SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
December 09, 2018
Corralling the Caribou
39° 25.52’ S x 178° 04.42’ E
Course & Speed
080, 6 knots
Motor sailing out of Hawke’s Bay under the stays’ls
Sunny, calm, and clear
Today is the beginning of the end for S283; we began the last leg of our voyage from Napier to Auckland. It is simultaneously bittersweet and exciting to think about how far we've come. This morning, all hands were on deck to help us get underway. We were docked at the port of Napier, surrounded by container ships and their cargo, and the occasional behemoth of a cruise ship. For the past few days, the Seamans has sat at the dock in the shadows of these massive vessels, appearing toy-like and hopelessly out of place while the clamor and bustle of the port went on all around us. By around 0900, we were clear of the port of Napier, and B watch had taken the deck. As I watched Napier recede into the distance, I think I can speak for a lot of us in saying that we are glad to be getting back in open water, where our ship is once again the tallest object for miles around.
As Lindsay wrote about a couple of days ago, Captain's analogy for us at a port stop is reindeer turning into wild caribou. Today he reminded us that it's time to corral the caribou and be reindeer again, to regain the discipline necessary for life at sea. I don't feel very corralled though. Instead, I feel more set free; back in the structure of the watch schedule, I know exactly what my purpose is at any moment and how to fulfill it. Despite our time on land, I feel like I've slipped back into the rhythms of sea life pretty seamlessly. It's crazy how over the past weeks' life at sea has become the new normal. In the afternoon, we ran a man overboard drill (Mom, it turns out this does not involve a student jumping into the water), and I think it went pretty great. Every member of the ship was at their stations, ready to throw in life rings, stop the ship, and deploy the small boat. I think this proved that we are ready to be back at sea, and fully prepared to fall back into our usual roles in shipboard life.
The only major change is that today we switched watch officers. B watch has been with Ceili so far, and this morning was our first watch with Cassie, who will be our watch officer for the rest of the trip. I was nervous for the change in leadership and the possibility of different expectations, but the transition was very smooth. It turns out that just because I have a different watch officer, I haven't forgotten how to do all the things I've been learning for the past few weeks; they are now become second nature. The sun was shining and the water calm as we motored out of Hawke's Bay. On lookout, I spotted some dolphins approaching the ship. I hurried back to the quarterdeck to let people know and to get my camera. Unfortunately, we were heaving to, and the dolphins lost interest as soon as we slowed down. They were gone by the time I returned to the bow.
Later I was on helm and the call came again, "dolphins off the starboard bow!" Cassie relieved me at helm so I could go get my camera and take pictures. Now that we were motoring along a little faster, the dolphins wanted to come play. Around 10 of them torpedoed through the water just ahead of our bow, clearly visible just beneath the surface of the water. Occasionally they crossed from one side to the other, or porpoised out of the water. It was remarkable to watch an animal that seemed so clearly to be having a good time. Although dolphins are one of the most common creatures we see on the Seamans, most of us never cease to be amazed when they appear. Along with a crowd of my shipmates, I oohed and aahed at the dolphins until they decided they had better things to do than hang around the bow of the Seamans and in unison split off in a different direction.
Seeing the dolphins, just as I was starting to register the beginnings of a swell as the ship approaches the open ocean, reminded me of the joy of being at sea. Things are both simpler and more extraordinary when the highlight of the day is hanging out with dolphins.
- Sophia Stouse, B watch, Smith College