SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
May 18, 2015
Am I a salty sailor yet?
39°29.2’N x 072°18.3’W
Description of location
Hudson Canyon; 100nm from NY, 80nm from Jersey Shore
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
clear tonight, but lots of fog recently
Marine Mammals Observed last 24hrs
Dolphins! Whale spouts! Sea turtles! (Yeah, I KNOW they’re not mammals.)
Sargassum Observed last 24hrs
None. But some fragments of another type of seaweed! Also lots of plastic.
Hello again, beloved landlubbers!
Several people have spoke already of the last phase of our time at sea, as we take on the roles of Junior Watch/Lab Officers (JWO/JLO)! I was the JWO for my evening watch last night, and never have I finished a watch so exhausted! Don’t be fooled by the relaxed attitudes of the mates, making it look so darn easy this whole time – commanding a ship is HARD work. There are a million things to remember and plan for and schedule and delegate, and a million corresponding ways to screw up. During my brief stint as Head Honcho, we were boxed in by fog and the wind was so light and variable that the ship refused to move in any kind of expected manner, and there was a waypoint I was supposed to lead us to and we were drifting inexorably away from it... Honestly, I was so relieved to turn over to the next watch (they promptly turned on the engine to get to the waypoint – why didn’t I think of that??) that it wasn’t until many hours later that I processed some of the more awesome, less stressful parts of the night. For example, the way my fellow watchmates stepped up to help out, and the patience of our incredible mate, Allison, and even the thrill and pride in running the deck for the first time. All in all, I returned to my watch today with a greater appreciation for the beautiful simplicity of being a deckhand again, as well as a profound respect for all the highly skilled crew aboard the Cramer, who are truly inspiring.
Every afternoon, we have class on the quarterdeck. The MC’s for the day often get us pumped up with a game of sorts: today Anthony and Kata led each pair of watch officers in a battle of Thumb Wars. The results: Allison and Matt were well matched with ferocity (it ended in a brutal tie); Ashley crushed Laura, quite literally, by resorting to dirty tricks and getting her in a head lock; Cassie made a show of stretching her thumbs, and then was easily beaten by Brittany. Well played all around. (Notably, the Captain refused to go up against our Chief Scientist – is he hiding abnormally short thumbs? I’ll report back.) Students from morning and dawn watches prepare reports every day to update us on science, navigation, and weather. These range from informational to downright goofy, often with a happy mix of the two, including lots of song references and entertaining diagrams. Today we learned about the different types of fog (very appropriate, given the last few days), how to navigate using depth contours on a chart, and about some of the crazy cool creatures we caught recently in our science net tows. For the rest of class, the mates taught us arts and crafts for sailors – how to “whip” a line to keep it from fraying by wrapping it with string, how to splice lines together, and how to tie our own Turk’s Heads (very legit bracelets). I feel much more brackish now, with such skills in my repertoire.
In other news: we are past the Gulf Stream and officially out of the Sargasso Sea! It is partly sad – we haven’t seen Sargassum in days, to our scientists’ dismay – but also very exciting! The cooler climate of the North Atlantic means I get to pull out my sweaters and pants, and for a pale redhead from Vermont who has learned to dislike heat and sunlight of any sort, this is A+ excellent news!
We’re getting frighteningly close to shore and I am realizing that I am not ready to leave the Cramer. The past month has been nothing but incredible. Even while seasick and sleep deprived, even with failed PCR reactions in lab and with project deadlines looming ever closer, this has still been one of the best experiences of my life. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to adequately explain this trip and what it meant; not sure if I’ll be able to describe how it feels to sit aloft and see how tiny we are in the middle of a vast ocean, or the deep, deep blue of the Sargasso water, or the incredible closeness that comes from sharing every hour of the day with a group of people, battling squalls and watching sunsets and furling sails. I guess I’m just trying to say that I feel so lucky – so incredibly, unbelievably, extraordinarily fortunate – to have spent these five weeks in this place with these people. I never want to leave the sea, but at least we get to spend another month together back on shore before the program ends.
Next stop: New York!
P.S. From Margaret: Congratulations to Fallon on her graduation day! From me: congratulations to all my friends graduating so soon, and much love to everyone I miss!