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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans

April 30, 2015

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

Sam Nadell, A Watch, Cornell University

Oceans & Climate

Dawn over Tahiti. photo credit: Olivia Dawson

Ship's Log

Course & Speed
At anchor, Cook Bay, Moorea, French Polynesia

Sail Plan
All sails furled

Warm and partly cloudy

Souls on Board

The saying goes, almost only really counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. I disagree. I think getting almost to something is just as valuable as getting right to that thing. Almost gives you the chance to get better, to keep learning from others and to keep learning from your mistakes. Perfection doesn't give you this luxury - instead you're already the expert in your own head, and further improvement doesn't seem necessary. Obviously people strive to achieve perfection over near perfection, and there's nothing wrong with that. That being said, there's a lot to gain from being so close and seemingly so far from achieving a goal.

As Tasha mentioned in the previous blog post, last night was our Final Mission. This was no easy task for any watch, but certainly doable given the past five or so weeks we've spent learning on this boat. We were all up to the challenge and excited to take it on. And by the time it was over, I think that it's safe to say that we crushed it. Over three watches, we traveled about 70 nautical miles, deployed and processed three neuston tows, and found ourselves right in between the beautiful islands of Tahiti and Moorea. And yet we were still an eighth of a mile away from our target point for 0700. An eighth of a mile is incredibly small over the scale of the night, and getting that close at all is pretty impressive as is. But being on watch with the rest of A Watch during the final hours of the Mission and missing the target by such a small distance made me a little frustrated. I started thinking about everything we could have done differently; when we could have changed course a little sooner or changed our sail plan at a more opportune time. I then realized that if we had been an eighth of a mile closer, none of these thoughts would have been in my head. And these were the kinds of thoughts that you learned from, because you gain experience and know better what to expect the next time you're in a similar situation.

It's easy to get a little comfortable and overconfident after such a long time on the boat, and sometimes you forget that this is still a constant learning experience. For example, today while working on a rather loud craft project, I woke up the Captain, who happened to be in the bunk directly below where I was hammering through sail. I obviously felt terrible, and got mad at myself for making a mistake like that with just one day left in our cruise. Even though I figured I was being safe and precise with my project, I had forgotten to take into account my own noise, and therefore was no closer than almost perfect in terms of my crafting. But I also knew that, for the rest of the time on the Seamans and any additional sailing I do in the future, I would never again hammer above the Captain's cabin. This may seem like a silly lesson, but it's a lesson nonetheless, and one that I could have made three weeks ago or never at all. I just happened to do it right now, and after the initial frustration wore off, I realized it wasn't so bad to make such a mistake.

(Side bar: today we got to go swimming twice while being anchored off of Moorea, and Mike was quoted as saying that the water was almost "too hot" to be enjoyable. What a different problem than what we were having just a few weeks ago.)

Skipping ahead to tonight - tonight was Final Swizzle, which is our last fun group gathering where anybody can get up and perform. Performances included comedic science reports, Irish step dancing, beautiful poetry, a story about birds from the (likely tired) Captain, and a lot more. I don't want to comment on the performances themselves, because I really do believe they were perfect within the given situation. Instead, I'll comment on how this trip, only hours away from concluding, was still able to offer surprises in the form of new talents arising from people who I've seen continuously for the past 12 weeks. Almost at the end of our voyage, I was still learning new things about the good friends I've made, from Ariana's singing voice to Santi's ability to play the mouth harp. And it showed me that even though we're all almost done with our SEA Semester experience, there was still so much to learn here.

As I finish writing this blog post, we are under ten hours away from departure from the Robert C. Seamans. And yet instead of feeling like it's already over, like I already know the ending, like a night such as this could be the perfect ending to this program-  I'm so excited to see what happens next.

Sorry if this is a little ramble-y or out of order, I'm pretty tired and I'm just trying to get my thoughts down while I can. No shout-outs to my family and friends this time - I'll be able to talk to you all directly tomorrow.

- Sam

Categories: Robert C. Seamans,Oceans & Climate, • Topics: s258  port stops  polynesia. • (0) Comments
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