SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
May 18, 2018
Hitting the Wall
37° 43.4’N x 070° 50.7’W
Course & Speed
010° T, 5.5 kn
Squally in fits and spurts
We've whipped our way out of Bermuda, wearing a little extra paint off of our starboard side from the steady port tack. After sailing for the last four days set for maximum sail area, the trip towards the coast has been pushing a zesty seven or eight knots. After taking our stop ashore and watching the little island of Bermuda fade into the distance, it has strange to take in how familiar and consistent the ocean can sometimes be. Despite knowing exactly how much diversity is beneath the surface and how much sea we have covered, most of the second leg of this trip fades together into just a horizon, blue sky, blue waters, and the occasional glimpse of the Milky Way. I was starting to feel like we were sitting in the same place, even when rocketing along on a broad reach, kites a-flying.
Neptune decided late last night to give us a solid reminder of where exactly we are, and who exactly is in charge here. After A watch went to bed last night on fairly calm seas and steady Force 4 winds, B and C watches carried the Cramer crew onward into some sportier conditions. By morning watch today, we hit "The Wall."
The southern wall of the Gulf Stream is a set of somewhat confused countercurrents running alongside the concentrated flow of the Gulf Stream itself, which jettisons water northward out of the Gulf of Mexico and along
the Atlantic Coast of North America. Traveling westward towards the coast, it is the first tangible sign that the North Atlantic is passing in your wake. In our case, it appeared as several hours' worth of thrashy, confused swells topping out at upwards of 20 feet. We were still lucky to have strong southerly winds this morning to keep us moving northwest towards the coast, but the bouncy and erratic swells kept everyone on their toes, pinballing wall to wall and handhold to handhold below or staying securely clipped in while on deck.
While our little ship was busy tossing around and her inhabitants rushing to keep her in line and orderly as ever, we have gotten a few more entertaining reminders of our proximity to shore. Today was a terrific day for everyone's favorite category of ocean critters: charismatic mammalian megafauna! Though the inhabitants of the ship may be moaning and groaning about our life as human bouncy balls on the tossy seas, our evolutionary cousins the cetaceans have been out in force. We've spotted both common spotted dolphins and false killer whales within the same day, surfing and leaping from their aquatic habitat. Pods of students and staff littered the rails of the Cramer today (again, safely clipped in!), scanning for groups of dolphins and whales teaching their calves to ride the high seas. On more than one occasion, the high swells took a dolphin or two up above eye level on the deck, which made the experience all the more unique. Three different species, all watching the next generation of navigators, explorers, and lovers of the ocean learn and test their skills in the waves.
By early this evening, the megafauna and the wall had both passed us by, and we are now making our way through the Gulf Stream proper. Nearly 4 knots of current are pulling us almost due north, and a series of pesky squalls have forced us to take down the main and try to motor through the Gulf Stream tonight. On the other side waits cold weather, (hopefully) calmer seas, and a slot on the docks of NYC.
To my family and friends in Richmond: I've been checking every position we take today, and we crossed by your latitude somewhere a little bit after noon. Pretty soon the southwesterly winds we're getting will be bringing us some of that sweet Virginia breeze, so make sure we keep getting the fair winds we need to bring us home.