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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

October 18, 2017

Steward Playing Scientist

Sabrina Hutchinson, Steward


Shermin the Hermit Crab, a (former) stowaway in the Steward’s Bunk

Ship's Log

Current Position
18° 19.6’ S x 179°53.8’ W

Ship’s Heading & Speed
235° PSC, 5 knots

4/8 Cumulus, Winds SExE Force 5, Seas SSE 4 ft

Souls on Board

SEA Stories Podcast

Another day, another meal. Like most people’s lives on the boat, my daily routine revolves around food, but to a higher degree than others, because I’m the Steward. My day tends to begin around 0430 when I rise to make breakfast, followed by the baking of midnight snack and the preparation of morning snack to be served by 1000. I catch a break before starting lunch prep at 1030 and putting out afternoon snack after class at 1600. All of this before starting dinner prep at 1630, with my day ending around 1900. Phew! While it sometimes feels rather repetitive, there are a lot of things I love about my job. I get to travel around the world and visit places that I didn’t even know existed. I’ve made amazing friends and even better memories, including today’s.

Today was the dreaded Lab Practical. The students have been worried about it for the last few days, not entirely sure what they were going to be tested on. “But what do blue labels mean?”, they asked each other in hushed voices in the library. “I still can’t tell the difference between copepods and hyperrid amphipods!”, they lamented on the quarter deck. My personal favorite, “I should have learned the bowline by now!” (How have you survived on this boat without knowing it?!). Little did the students know that I, the Steward, was going to encroach upon the science world and take the test right along with them!

Important to note is that I actually graduated with a degree in Marine Biology - but mind you, that was nearly two years ago. Since then, I’ve done practically nothing but cook and sail and sleep, so a lot of the knowledge I gained had just a thiiiin layer of dust on it. Nonetheless, I brushed it off, grabbed a clipboard and a pen at the beginning of class, and got to answering the 23 questions posted around the deck and lab. It started off rather rocky for me - I was asked to plot a ‘typical salinity vs depth profile for the area we’ve been transiting’. “Aha!”, I thought to myself, “A vertical profile! I got this!!”. But then it took my nearly five different drawings (all in pen and aggressively X-ed out) to get the final product. It’s fine, no big deal. The horn sounds, signaling that it is time to move on to the next question. I got my mojo back, knowing what the different colored labels meant (blue means the sample is preserved in ethanol, by the way), what we record in out lab hourlies, and how we store water samples for phosphate, nitrate, and chlorophyll analysis. I got a bit stuck once I entered the lab, looking through the scope trying to identify zooplankton (I opted not to take plankton-ology during my studies), measuring biovolume, and setting up the carousel. However, I finished strong with my demonstration of how to tie a bowline and knowing how to properly set up the Neuston net for deployment. Overall, for a Steward playing Scientist, I feel pretty good about myself!

This group of students has really impressed me with their determination to fully immerse themselves in shipboard life. They ask great questions, take critiques with ease, and rarely make the same mistake twice. Tomorrow we pull into Suva, Fiji for our third port stop. Personally, I’m excited for the open air market (what would make a steward happier than fresh produce?!) and exploring the island. What I am truly looking forward to, however, is the 2-week open-ocean leg of the voyage we have ahead of us.

The students are moving into their Shadow and Junior Watch Officer (JWO) stages, during which they will take more responsibility for the ship and her operations. I can’t wait to see how they rise to the challenge! More on their progress soon. Until then, fair winds!


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