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SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans

March 08, 2020

Into the Gale

Jackie O'Malley, Kenyon College


Above: Jackie O'Malley at the helm leaving Aotea Great Barrier Island; Below: Members of A Watch hauling in the mains'l sheet.

65 nm northeast of East Cape, southbound

Souls on board

I've always been drawn to the sea. Ever since I can remember, the ocean is where I've felt the happiest- and the most at home. Days spent building enormous sandcastles with my dad and brother on the bustling beaches of Narragansett, summers full of freckles and laughter at sailing school, roadside clam strips with my mom on our way to the Cape, and bone-chilling sunrise plunges into Copenhagen harbor last semester with friends. Every time I stand at the edge of the ocean, I am overcome with a powerful sense of nostalgia, as the sea evokes some of my happiest memories. I think that's what brings many of us to SEA Semester. For one reason or another, we have been drawn to the ocean to explore, to laugh, and to learn.

The past few days on the Robert C. Seamans have been eventful and uneventful all at once. After leaving Aotea Great Barrier Island, we learned that a gale was approaching, which meant we had strong winds in store. We prepared the best that one can in a small sailing vessel on the open ocean, which meant backing the sails and securing items on deck and below. The calm before the storm was eerie, yet beautiful. We hadn't yet experienced much in the way of serious weather, so we were all eagerly and nervously awaiting the gale. Even below, we felt its arrival. The boat arrived at an intense state of rocking, and students coming down from the deck for boat checks waddled through the main saloon in increasingly drenched states. When I arrived to stand evening watch, we learned that we would be standing watch from the charthouse rather than on deck while the worst of the gale passed. At that point, we didn't realize the same would be true for the next two days.

As the hours passed, we acclimated to the increased rocking of the ship, which at times threw mugs at the inside of the cabinet and caused us to slam into walls if we lost our balance. As our Captain would say, "on the ship, the floor is never in the same place twice." For the next few days, we would be even more confined than usual, attempting to entertain ourselves while restricted to the spaces below deck. We journaled, laughed, worked, and ultimately did a lot of thinking about our current state. There is something distinctive about being adrift in 7 to 15 ft seas that makes one contemplate the immensity of the ocean, in addition to questioning one's own ability to walk. Life at sea is simply unlike anything else, and I expect it will be difficult to convey to my friends and family the nature of my time spent sailing with SEA. While living on a tall ship on open water, we are experiencing the ocean like never before, with salt-dusted lips and the wind in our hair as we rock to the rhythm of the waves. All in all, the gale had us hove to for 44 hours, and the swells did not moderate for yet another day, still causing me to occasionally slide off the library bench as I am writing this entry.

As we cross over the midway point of our longest stretch between ports, we have all been reflecting on our first few weeks at sea. Soon enough, these five weeks on the Robert C. Seamans will become another memory that I'll think of fondly as I stand at the edge of the ocean with my toes in the sand. But until then, I'll be appreciating my remaining time here on the ship to the fullest extent as we make our way down to Christchurch.

- Jackie O'Malley

Categories: Robert C. Seamans,The Global Ocean: New Zealand, • Topics: s290  life at sea  sailing • (2) Comments


#1. Posted by Jim O'Malley on March 11, 2020

Your ancestor the Granuaille (the world’s first female pirate) is perhaps gazing fondly upon your journey.  She took to the sea at a young age much like you.  Thank you for sharing your amazing journey with us all. And those are indeed my happiest memories as well.  Dad

#2. Posted by Beth O'Malley on March 11, 2020

Intense and well written!  You’re created an image that allows us to see what you see,  feel what you feel and think what you think.  Thank you for letting us inside your brilliant mind!❤️



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