Ready for an adventure with a purpose? Request info »
  • Search SEA Semester, Summer and High School Programs

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

February 27, 2020

Notes On The Upper Bunk

Amelia Austin, Smith College


The author, Amelia, at the wheel about 100 nm off the North Cape of New Zealand AND The on-watch observed several full rainbows off the bow; that's Amelia, who you can just see, with the red hat looking forward.

Ship's Log

Souls on board

In between steep ocean swells, I grip the ladder rails for stability and lower myself below deck. My weight shifts side to side, and I stumble. The light remains dim but it must have looked as if I was walking in complete darkness with my hands out in front of me, making my way to my bunk. The port holes usually offer decent lighting below. Today, the transparent disks - no more than a foot in diameter - bring us close to the ocean surface and drown our view in blue, a glimpse into a washing machine tide. Just for a second, we find ourselves under the waves, watching air bubbles hurry their way upwards, looking like the jelly fish tank I saw at the aquarium last year. On this particular afternoon, my neighbors have their port holes latched and covered. I finally reach the ledge of the upper bunk, still swaying in the dim light, and find a step that will assist my climb.

A set of white curtains hides my only personal space on this journey. I've tried multiple strategies to maneuver my way into this crib gracefully, but what ever I do feels like an interpretive dance, trying to lift my arms and legs and rolling torso. I hoist myself rear-end first, followed by chest and arms, followed by legs and toes. I land in a sitting position, and my stomach churns. The yellow lamp above my pink pillowcase fills this personal cabin with light, so I draw my curtains closed and begin to shuffle around my things. Everything is within arm's reach, organized in no particular order, in this flower-box-like shelf. But instead of flowers, it holds my toiletries, harness, water bottle, and hiking boots. I lay down. At full length, I push my backpack against the wall with my feet and glance at the blue paper butterfly on the wall that my mom gave me for some personal flair. 

The waves still churn outside the hull, and I am buoyant in my bed. Time works a little differently around the ship. I will be up at dawn and asleep at noon, on deck watching the swells twinkle in both sunlight and starlight. For now my knees rock back and forth in bed. I hear the bow slap against the tide and the soft drum of our generator from even further below deck. The hum of the hallway fan cuts through the peaks of white caps. Dishes clink in the galley and blissful chatter fill the main salon. Behind the port hole, rainbows dip under clouds and wishful sailors dream of whale spouts in the distance. With the lights now out, I am swarmed with darkness, ready for my afternoon nap.

- Amelia Austin, Smith College

Categories: Robert C. Seamans,The Global Ocean: New Zealand, • Topics: s290  life at sea • (4) 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 Julia on February 27, 2020

Beautifully written, Amelia!! Glad the butterfly is there with you smile

Safe voyage, all!!

#2. Posted by Beth O'Malley on February 27, 2020

What an amazing description of life on the top bunk! Thank you so much for sharing this piece.

#3. Posted by Elaine Lipwoth Beech on February 28, 2020

What an evocative and wonderfully written post! (Ava-Rose’s Mum)!

#4. Posted by jennifer stockmeier on March 03, 2020

What an amazing experience you’re having.  Even simple daily tasks become significant and rich.
So happy for you!



Add a comment:

Notify me of follow-­up comments?

I would like SEA to keep me informed about news and opportunities.