SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
December 22, 2020
Goodnight Mama Cramer
24°33.7’ N 81°44.2’ W
2490 Nautical Miles
Northeast Winds, Force 3
Description of Location
Docked at Stock Island
During a recent watch meeting, Olivia, our assistant scientist, thoughtfully said, “Mama C can either rock you to sleep or throw you out of your bunk.” So much of our lives onboard the Cramer do fall into this dichotomy: on or off watch, in lab or on deck, productively processing Phytoplankton tows or fast asleep below deck, splashing shipmates during a glassy swim call and the next evening gripping onto the jack lines during a near gale. We seem to define ourselves and our experiences here by these high and lows, and as poignant as they may be, they ignore a part of our reality. While I’ve been left in awe for hours by the bioluminescent dolphins and had soaring adrenaline as we’ve furled the jib in large swells, the time spent in-between the rise and falls has shaped my experience even more so.
Initially, I resented this monotony or “grey area” as I call it. I felt unsettlingly mellow, but not enough to be truly tranquil. I couldn’t measure how much time had gone by and how much time was ahead with the usual metrics
of my life, like cross country races or major deadlines or upcoming adventures. We all fell into our same routines, and several days would blend together without notice. Yet here we are: 33 crew on this ship sailing through turquoise oceans, forming our own peaceful bubble in the middle of a pandemic. I felt pressure, mainly placed on myself by myself, to be experiencing these tropes of life at sea all the time to be able to say I truly got the most out of this program. I was trying to quantify the value of my time here by how many bright pink sunsets I witnessed, balmy temperatures I bathed in, and thrashing squalls I weathered.
But as time continues, I’ve learned to not only respect the “grey area”, but to also revel in it, and the power that the ocean - and our community - has to swing back and forth in this dichotomy. I savor the picturesque sunrises accompanied by dolphins and the Beaufort force six days because of their rarity, but I also hold on dearly to the time spent in-between. Because in this grey area, I can truly see the value of the relationships I’ve created take root. We collectively keep each other present. During overcast days with mild winds, we hold each other together as we carve miniature whales out of Balsa wood or chop hair (on the leeward side). I relish the giggles we’ve shared as we passed the Stays’ls during a gybe. I laugh as we sing the same five songs during field day while scrubbing grease from every corner of the galley. I smile as we stir our third cup of hot cocoa, regardless of the fact that we’re in the tropics. I soak in the constellations above the quarterdeck as I’m pulled into mate Megan’s life lessons about listening to our intuition and finding a place whose land and people capture you and to eat enough butter.
So, Mama C can certainly lull you to sleep or keep you awake for hours. But I’ve learned that sometimes, that's simply a descriptor of the way you fall asleep at night, and that it doesn’t define what I’ve experienced here. Rather than expecting the extremes of life at sea to create value, my time on this journey has been so much more about what I’ve created out of the space and time “in-between” with the people around me.
- Katie McKenna, A Watch, Williams College
P.S. - To Dad, Tim, and Katrina (??): I am so excited to see you all soon. Can’t wait to compare my stories with Dad’s. Please say hi to all the friends on the nordic trails for me!
P.S.S. - To my C-295 shipmates reading this now at home, thank you for making this experience so special. I’m honored to have laughed, lived, and sailed alongside you all.