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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
May 16, 2017
Stanford@SEA: A Day on Board
I write this blog post after just consuming a freshly baked, cranberry orange scone made for morning snack by our wonderful chef Charlie. Still warm from the oven, with a light lemon glaze, each mouthful melts in my mouth with the perfect combination of sweet, tart, and soft scone-y perfection. I can't help but feel that life is good, and all is right in the world.
It's amazing how important good food is for moral on board.
Yesterday was my first full day at sea, and I got to be the Steward's Assistant in the galley (cook's assistant in the ship). I was in the galley by 0545 slicing strawberries for yogurt parfaits for breakfast. As is custom when I cook, I sampled some of the prettiest berries while assigned this task, but soon regretted this dearly. The heat of the galley, combined with the constant rocking motion of the ship left me hot and sticky, while water and berries sloshed around in my stomach. Feeling nauseous, I told Charlie I needed some fresh air and was soon sprinting up the stairs trying to hold back vomit. I made it to the deck with my cheeks puffed full, and our Canadian TA Andrew (with a truly world class farmer's tan) quickly directly me to the down wind side of the ship to chunder (an affectionate term for vomiting that has been quickly adopted by all students aboard.think of the Little Mermaid song repurposed to "Chunder the Sea", and jokes like "The Land down Chunder", you get the idea). After the quick expelling of strawberry red juice into the ocean, I felt much better, and went right back down to the galley to help clean up the breakfast dishes. As my first and only tactile experience with seasickness thus far, it felt like a right of passage and gave me huge compassion for my mates who were more affected.
As the day passed, I got very intimate with some chicken thighs, chopped large amounts of onions, eggplant, and asparagus, made tomato sauce, layered Eggplant Parmesan, set tables, continually washed dishes, and did whatever else Charlie needed help with. All the while, chatting and get to know some of her life story. What. A. Badass. From being a theatre prodigy in high school, to homeschooling herself so she could be in a children's theatre company, completing a very difficult double major in college, studying abroad in Japan, doing SEA semester, sailing the world, and working as a scuba master for a water circus show in Las Vegas, getting to know more about her was awesome.
Working in the galley, I also gained an appreciation for the prodigious amount of work that it takes to make food to feed 37 people six times a day: breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and midnight snack. For those of us that were hoping to shed a couple pounds on this trip, the prospects look grim. Charlie's cooking is exceptional, and I think it's safe to say that we have been eating better here on board than we have been for the first 5 weeks when we were responsible for cooking for ourselves.
I was relieved of kitchen duty at 1820 when we had our fist seating for dinner, and then headed up on deck for my first real watch at 1845. For the first hour I struggled to learn how to steer at the helm, and trust me, I REALLY struggled. So much so, that a couple times our First Mate Ryan had to quickly take the wheel from me in order to greatly correct my mistake so that the ship wouldn't be in big trouble. I kept on correcting in the opposite direction I was supposed to (essentially, making our off course direction worse) because I was focused on reading the ship's compass too much. It felt hopeless, but I was impressed by Ryan's undying patience and compassion with teaching me. Not once did he raise his voice, or express the exasperation I felt after making the same exact mistake over and over, and over again. While I was not even close to mastering this skill, I feel hopeful that it can happen with such exceptional teaching staff to guide me.
The human ability to adapt is quite astonishing. Only a couple days have passed onboard, and already I feel as though our class is starting to get into the rhythm of things. The rotating 6 hours on, and 12 hours off for our watch schedule, the six feedings a day, and the daily all crew class meetings as 1430. We have already experienced and learned so much together, I look forward to all there is yet still to come.