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SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer

December 18, 2015

Into the Caribbean Blue

Colette Kelly, B Watch, Barnard College

Oceans & Climate

Into the Blue

15° 35.8’N x 061° 30.8’W

Description of location
Eastern Caribbean

6 kts

Force 5, clear

315° psc

Souls on Board

We have left Portsmouth. Now we sail into the great blue yonder of the Eastern Caribbean, skirting our way past islands and across channels, always heading Northwest and praying, please god, no more light and variable winds. Today, the weather is “sporty,” as cap likes to say, with five- to six-foot swells and twenty five knots of wind sending us along at a glorious six plus knots. How incredible that the wind alone can propel such a large vessel and all of her inhabitants at such a rate that the seas froth up at the bow, and send occasional fans of spray over the starboard rail. Tomorrow, perhaps we will find enough of a wind shadow to deploy the neuston net, but for now, we are flying.

As the program comes to a close, I find myself wondering how to field the inevitable, “oh, you look so tan! How was your vacation?” How do you even begin to explain that being awake from 2:30 am until 11:30 pm is anything but a vacation, and thank you very much but my belly is so pale that it looks like I am wearing a shirt even when buck naked? And yet, how do you also explain that despite the cruel irony of doing galley clean-up the evening after your shower day, your strongest memories are of standing at the helm under a tropical Atlantic sunset with Janet gently fiddling on the deck boxes? I never could have guessed that one of the hardest experiences of my life would also be one of the most beautiful, and that the same tasks that required the greatest effort would also bring the greatest peace.

I suppose I could say that sailing across the Atlantic ocean is the month-long equivalent of trying to keep up with my mother as we climb thousands of feet into the Vermont sky - a grueling journey, but one that rewards you with the elation of the summit, great company, and a certain joy stored deep within your memory. The only difference is that the view from the top is of fluffs of cumulus clouds, and streaks of sargassum, and schools of flying fish, instead of the town of Middlesex. I have re-calibrated my scale of effort, and waking up for 8:30 ballet now seems easy (although walking in a straight line for more than 134 feet now seems a lengthy trek). Unfortunately, I may have also re-calibrated my internal scale for natural beauty, and I worry that the floating trash in the Central Park reservoir may have lost its allure. But in the face of the floating trash, at least now I can reach back into memory, and ponder whether a cast-off plastic bag looks more like a Mahi or a clump of sargassum.

So, if you ever find me on a park bench near the upper West side, staring aimlessly at a nearby Styrofoam cup, do know that I am most likely wondering how much that cup would shrink if cast to 1,500 meters. Or else I am just tired and happen to be staring at a Styrofoam cup. Either way, you’ll know by my Chaco tan that on Friday, December 18th, I was sailing through a glorious Caribbean morning past Isle des Saints, casually pretending not to be seasick and relishing the freedom of life under sail.


Categories: Corwith Cramer,Oceans & Climate, • Topics: c263  life at sea • (2) Comments
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#1. Posted by James M. Carton on December 22, 2015

Fantastic! What an education.

#2. Posted by Amy Thornton on December 23, 2015

To Colette: We will have to do some winter hiking then! Hopefully, the prospect of scaling Hunger or Worcester in the snow will both live up to your scale of beauty and be just grueling enough to keep you smiling…or grimacing.

To all: May your transition back into the modern world be palatable. If not, y’all are invited to come for a visit in Vermont! We’ve got deep woods and catamounts (really!)




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