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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans

August 02, 2016

Setting Sails and Finding Hope

Elena Sinagra, C Watch, Sarah Lawrence College

Protecting the Phoenix Islands

At the rail looking at one of our amazing sunsets and thinking about policy.

Ship's Log

Noon Position
3° 35.6’S 174° 44.3’W

Ship Heading
135°  Per Steering Compass

Taffrail Log

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Winds ENE, Force 4. Seas 4 feet. Light cover of cumulus clouds.  Sailing under the four lowers on a port tack.

Souls on Board

I have recently finished my first draft for my policy project after a lot of help from my policy class discussions.  My project attempts to explore ways to redistribute an allocation of fishing rights back to Kiribati, so their resources and profits could be internalized.  This differs from their current situation, lacking the infrastructure to cost effectively harvest the resource (mainly tuna) they sell the rights to fish in their EEZ to foreign vessels which often originate from the United States and Japan.

These vessels mainly use purse seining to extract the tuna, which has negative ecological impacts.  I had considerable trouble trying to formulate a workable argument for my paper.  Even when I formed an argument it seemed that it was so idealistic and inconceivable; a million other things would need to happen in order for the redistribution of fishing rights; and even if this happened, it would not guarantee that it would suddenly make it more sustainable.  It seemed that I was always asking the Policy TA, Henry if he could talk about my ideas hoping things would fall together.  At the end of one of our meetings before the paper was due, he said to me “You can’t make everyone happy” and “Don’t try to solve all the world’s problems in this paper.” 

Ever since finishing, I have found myself being unusually cynical and depressed in regard to the status of the world. There seems to be no way to establish a fair and sustainable management system in the world.  The stakeholders and policy makers only seem concerned about establishing short term economic advances and not about forming a system that will ensure fair fiscal opportunities while protecting and regulating the earth’s natural resources. Grassroots movements seem to have little power going against institutional authorities, and their needs are rarely met.  On top of that, the sea level is rising, which threatens the existence of these nations and the global powers do not seem to be taking notice.

I have spent the last couple of days since this project was due on the rail looking at the horizon thinking about the issues above.  At these moments, I can feel the breeze on my face as the boat rocks with the swells, and all I can see is an immense blue circle around me. I think of my dad, a commercial fishermen out of Gloucester, MA, who for years has developed views similar to the ones I am having now.  My interest in these issues was first sparked by growing up in Gloucester.  My parents worked hard to fight the expansion of factory trawlers and tried to change the laws and regulations that support the establishment of these vessels while making it more difficult for small scale locally owned fisheries and their communities to continue.  Although Kiribati and Gloucester are completely different, they both exhibit a similar theme that exists in resource management: The issue of access and sustainability. 

We have been sailing for a couple of days now heading to Nikumaroro. The watch officers are beginning to take more of a standby approach; giving us more responsibility to make sure all of the necessities that need to get done to run the ship are completed.  Every day there is a new challenge and I would be lying if I said it was not tough and that I did not have doubts or moments of extreme stress during watch, but over all I feel a great amount of joy and pride being part of such a cohesive group that needs to work together to sail the Seamans. 

With the increase in responsibility given to us, it seems to also increase the cohesion and happiness.   We are all strung together through reliance, responsibility, camaraderie, and sassy humor; It’s awesome!  The presence of being part of a group like this one seems to fill something in myself that was previously missing; The feeling of usefulness that is derived from  everyone having a job, in order for our greater job of moving the Seamans from point A to point B.  My time spent on the Seamans and working on something that is greater than myself with other individuals  to achieve this common goal is what gives me hope for the future.

If policy was created with the same type of team work and consideration that we have learned to treat each other with, perhaps the injustices in the world would not occur or exist to the degree that they do. Because when you really look at it, each of us holds a role, a job and  a responsibility to the world.  Climate change is something that will affect the human race collectively. There is no second planet and each of us who lives on the planet shares part of the responsibility that it is protected to the best of their ability.  No one person can single handedly fix the earth, but everyone can do something to ensure its protection and our own protection. From the moment we are born, our primary goal should not be what can the earth and others do for me to advance my own life, but rather what can I due to improve the collective well-being.  Part of the reason why humans have been around for so long and have able to evolve to what we are today is due to the fact that each of us is programed to care for the person next to us.  If we are looking to continue the advancement of humanity, we must reenact this quality and realize that each of us depends on each other to protect the world we live in; we have an obligation to not only ourselves or the planet but for the person sitting next to us.

Much Love,

Previous entry: Starry Night    Next entry: At the End of the World


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 Rebecca Lane on August 08, 2016

Dear Elana and SEA,
I am a recently retired teaching veteran of 32 years. People have a variety of reactions when I tell them my story. Sometimes I get the “you are a saint” response. I do have to say my patience has been tried and honed during my career. But, in the very next breath I am thrilled to add that I am so proud and honored to work with our next generation. Elena’s post is another, one of the many posts that are testaments to this fact.

The world that is being handed off to the next generation is in good hands. We have every reason to be hopeful.

#2. Posted by Jane o'reilly on August 11, 2016

Wonderful thinking and writing.  You have been given the greatest gift: a chance to test yourself and to make an enormous start on meeting life’s challenges. Plus. Seeing all the stars!  I am so proud of you.

#3. Posted by Emily Sinagra on August 11, 2016

I’m so proud of and grateful to all you- students and crew and the SEA organization.
Thank you, Elena for a beautiful, thought provoking blog post.

#4. Posted by Tate Mitchell on August 13, 2016

Elena this is amazing! I’m so happy you’re doing so many useful and incredible things. I miss you so much but I know you are on one of the most important journeys of your life.

I love you, come home safe.


#5. Posted by Caroline Sullivan on August 13, 2016

Good job Elena. Very thoughtful.
Hope everything is going well.
Love you,
Caroline Sullivan

#6. Posted by Bella Jackson on August 18, 2016


This is absolutely beautiful! I am so proud of you and inspired by the work you are doing for yourself and for the planet. And what a writer you are missy!!!!

Ms. Jackson

#7. Posted by Jana on August 20, 2016

Wow. Elena, this is truly such a wonderful thought provoking post! Your insightful writing has even challenged my thoughts on our ever-evolving world. I’m so proud of you and so glad you experienced this opportunity over the summer!

#8. Posted by Lilly Brown on August 21, 2016

Love this, Elena. So, so good. Very proud of you.



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