SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
March 08, 2015
Bow Sprit Reflections
16° 01.2’ N X 61° 53.9’ W
Description of location
To leeward of Guadalupe
Ship Heading (degrees)
Ship Speed (knots)
Taffrail Log (nm)
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan (from 1900 Watch Change)
Winds ESE, Force 4
Marine Mammals Observed last 24hrs (estimate of totals)
Sargassum Observed last 24hrs (estimate of totals)
Surprisingly very little Sargassum in the lee of Guadalupe.
Never have I felt so at ease with myself
These words mark the opening lines of artist Ruby Bute's book of poetry. As I sit here, writing on the top of the dog house, I feel as if these words were written for me. I look around and hear nothing but soft splashing of waves, the gentle wind whistling by, and the voices of my shipmates as they steer the Cramer towards our next destination, Dominica. Now don't let that fool you, the serenity of the current moment is by no means a representative snapshot of our time here at sea. Our days vary with the wind and waves; we are very much at the ocean's mercy. More often than not, the calamity of our lives is depicted by drenched students, salty as can be, hauling lines with all their might, bouncing around the ship as the Cramer rolls and pitches.
I've spoken on this topic to numerous friends and we have agreed, this journey has elicited the highest highs and the lowest lows. But when you think about the unpredictable and magnificent strength of the ocean, it all makes perfect sense. The first time I was sent out onto the bow sprit to furl the jib was the most terrifying and exhilarating thing I had ever experienced. Clipped onto a thin, metal wire, we gingerly felt our way out onto a net extending from the bow of the ship. As the Cramer pitched up and down, I looked underneath my feet and saw nothing but blue water as we flew twelve to fifteen feet in the air with each wave. In the midst of this we were expected to wrestle a fifty foot sail and punch it into a neatly rolled bundle. The first time I did it I was sure my parents would be receiving a very alarming email. (It's actually mostly safe if you don't do anything stupid). But weeks later, I relish each opportunity I have to go on the bow sprit and feel nothing but wind beneath my feet. Incidentally, it is also the highest point on the ship students love to jump off of when the "pool" is open for swim call.
That's one of the aspects I've loved most about being out at sea. It's not easy. You will quickly be tested to your physical and mental limits. You will come face to face with your fears and shortcomings. You will be tested in ways previous life has never demanded. But the beauty in all this unchartered territory is that you will be taught to overcome it all. Honestly, you don't really have a choice. As our captain said the first day we set sail from Puerto Rico, "The ocean doesn't care if you are a student sailing vessel or the most experienced sailor, she will eat you just the same". Life at sea has toughened me for sure. It has made me more capable, built my endurance, and tested my body. But it has also revealed to me some of the most spectacular beauty this world has to offer. When we sail at night, looking up into the sky you see nothing but glittering stars. Hundreds and hundreds decorate the night sky until there is no more room for darkness. Peering over the ship's edge, bioluminescence sparkles and swirls past us as we make our way. The nights I've had, pointing out constellations, sharing words under the endless sky, these are precious memories that will forever tether me to this time in my life.
This brings me to one of the most important dynamics from my adventure. When you share such unique and raw experiences with others, it is bound to foster lifelong friendships. In moments when I felt I had been given more than I could handle, I turned to my shipmates. Never have I been in such a unified community. I would literally put my life in any single person's hands, and do so consistently. We are the strongest support system for each other. We celebrate together, commiserate together, and grow together. I have learned so much from my peers; extending beyond academics, character traits I appreciate and hope to emulate myself. I so admire these people who have become my family at sea. Aside from my fellow shipmates, the entirety of the crew have been extremely formative of my experience. They have chosen the freedom of the open-ocean and constant adventure, and illustrate the bravery it takes to embark on such a freewheeling lifestyle.
Though we have just hit the halfway mark, if the trip were to end now, I would feel no shortage of worthwhile memories. I have seen a whale come up all the way to the ship and swim around us. I have seen dolphins leaping out of the water, playing with each other and the boat, prompting from each of us a childlike delight. I have had the incredible opportunity to spend my mornings drawing seabirds in flight, learning not from books but from the real world around me. I have traveled to some incredibly diverse and historically and culturally rich islands to gain an unadulterated taste of their lifestyles and traditions. At least a few times a day my shipmates and I will turn to each other and shake our heads in wonder, that this is our study abroad experience. I watch them now, gazing out at the horizon.
The sun has just set and the pink sky begins to darken.
Never have I felt so at ease with myself.
Also, a very special birthday wish for a very special friend. Adina, I can't believe it's been eight years since I threw you that little birthday party in Ms. Blitz's room at lunch. I feel so incredibly lucky that you have remained such a huge part of my life since then. You've been my best friend through everything, and I am so proud to have such an intelligent, witty, and loving friend in my life. Happy 21st, can't wait to celebrate with you when I'm back in the city!