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
35° 58.2’ S 177° 19.3’E
Description of location
88 nm ExN of Great Barrier Island
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan (from 1300 Watch Change)
SxW wind, F4, sailing under stays’ls and jib
The transformations that happen over the course of a six week sea component are astounding. The way the South Pacific Ocean turns from angry to placid in a matter of hours, the sudden bounty of seabirds the minute we turn south, the change of light in every dawn and evening watch, and the metamorphosis of students from those first few information-laden days to the accomplishments of the program’s final weeks. Deep in week four, it’s fairly straightforward to see the broad strokes of changes from week one—comfort with the spaces and the routine, the emergence of inside jokes and new and subtle questions directed at the ‘whys’ instead of the ‘whats’ of the things we do aboard. But the transformation of each individual and the whole shipboard community is a constant series of small shifts, of bits and pieces of energy and information absorbed into the whole.
The sea component is organized into three “phases” to structure the progression of training and skill acquisition both in the lab and on deck. Phase I is very directive and instructional, Phase II is an opportunity for students to shadow their officers, and Phase III is the Junior Officer stage in which students take ownership of all they have learned about the safe operation of Seamans. Like matter transitioning from a solid to a liquid to a gas (an association I can’t help but make every time I think about the word ‘phase’) students are absorbing knowledge and experience about ways of living and thriving aboard Seamans just as molecules absorb energy. And every two weeks or so, we turn up the metaphorical heat and challenge the ship’s company to take on new responsibilities, to work with new officers, to apply knowledge already gained to new situations and leadership challenges.
Such ‘phase changes’ crop up everywhere in life, not just in the intentional structure of a sail training semester. The transition from college to a first job, or a promotion that raises challenges outside immediate experience, or a move, or the starting of a family—all of these make demands on the experience and knowledge that has gone before and require us to shift our ways of being and understanding. And these transitions are not always easy or gradual like ice melting gently in a warm sun—sometimes we all feel thrown in the fire and unable to control the cracking and hissing and steam of a situation that feels beyond our control or capability.
But as with the knots and fire extinguisher locations everyone diligently learned in Phase I and the celestial navigation calculations and sail evolutions folks are currently working on, practice makes as close to perfect as we imperfect humans can hope for. The experience of an SEA Semester voyage is meant to be neither a gentle thaw nor a drastic conflagration, but something in between: a chance to push oneself beyond the status quo, to practice being challenged and feeling uncomfortable and temporarily destabilized, and to take that experience of gaining and applying experience and apply it in turn to all the ‘phase changes’ to come.