamans can be likened to a mechanical bull when the swells get big, not only pitching forward and backwards, but twisting that perfect amount sideways to make your brain feel like something is very wrong. Let’s not forget that this mechanical bull also rolls side to side. We all happen to eat, sleep, brush our teeth, pee, walk, carry mugs of tea, carry stacks of plates, climb ladders, do push ups, cook ramen, eat ramen, spill ramen, and perform a number of traditional (what is tradition?) kiwi snack dances inside this mechanical bull as well.)
It was only a matter of minutes before students began turning green—and by this point we’re familiar with everyone’s first signs. Some sleepers, like Maya and Tuna, nestle their heads into their arms. On land this would probably look like the sweetest little catnap, but at sea we all know this is a spinning purgatory. Liz gets sort of squinty and a little sweaty when she feels it coming on. Nick makes his best attempt at a smile that I know means he’s considering spilling his lunch off the quarter deck. Lucy gets vacant around the eyes and stares off at the horizon. She’s likely dreaming of days when she didn’t feel as if she were stuck on the worlds largest and most inescapable teacup ride. Maddy usually puts her hand to her lips in a dignified Victorian manner. Xiotong closes her eyes and cracks an eerie smile. Griffin cannot maintain basic conversation when he begins to get the feeling. Kate just shakes her head as if she is just saying ‘no’ to the whole damn thing. Everyone’s got a look, except Faye because she is inhuman and does not get sick.
Despite the class being on the cusp of a full-blown barf-o-rama, our studies continued. They really stop for nothing (The other day Jan, the Chief Scientist, lectured us on seabirds in the blazing sun for what felt like an eternity—we were passing the SPF 50 like it was our job. We debriefed our port stop and considered what it meant to visit historically significant locations for Europeans and Maori alike. At one point, during what turned out to be a heated discussion on Maori tattooing traditions, Erin turned to the rail. ‘Turning to the rail’ carries much significance aboard the ship—its that moment when you pull out all the stops and heave your afternoon snack into the depths of the deep blue. I can only assume that it was seasickness and not the complexities of understanding hybridization of tradition that caused Erin to chunder over the starboard rails.
In what seemed like a heartbeat, Liz had pulled off her harness and sprung to Erin’s side—slipping her into the nylon webbing and clipping her in moments before her upper body leaned over the rail to spew. There were no questions asked, no words spoken. It was second nature for Liz to hop up and help out a shipmate in need. Its just what you do in this class room. Class continued on as of nothing had happened—if we stopped class for all the interruptions—swinging booms, rogue waves, Shearwaters, giggling students—we would get little done. Regardless of the weather or the circumstances, the ship maintains forward momentum. This momentum is instilled in all of us. No matter what the ocean tosses our way, or how seasick a shipmate is, we roll with the punches.
THIS is what it is like to go to class everyday on Mama Seamans. Its dynamic and its not always easy, and to succeed all lean on each other a bit. We’re learning lots about the sails and the lines, and loads about phytoplankton and jellies, but we’re also learning about how to thrive aboard this ship. Sometimes you gotta step up and clip somebody in, and other times you gotta lean on someone and let them clip you in. It takes more than just a hull to float this ole girl.
Today we slipped and slid and stomped our way up to the top of Duke’s Nose, a rocky outcropping that towers over Wrangaroa Bay. It left me in in awe. You get to the top and you don’t even want to jump for joy because its so powerful. I wanted to sit and soak it in and stare down at our little ship amongst this enormous rough and tumble New Zealand landscape. Its moment like these that make seasickness feel like its absolutely nothing. Like you’d double your seasickness just to get to the top of Duke’s nose. Attached is a picture that does not begin to describe how stunning it is.
So much love to my people at home.