SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
March 15, 2018
Alongside in Dunedin
Ship’s Heading & Speed
20 degrees C, 4/8ths cloud cover. Winds: Beaufort force two in the morning out of the southwest but shifting to force three out of the Northeast in afternoon. Seas: calm.
Only a few days ago did I appreciate the word "homie" as a reference to one's closest companions being miniature semblances of home. One of my largest questions this semester has been understanding what is a home and where is it on a map. The whole college experience teaches anyone how to build a home in a new community and routine. But a university and a boat offer stark differences in homebuilding materials. Colleges and universities boast their wealth of resources on the second page of every information packet that congested our kitchen counters only years ago. A college campus provides resources like diversity and myriad organizations that allow us to find our niches in communities and live our ideal routines. But on a ship, every resource is limited. Water, space, and sleep are limiting factors, but so too, choice is severely hampered. The curfews of high school are reimposed, the chores keep us from arguing about the dishes left in the sink, and the circle of friends is as compulsory as those reachable by bike after elementary school. We do not choose the community or routine. It's clear we are not at college.
This loss of autonomy is hardly missed. Not once have I heard anyone wishing they were abroad in Seville or Copenhagen, nor have I heard a single complaint about dish duty. I think I can speak for all saying that we relish our return to the responsibilities of home that keep our system sustainable and peaceful. Here, we have built a community that lives and grows together. We all share the same routine but have loved structuring ourselves around it in the company of one another. 'A watch' has even designated the engine exhaust to be part of our home, which we have lovingly dubbed the "hearth." There, we meet religiously each evening to warm our toes while we watch the sunsets and listen to our resident musicians strum America's classics. Our captain, Elliot, is keen to note our continuous progress in managing this home and developing skills, the likes of which brought us seamlessly into port this afternoon.
We are docked in Dunedin, surrounded on all sides by gently sloping hills adorned with warm glimmering lights. These lights seem to follow us wherever we go. Last night, as the moon waned to nothingness, dressing for dawn watch was entirely dependent upon my memory. Unwilling to leave the audience in darkness for even a night, the sky and ocean collaborated to provide us with a sparkling 360 view. The crash of the bow on the waves splayed a trail heavily laden with bioluminescence, which highlighted our dolphin escort for nearly all six hours until sunrise. Our team of navigators steered our ship safely into this narrow channel to our berth here next to an industrial park. But a short 10 minute walk brings us into the city center, called the Octagon where cafes and bars fill in the gaps between art spaces and government edifices. I've been told that it looks like little Scotland, but from my short jaunt through town, there's something more genuine to the self-expression in the streets compared to the major cities we've seen so far. Dunedin is a college town for Otago University, which of the three large universities in New Zealand, is most akin to our "liberal arts college" so I'm predicting that most of us will feel a very real connection to this southernmost port stop. Thanks to all my homies aboard this vessel.
- Nate Polo, A Watch, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill