SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
January 02, 2015
C256A – Colleague Cruise - Joining the ship!
17° 44.8’ N x 64° 41.9’ W
Description of location
Alongside the dock in Gallows Bay, St. Croix, USV
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan (from 1300 Watch Change)
Sunny, 28° C, slight breeze
Colleague Cruise Day of Arrival – we had come from all over, Massachusetts, California, North Carolina, and more to start the year of 2015 off with a Colleague Cruise. Some of us had experience with sailing, some had not. Yet as we walked up to the Corwith Cramer, everyone was excited by the beauty of the ship, and more so, the adventure she had waiting for us!
As we boarded the ship the S.E.A Semester staff happily greeted everyone and helped us find our bunks. The coziness of the galley/living quarters and the clever use of space impressed upon us the dynamic design of the vessel and the ingenuity put into making such a space not only a home, but a place where you could feel comfortable while out at sea for long periods of time. For me, this was the first time ever being on such a ship and the first time really going out to sea, so everything was new and intriguing to me.
Without too much delay after boarding, Captain Pamela Coughlin and Chief Scientist Erik Zettler called everyone together on the quarter deck. A general welcome and introductions were made, but then something unique happened, we were all given watches and responsibilities; we were now members of the crew. Now these were not time keeping watches, but groups of crew members that were divided into teams that would have various responsibilities, namely the time period that you were required to be on deck and be on watch to keep the ship safe and moving along.
I was both excited and nervous to be cast so quickly into a role that I recognized as having great importance for the wellbeing of our home, the ship, and our crewmates. More so, I was impressed with the encouragement and patience that the seasoned crew had with those of us who were just being introduced to this world. I felt empowered and eager to be a part of this voyage.
After we familiarized ourselves with the various parts of the ship and what our responsibilities were, we all met again on the quarter deck to meet with our Maritime Studies professor, Dan Brayton, to begin our class on St. Croix. Professor Brayton challenged us to think about St. Croix and to consider what colonial relics we expected to find as we explored the town of Christiansted. Would we see clear evidence of the complex history of St. Croix, or would we need to look deeper to uncover its stories?
At this point our group left the Corwith Cramer for a walking tour of Christiansted. We stopped at the small Gallows Bay Park to discuss its dark past as a site for corporal punishment of slaves and its significance in the process of colonial power (picture 1). It was hard to imagine this beautiful place being the backdrop to beatings and lynchings, yet Professor Brayton’s discussion was a stark reminder of the reality of colonial imperialism and its human impact. To extend this point we continued on to Fort Christiansvaern, a brightly yellow-walled fort that sat on the sea edge like a squat, fat, imperialist. There, we discussed the presence of the colonialist in the Virgin Islands and what life would have been like for the various people on the island. It is easy today to think of the Caribbean as an ideal vacation destination, while it is much more difficult to see it as a wild outpost rife with problems and struggling to survive based on the precarious balance of seafaring trade and slavery. Professor Brayton was excellent at bringing the history to life and helping us see this place as it would have been centuries ago.
While at Fort Christiansvaern, the group paused on the top rampart to read, The Sea is History, a poem by Derek Walcott. We were all impressed with the view from the top of the fort over the sea, but more so, we were captivated with the poignant message shared by Walcott’s words and the perspective he shared through his poem about this location and the impact it has had on the people, both slaves and colonists.
“…strop on these goggles, I'll guide you there myself.
It's all subtle and submarine,
through colonnades of coral…” - Derek Walcott
Walcott’s poem was an excellent metaphor for the experience we were just beginning to explore with SEA Semester. It opened and challenged our perspectives by asking us to look deeper into the world around us. It gave us a feeling of the “other” and helped connect us to a time and place that is not readily seen in our minds eye.
After the walking tour we went back to the ship for some further instructions and dinner, which was excellent. Captain Pamela Coughlin addressed the crew again, and left us with a strong sense of the importance for respect; not just for each other, not just for the ship, but in the greatest sense of mindfulness and how our diligence and support towards the C265A – Colleague Cruise would make the experience memorable and most importantly, successful.