SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
November 07, 2015
Dear Friends Back Home
Exiting Bay of Islands, New Zealand, course and speed variant
Temperate, light winds
Before I left for the South Pacific, I asked you all to write me letters to read for when I would be feeling lonely or having a hard time on the ship. I knew that the large stack of notes that I received would last me through the whole trip, even and especially through the last 11 day trip from Fiji to New Zealand, which I expected to be the most difficult leg. I had told you all before I left about how anxious I was about really feeling comfortable with being myself around all my classmates on the ship, and that I'd have a hard time from not being able to contact you all through the internet as my emotional crutch. These letters were going to save me from feeling so alone in the big blue ocean.
I read a few of your letters between Samoa and Wallis, especially when I was bed-ridden with sea sickness. They made me laugh more than anything else during those first few stormy days (and to answer your note, Laura, I have been ready to yell "aMANda overboard!" just in case). They also made me feel noticed and appreciated, not like the wallflower I was in Woods Hole. So I still saved most of the notes, in case I couldn't get any similar love out here.
Once my sea sickness passed, though, and started actually participating as a crew member, I felt a dynamic that hadn't been present in Woods Hole. Huge surprise: the dynamic is that we are on a SHIP TOGETHER. And on a ship together, everything is done together. And we bond over not being able to walk in a straight line, or get hyped together about the apple and peanut butter and bacon that we're getting for snack. When someone sings a song to themselves a few times, everyone starts singing it, and if you're singing a song together with people you probably become friends with them.
And then you become friends with them, and you feel more comfortable telling them when you're feeling frustrated at steering within five degrees of course steered at the helm. And then you don't feel so lonely because your watch mates are now your friends! People also notice when you do something as small as mumble to yourself in frustration while coiling a line or if you put a stray empty bowl away, someone will be around to notice it. And they'll say "nice form!" for putting a bowl away!
What I'm trying to say is that I haven't felt as lonely as I had expected, and I didn't actually need to open your letters, so I still had half of them unopened by the end of our trip to New Zealand. I am happy to report that everyone here has now witnessed my bad singing voice, aggressive liberal viewpoints, and I don't know when but at some point I crossed the line from anxious to totally comfortable and feeling like I'm really a part of the community. None of this was my doing; it was all because everyone here is so easy-going and open, and because we all live on a boat together.
See you all in a month!!