SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
October 24, 2015
Bye Bye Fiji
18° 58.1’S, 178° 01.0’E
Leaving Suva, Fiji
27° C, Blue skies with scattered cumulus clouds, Light winds and 2-5 ft. waves.
After a couple of days in the beautiful city of Suva, Fiji, it is time to hit the road again; or in our case the waves. But, there is still so much to be done before being able to leave. In a matter of hours, the ship must transform from a land laden boat to a salty sea ferrying vessel. Headed out into the vast blue unknown, we need to rid ourselves of that which is not useful.
We don't want to carry along the dirt, mung, trash, insects, or any other discomforts of the land. After finishing the final loads of laundry, scrubbing the decks, organizing the lab and buying copious amounts of fruit, or engineer Ted fires up the engine and we are off to sea. The captain shouts orders for students to haul line after line, the sails flying up the mast as the ship begins to rock. Pencils, mugs, pans, backpacks, books begin to clink clank as they hit the soles. Venturing farther and farther out, the sounds of cars and sirens are replaced with the waves hitting the side of the ship and the horizon of buildings fades to clear untouched blue skies. No distractions, no surroundings, just a small spec in the largest body of water on earth.
Not only does the ship need to be prepared for the voyage, we (as the crew) need to once again become sailors: a fundamental change of mind that I did not understand as a land lubbing lad. We are a group of 35 people, with 135 feet of space, travelling approximately 1100 nautical miles with 1 common goal of sailing the ship. That one goal unifies us to an extent which is hard to find on land. Each person assumes a role within the greater structure of the ships hierarchy. The ship cannot function without the commands of the captain, the supervision of the mates, the assistance of the scientists, the expertise of the engineers and (most importantly) the cooking of the steward. But, our hands are the ones that do the work. And each person relies on the others to do what they do correctly, efficiently and successfully. This structure leads to necessary discipline which would not otherwise be required on shore. An added sense of vigilance, awareness and mindfulness is essential to maintain the sustainability of our floating city. We must take care of others and trust others to take care of us to be successful; a sense of community that is not easily come by.
Of course it isn't all smooth sailing in the oceans. Disembarking from land means everything is constantly moving, the world spans 135ft and communication is limited. At sea, one becomes unaware that there is a larger world past the surrounding blue, in which events occur that impact a large number people and have ever lasting effects. This idea is hard to understand living in a society the way we do on land, and even more difficult to describe. Letting go of that connection has not been easy, but nothing is really easy at sea. Simply walking to use the head is an adventure in itself. But, this juxtaposition to normal life has already helped me to learn and realize what I value and need. Truly, this has been an awesome experience (even with the terrible sea sickness) from which I have learned things I could never have learned in school.
For all my family at home: all is good at sea, no need to worry about me (even though I know you will check the weather of our GPS position daily). I miss you all! Shout out to Allie Heckerd: one month to New Zealand! See you so so soon!!