SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
Flying to Hawaii
17° 19.1’ N x 151° 47.1’ W
230 nm SE of Hilo, Hawaii
Course & Speed
310° PSC, 5 kts
4 lowers and the tops’l
Wind, ExN, F3. Seas, NExE, 3-4 ft. Clear skies and a bone-chilling 76 deg F
We’ve had quite the week aboard the Seamans! Six days ago we shut down the main engine and have been flying towards Hawaii (stopping here and there to do a little science, of course) on a starboard tack ever since. The trade winds picked up to a Force 7 (28-33 kts) for a few days and brought with them swells twice as tall as I am that surged higher than the quarterdeck at times. Apart from making any attempt at walking below decks quite comical, the winds and seas have made for an exciting (and nerve-wracking) JWO phase!
The JWOs on C Watch in particular have gotten plenty of practice calling the setting and striking of sails over the past two days. Moving a sail around in the rigging requires multiple lines and usually multiple people handling each line. The sail must be raised or lowered in a particular way to prevent injury to ship and sailor, so the whole act is orchestrated by the Watch Officer, who calls out commands like “haul away your halyard!” and “make fast your downhaul!” Yesterday morning, C Watch struck the mains’l and set the storm trys’l and then refurled the jib tops’l (shown in photo) and the fisherman’s stays’l. Then, at 0200 this morning, under a cloudless, moonless night sky, we struck the storm trys’l and reset the mains’l. And to top it all off, this afternoon we set the topsail and then the raffee (our delicate, triangular squares’l that sits at the very top of the foremast), which was the only sail that had yet to be set on the trip!
It really is remarkable to hear Student Watch Officers calling out commands from the quarterdeck as the Seamans’ huge canvas sails drift up and down in the rigging. A month ago, sail handling was a foreign, slightly terrifying endeavor that was always, always led by our Mates. But Seamans has done exactly what she was born to do: provide a perfect place for us to live and learn and get comfortable with life at sea. And now those same students that didn’t have the slightest clue what the difference between a clewline and a tack was are using everything they’ve absorbed from 37 days aboard to ensure her safe arrival in a harbor nearly 2,000 nautical miles from the island of Nuku Hiva.
In other news, the deadline for our final research manuscripts has finally caught up with us! We’re all diligently (= frantically) finishing the research we began nearly three months ago in Woods Hole. We’ve studied everything from air-sea carbon flux to pteropod shell degradation to the impacts of expanding oligotrophic zones on zooplankton populations to phosphate limitation in phytoplankton communities. We’ve tested water samples for alkalinity and pH, filtered for chlorophyll-a, swirled for pteropods, examined currents, and counted hundreds upon hundreds of copepods. We’ve deployed the Carousel, the Neuston net and the Meter net more times than we can count. And it has all finally culminated in one last, big paper! In fact, I should probably go finish my Abstract right now.
Happy Birthday to the best Mama a boy could ask for! It’s thanks to your and Papa’s sense of adventure and your enthusiastic, unwavering support for my plans/dreams that I’ve already explored so many exciting places on this planet! Papa, I hope you baked her a nice, big cake. Benny, have a great time sailing the Atlantic. I know you’ll love it offshore. Marina, I have SO many new stars to share with you! I miss all of you tons and tons and can’t wait to see you so soon! I’ll give you guys a call as soon as we get our phones back!