SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
December 16, 2018
Expectations vs. Reality (without any memes, sorry)
36 degrees 04.39’S 175 degrees 10.50’ E
Course & Speed
Sailing to Auckland at 3.7 knots, course ordered 280 psc
Sailing under the four lowers on a starboard tack with a single-reefed mains’l
Clear and sunny, northeasterly winds, Beaufort force 2, 2/8 cumulus cloud cover
During spring break last year, exactly 9 months ago, I applied to SEA Semester. Right after applying, I distinctly remember procrastinating my school work and reading this blog. I pored over last year’s Global Ocean program entries, going from beginning to the end, blogpost by blogpost, hoping to get insight on what to pack or to prepare for. I thought I had a baseline understanding of what being at sea was like through these stories, and went to bed dreaming of this long-awaited, anticipated adventure.
I am laughing at this moment right now, when I crafted this expectation without having any idea of what we would actually go through. The truth is that you can prepare all you want – you can follow that packing list SEA provides as if it were the holy word, and even bring 16 pairs of underwear instead of 15. You can talk to alumni, professors, and current students or you can read every detail on the blog, like an extremely extra person would do. But you really don’t know what it’s going to be like until you do it, which sounds obvious when I put it to pen.
But isn’t that part of the adventure? That’s why you chose this program, because the possibilities of what could happen were something you wanted to find out and discover for your own. And no one could have told you about it – no one could have told you about how your expectations were met and defenestrated simultaneously.
For example, one weird thing you envisioned was that the steward was going to be an old lady, you were going to be served TV-style dinners, and galley (kitchen) duty was going to be the worst. On the contrary, Sabrina is “almost 25 and ready to thrive” (as she answered when I asked her age probably not at the most appropriate time). The meals have been some of the best I have ever had, and galley duty has been the highlight of watch. In fact, galley duty has exceeded my expectations. Because Sabrina was so welcome and excited to collaborate, I have gotten really into baking on this trip. Over this voyage, we have shaped gingerbread cookies, fashioned sweet shortbread squares, and even learned the science behind baking bread! (This is an official shoutout to my bud and bread connoisseur Brian Tom, whose baking footsteps I can only aspire to follow.)
I went into this program knowing and hearing about how it would be hard and fun at the same time. I did not really know what this would mean, or to what extent it would feel like. I wished someone would have just grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “Sometimes, it is not going to be fun. Sometimes, it is really going to suck and there is going to be nothing you can do about it.” Not that I would have listened, but I wished it could have sunken in. However, I have also discovered that it's really hard to stay in this state of suckage on the ship. For instance, you could be on lookout one night cursing this program, when all of a sudden you see a trail of bioluminescence go right underneath the bow. And then you realize it is a dolphin, and you tell everyone on deck and you all pause to stare at this glowing being shimmy alongside the boat. And then you forget you were even mad in the first place, but I don’t know, that’s just one example I haven’t lived through or anything.
The last expectation I had was more of a fear; I was scared I was not going to get close or be good friends with anyone. Although this entire blogpost so far has been saying to subvert any preconceived expectations for your time at sea, I am going to go out on a limb and make an exception to say: You. Are. Going. To. Make. Friends. You might even get close with them. It is physically impossible – the Robert C. Seamans is 134 feet long, and there are 32 people aboard, which means there is around 4.2 feet per person. You cannot escape conversation or making friends even if you tried. But luckily, these people are going to be keepers. You will have gotten doused by the squalls, cleaned toilets with a toothbrush together, and be woken up at ungodly hours to be greeted by the stars. You will share experiences you could not dream about if you tried, and are now realizing how much you are going to miss each and every one of them.
If you’re reading this in anticipation for the adventure you are going to have, my last piece of advice would be to pack that extra set of underwear and don’t expect too much, okay. It’s not like this trip is going to change your life.
Until next time,
Liv, C-watch, Oberlin College
P.S. Also I lied, of course I had to include a meme. You weren’t expecting that, were you?
To Brian, wow, two shout-outs in one post! It’s not even Christmas yet! I miss you lots and I hope you are doing so well, and I can’t wait to hear about your escapades.
To Emma, I love you and am already counting down the days until our next FaceTime call.
To Celia, I am so proud of everything you have accomplished and can’t wait to see you soon.
To my parents, family, and friends at Oberlin and home, I am so grateful for your support and encouragement, and I love you all so much.
To Ken, you are the inspiration for this blogpost. I’m so thankful for the past year we’ve had and I can’t wait for more adventures to come.