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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

December 05, 2018

Three Can Keep A Secret If None Of Them Are On A Tall Ship

Mia Sigler, A-Watch, Mount Holyoke College


Mia and Sal, watching the sunset from the top of the doghouse.

Ship's Log

Current Position
Alongside at (wharf) in Napier

Souls on board

We’ve been on the ship long enough now that we’re all familiar with the intricate peculiarities of life here. Undoubtedly, one of these peculiarities is communication, in all of its iterations. This is the only place I’ve ever been where repeating what other people say to you back to them becomes a near-comical reflex, popping up even in casual conversation. I am in constant communication with some of my shipmates, namely those on my watch, who I see every time I am awake, without fail. Others of my shipmates I only hear about secondhand, in passing, or for brief chats before one of us heads to bed and the other to watch. It is in no way uncommon to have a conversation with someone who bunks near you that includes the phrase “I miss you!” or “I haven’t seen you in days!”

Communicating with the ‘outside world’ is even trickier, and incredibly sporadic. I still don’t know how the U.S. midterm elections turned out, and get emails and texts in waves when we come into port. Shipmates use precious international data to call relatives and significant others, or to email professors with urgent scheduling requests. I didn’t splurge on a new SIM card when I flew into Auckland, so all of my communication requires strong wi-fi. I ambitiously set out to email relatives and friends when I started this voyage, but now find that the best I can do when wi-fi is poor is to Apple Message my sister a bunch of information, to distribute more widely at her convenience.

Perhaps the most clear communication issue on the ship is how internal information gets spread. I think of it like a game of ‘telephone’, or like the bonding game my watch played, called ‘fax machine’, which is like a cross between telephone and Pictionary. When you say one thing, no matter how clear, or how trivial, it finds its way around the entire ship in a meandering but rapid circuit. It usually, however, does not make it through this process intact. If someone says, for example, that the meter net was ruined by something, and now has several large holes in it, then later the story may be that the meter net was bitten by an animal. Then the animal becomes a shark. Soon, after a second damaged meter net, the story explodes into outright fiction, narratives of dogfish revenge and sharks with chainsaws. In reality, the meter net was damaged (twice), but the first time was by an animal (perhaps a shark), and the second time was purely mechanical malfunction. It is just the nature of the ship that this information got so silly so fast.

To cap off this blog post, my shipmate and close friend Sal will give an example of just how quickly this process can take place:

“Mia licked a man-of-war!” is the first thing I hear when I round the corner towards the lab. We are taking the lab practical, which is the most fun version of a test I’ve ever taken. Questions are posted around the deck and lab and we are rotating stations, looking at equipment and in microscopes, tying knots and, at one station, “processing a sample” where the sample is a candy bowl. We are proving our skills and loving it at the same time.

“Mia licked a man-of-war?” is my response. For the folks out there who don’t know, Mia and I share a home institution, a major, a watch, and an awesome friendship. I saw the man-of-war that we pulled out of the neuston net this morning, so I know it’s real. I’m thinking ‘aren’t those poisonous?’ and ‘how did Mia get it in her mouth?’ I’m guessing based on the nonchalant nature of how this story is spreading that she’s probably fine, and I’m guessing she didn’t actually lick a sample that was out in a bucket, and the humor of the story that has reached me starts to dawn on me.

In search of answers, I head towards the lab. I see Mia holding a cup of water and looking generally not dead, so I ask “are you ready to be teased about this or is it still too sore? Why did you lick a man-of-war?”

“Is that how it’s getting around?” Mia asks, “I definitely didn’t lick it, but it did sting my tongue,” and so we spend the next twenty minutes theorizing how we will tell this story. Maybe, we decide, Mia was engaged in a battle with a man-of-war that was gripping her arms and the only way to get out was to bite herself out, sustaining a tongue sting in the process. Or perhaps she was trying to prove to the man-of-war she wasn’t scared of him, so she licked him outright to be tough!

Want the real story? Keep an eye on tomorrow’s blog post and my special guest Mia will finish it off. - Sal

- Mia Sigler, Mount Holyoke College, A-Watch

Categories: Robert C. Seamans,The Global Ocean: New Zealand, • Topics: s283  port stops  life at sea  new zealand • (4) Comments
Previous entry: An absence of sea    Next entry: Type 2 Fun


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 Aemie Sigler on December 05, 2018

Hey Mia!  I was just wondering when you would write a post, and here it is! We miss you, and are looking forward to seeing you soon and hearing all about your adventures. I must say, of all of the things I ever worry about(did you know I worry?! lol), you getting stung by a man-of-war on your tongue has never crossed my mind. love you, Mom

#2. Posted by Laura D'Aprix on December 05, 2018

Opened the blog and there was a beautiful photo of the two sailors I know best!!!  Your blog is hilarious and I can’t wait to hear the end of that tale. 

To everyone on board, please know how much I enjoy your blogs everyday. My favorite things that I have learned is how you count wave size in cats.  That field day is a day for cleaning the ship from top to bottom. That you learned to navigate by the night sky.  And I love hearing about what’t its like living on board.

I could probably live pretty happily without being stung by a man of war, but Mia what a story you will have you whole life.

Keep those blogs coming….

#3. Posted by Bob Sigler on December 05, 2018

After reading “repeating what other people say to you back to them becomes a near-comical reflex”, I’m speculating you now have a better understanding of your “war dog” father’s communication style and the foundation for those methods.  Great read and I’ve enjoyed reading it all thus far.  Be safe, especially when water skiing and keep horseplay to a minimum.  Stay alert, stay alive.  Love and best wishes to you and fellow sailors.  Love - Dad

#4. Posted by Kathy Schlabach on December 09, 2018

Hi Mia! 
It’s Sunday morning and Papa and I are back on KD Hilltop after an uneventful drive from EI. The house is partly decorated for Christmas and we are looking forward to seeing you on Christmas Eve. 

I loved seeing your picture, and reading the post from you and Sal. All of the posts have been so interesting and I’ll never look at a wave again without trying to measure it in cats….but,are we talking a cat the size of Max, or a cat the size of Gracie!? 

Thinking of you, and all the souls on board (love that and will probably appropriate it in casual conversation…be prepared!) and sending prayers and good wishes for all of you.
Love, Nana



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