SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
October 30, 2017
J-Wo, J-Lo, and a Tale of Avian Interlopers
29° 55.1’S x 173° 39.2’E
Ship’s Heading & Speed
208° going 5.7 kts under the main staysl, fore stasyl, and jib
Force 7 Winds ExS, Seas ExS 10 feet, Partly cloudy with some rain
It’s been quite an adventurous few days. There’s no shortage of wind or swell, or rain or dampness, and certainly no shortage of laughter and smiles.
Today marks one of my favorite days of the voyage. The students have earned the opportunity to stand as junior watch officers (J-Wo) and junior lab officers (J-Lo) under their mate and scientist. This means the J-Wo and J-Lo are working together to ensure that the routine tasks of the watch, sail handling, ship maneuvers, and science deployments are completed. It is exciting to see how much everyone has learned in the past 5 weeks and how well everyone is working together to get us safely to New Zealand.
Amongst the rocking and rolling this weekend, we had a staff in the galley day on Sunday. Giving our diehard stewards a rest, the crew split up making the days meals and snacks. While chopping onions that wouldn’t sit still, the day reefer was feeling quite sea sick being on a port tack. It had violently spit up containers of delicious homemade salad dressing. We caught them while they were rolling around on the sole. We’d try to stow them by cracking the day reefer open and shoving them in, only to have more items spit out each time. There is a hilarity and an art to baking and cooking in these swells.
I’ve left the next tale to Hodge. On the darkest of nights A-watch embraced the sideways pelting rain and the visitors from the skies.
Hi mom and dad! & Happy Birthday to Ek, M, and Ri. Love and miss you all!
Over and out,
A Seamans Halloween Tale: The Terrible Take-over of the Wickedly Winged Birds
On the ship, we train for every emergency. We memorize protocol for ourselves, everyone in our watch, and everyone else in the boat. We have frequent drills to create muscle memory so anything can be handled swiftly and without panic. We prepped for every scenario, but there is one emergency we were quite unprepared for…
It’s dawn watch: cold, windy, silent. The only things you can see are the stars and a crescent moon shrouded in clouds so it gives no light. The waves are the only sound and after so many days at sea we have all learned to tune them out so to us, it sounds silent. The world is quiet here.
At the helm, Katie steers the ship, hearing a faint chirp, a silent squeak. Dismissing it as the taffrail log being fussy, she says nothing and soon forgets. On lookout, I peer over the side, mesmerized with the neon bioluminescence and almost miss the first unexpected sound.
Flap… flap…flap… I hear a new noise, unfamiliar, as it is not the smack of the sails or sea or the groaning of the rolling ship. Flap, flap, flap, I hear it again, and what was once off in the distance seems much closer, though the darkness conceals it.
Noah, the shadow of our mate, Tristan, hears it too. Looking upward, he sees nothing, and uneasily dismisses the sudden chill that seems to have fallen over A watch as wind.
Flapflapflap, the sound is closer, and the first imagery that pops into my mind is the low, foreboding steps of the TRex from Jurassic Park clomping closer to unsuspecting humans in the movie. FlapflapflapFLAP, closer it comes and suddenly it stops. Soon after, a scream comes from deck and echoes around the boat: “BOOBIES,” cries Tristan, the third mate, who has spotted the first imposter on the course brace. Desperately flicking the course brace lines, they attempt to force the invader off the boat, but the Booby intrepidly hangs on. It is the first of many.
BMauer, though in lab, hears the cry and knows what must be done. She exits lab, dons thick gloves and an extra layer, prepared for battle. Suddenly, more birds appear, boobies joining their comrades, albatrosses of a monstrous size, Shearwaters, terns, and other unidentifiable avian brothers come to join the fray. Landing on the boat, the Third Mate and first Scientist realize we are being invaded and refuse to go gently into that good night. Issuing a rapid set of orders, BMauer and Tristan prepare A watch: “All hands to lab, find the thick gloves and put them on!” Shouts BMauer; “2 hands with me,” yells Tristan, “flick the lines to get them off the braces!” The watch splits up, lab preparing an infantry campaign while deck launches an aerial one.
“POO!” Amanda screams, and we realize with disgust the worst weapon they have against us and our deck wash brushes. “Hoods up!” Shouts Claire, “Put your hoods up!”
Alessandra, armed with gloves, starts the ground assault. Leading lab, she carefully and stealthy walks through the deck. Every bird she finds she grabs quickly with her hands and throws them off into the ocean. Ali follows up behind, making sure no bird is left on board. Meanwhile, deck frantically tends all the lines, flicking them as if we are pretending to overhaul the Jib to force the birds off.
Slowly but surely, A Watch clears the boat from our foes, the only casualty being the once-clean deck. Hours pass and finally order and silence return to the boat. The Seamans has survived another watch in the middle of nowhere with mercy to the elements and Neptune.
We’ve learned a great deal from that fateful night, though it haunts us still. Jay created a special bird drill that we practice every day, just in case the winged army decides to attack once more. The entire crew is ready, waiting, for we know that sometimes, in the middle of the night when all you can hear is waves and all you can see is the bioluminescence, that somewhere out there, the birds are waiting, watching.
Endnote: I love birds, and think they are adorable. I wanted one as a kid, but my uncle’s parrot, George, pooped on my mom’s homework and her bad memories prevented me from getting a colorful pet.
Almost 100% of this story has been greatly exaggerated for dramatic effect. Some birds did land on our braces and deck during A watch’s dawn watch, but they were quickly thrown overboard to prevent lots of bird poop on the deck, though there was some at the end of it all. During watch, I threw a bird overboard and watched Tristan angrily flick lines to get boobies off the braces, but it was more comical than anything else-as was the entire situation because the birds were fluffy and cute and had no objection to being picked up by humans. This idea for a story came from being bored on lookout after and then talking to Tristan about some old horror movie called The Birds. (Also, you’ve heard plenty about sailing and science, so I figured I’d shake it up a bit.)