SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
November 12, 2018
Dear Future Me…
12° 39.7’ N x 061° 33.9’ W
Description of location
Really close to Carriacou
Away from Carriacou for some reason
Today we were instructed to write ourselves a letter that would be mailed to us six months after the trip:
It's been a long six months since you sailed across the North Atlantic aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer, and by this point you have likely forgotten some of the finer points of that beloved journey. As I write this letter, we are cruising along on a glorious day under full sail, biding our time before our arrival in Carriacou tomorrow morning. It's my galley day, and I'm tired from the frenzy of preparing food for twenty-nine people, but this is one of those moments where everything seems right in our little world aboard this lovely ship.
Last night I dreamt of seeing land, and when I was awoken by Emma at 0425 and was informed that land indeed had been in sight since the prior evening, I was understandably excited. The distant lights were a warm comfort that seemed overdue after a month out at sea, but it wasn't until I returned to the ship deck in the daylight, after several hours of waffle preparation, that I truly felt the size of relief and wholeness brought by the somehow familiar mountainous landforms of the Lesser Antilles jutting abruptly out of the Caribbean. My guess for when land would first be sighted was way off the mark, but my dream of our arrival was somehow more accurate. The cliffs on a small rocky island next to Carriacou, with waves crashing against them below, were the same ones I had dreamt of, though more distant, less looming.
However, not all of my dreams, nor all of my days spent aboard the Cramer have been so pleasant. It's easy to over-romanticize the experiences of the common seaman (Marin, 2018), and I've learned that in nostalgic retrospect it's not unusual for me to forget the discomforts and struggles that accompany an arduous journey such as this one. It's been a long six months since you sailed aboard the Cramer, and I'm hoping that remembering some of the bad aspects of the trip will help you recognize and appreciate some of the good ones. So lest we forget these trials and tribulations, I've compiled a list of my lamentations.
1. The ocean is unforgiving and the weather is often inescapable. We learned this early on in the trip, when we experienced gale force winds on our third day on the open ocean. Then we had an even stronger gale two days later. Being on a boat in these conditions, constantly being tossed 45° to the side then jolted back in the other direction, is quite an unpleasant experience. Props to Captain JQ for dodging Hurricane Oscar though.
2. "Field day" doesn't mean fun and games. This harsh reality became known to us in the aftermath of the aforementioned gales, when we participated in several hours of cleaning toilets, showers, floors, under tables, and everywhere else you can imagine while the ship wastossed around in twenty-foot swell. It sucked. Other examples of the ship's sense of humor in naming things: "Zone of Death" (area where the hydrowinch is deployed, featuring gruesome depictions of decapitations), "Squalor" (where I live), "Sailor Strainer" (safety rigging).
3. Sleep is a gift, not a right. You're on an 18-hour cycle instead of 24, but your body's still trying to stick to its circadian routine. When you're half asleep, your brain doesn't realize that you are no longer on watch, so you stress in this half-dream state about the ship's tasks that must be accomplished. And you can forget about sleeping in a gale.
4. "Seasickness will subside in about 48 hours" ends up being more like 4 weeks for some people. Adverse weather aside, it seems we may have been misinformed about the potential longevity of this problem. I have been fortunate enough to be very minimally affected, but others have not been so lucky. Huge shout out to Gia and Christina who have been persevering through pretty much constant seasickness since the trip started. We hope they continue to feel better.
5. If you go overboard, we might not get you back. This sobering reality became apparent during our third week of emergency drills, when we deployed our rotten Jack-o-lanterns as our simulated man overboard, and despite our planned and coordinated ship's response, they quickly vanished out of sight and were not recovered.
As I climbed aloft on the foremast for the first time today, peering down at our tiny home from above as the waves glistened in the late afternoon sun, I felt an immense gratitude to be on the other side of some of the voyage's most difficult experiences, and to have the opportunity to enjoy land again in the upcoming days. But I also felt a touch of sadness that our C-282 journey would soon come to a close, as it will mean tough goodbyes to the 28 shipmates and the ship that have been my life for the past month, and that I have come to love.
Steven Maré, B Watch, Cornell University