SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
October 23, 2014
34° 59’N x 10° 34’W
Weather & Wind
Steering 255 True. Winds NE Force 4
200 miles southwest of Cadiz, the wind is cool and dry from the northeast, almost dead astern as we steer our course towards Madeira. The motion is easy, and it’s quiet below. The miles tick by in what has easily been the best sailing run in the trip so far.
Around us, a river of ships comes and goes from the Strait of Gibraltar. Here in open sea, we spot one or two an hour, but our AIS screen shows hundreds, like spilled grains of rice. With the click of a mouse, you can read their names: Nordic Cosmos. Red Cedar. Chiquita Bremen. Stolt Fiji. Ophelia. They are going everywhere, carrying stuff of all kinds. Cars. Asphalt. Containers. Oil. Megayachts. Tapioca and cheap white wine. The radio crackles with brief conversations arranging passage, in English flavored with all the accents of the maritime profession. Most ships are polite and happy to talk, many curious about a great white sailing ship full of students, out here in the middle of nowhere.
Once on a past trip, I spoke to the captain of a Greek supertanker, passing close enough to read the “NO SMOKING” sign on the superstructure. The ship was loaded deep and going fast, shiny as a yacht. “Good day, captain.” He said, “A safe voyage to you, and tell your students it is a great life at sea!” a pause.. “Well, maybe for their families at home, sometimes not as much fun.”
The students by now have had nearly two weeks of actual sailing time, and with this experience have begun to take ownership of the jigsaw of tasks that fill the days aboard. Setting sail. Rigging scientific gear. Making breakfast, and waking one another up for watch so that the cycle can begin anew. It’s about 400 miles to Madeira, a distance that will be filled with regular stops for oceanographic sampling, and frequent opportunities to handle the ship under sail. And all along the way, drills, classes, discussions, and the long steady process of assembling observations into academic products. A lot has happened (it turns out) in the places we’ve sailed to, and it’s hard to recall another trip that’s yielded as much to consider in such short order.