SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
June 26, 2015
Land ho? (!)
51° 16.0’N x 011° 08.3’W
Description of location
Closing in on Fastnet Rock
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Sunny! Winds SWxS Force 2. Seas WSW 4 feet. Sailing under the Raffee, Course, Tops’l, and Main Stays’l
Marine Mammals Observed last 24hrs (estimate of totals)
Sargassum Observed last 24hrs (estimate of totals)
The sky is bright, the clouds are few and high, the raffee is full of wind, and the world, as Chief Mate Mack would say, is “luminous.” I write at 1850; I was waiting to start this entry until the end of the day in hope that we would have seen Ireland by now. We haven’t, yet, but the sun has been setting so late that there’s still a chance we’ll see it before the light is gone. Ireland is on the radar, less than 12 nautical miles to our north, and with our squares’ls and raffee set we’re sailing briskly through the whitecaps towards land. Yesterday Captain Rick initiated a Land ho! contest in which each of us chose a 15-minute time slot when we guessed that we would first see land. I guessed 2000, so I’m still in the running. We’ll see how things pan out.
Getting close to land has put a whole new spin on our month-long reverse colonization journey towards the Old World. It’s startling how much we’ve learned in the past few weeks, and how much that was once strange has become normal. I remember being afraid at the beginning of the trip that I would go crazy without seeing land for such a long time; now I’ve grown to love a world that lets you see horizon to horizon, at least when the winds aren’t a Force 8, like they were yesterday, when 12 foot swells obscured the edges of the sky. I remember also trying to learn the differences between halyard and downhauls, how to remember where the tops’l brails were, how to plot a dead reckoning and how to feel where the wind is coming from, and how to tell a copepod from a hyperiid amphipod under the microscope. I am continually amazed by how much the sea forces me and my shipmates to become more than what we are: Never have I slept less, eaten as hungrily, or found myself as calm and decisive when I expected to be terrified and confused. Never have I seen anyone act as bravely as my seasick watchmates handling sails and looking through microscopes in between “donating to Neptune” on the leeward side. On my day in the galley as Assistant Steward, I remember telling Jen Weber that it feels like the sea forces us to be more than we can be because if we don’t get up every morning and do what has to be done, then no one else will. Jen, who I’ve seen laugh through migraines and colds as she cooks to feed 30 of us 6 meals a day every day, is probably the perfect example of this philosophy.
The test to become more than we are has only gotten more intense in the Junior Watch/Lab Officer phase: We as students are ultimately responsible for making sure that the ship stays sailing and that scientific research continues to be conducted. The lucky thing is that we all have the rest of us to support each other. During Morning Watch today I was Junior Lab Officer and was struck by how good all of my watchmates have become at predicting which one of us needs help and when, whether by lending a hand on a halyard or offering to complete a science hourly that was almost skipped over. Together we had a spectacular morning of science and sail handling: In lab, Kelli, Assistant Scientist Brittany, and I deployed a neuston tow that provided a sample filled with blue copepods so dense they looked like copepod tea. On deck, all of us on A Watch got to set the squares’ls and the raffee. Sean kindly set aside his Junior Watch Officer authority for a moment so that I could get practice leading sail handling and strike the forestays’l. It was during Morning Watch too that we heard that land was on the radar.
After class today I decided that it was time to do something that I had been meaning to do for a while and brave climbing to the top yard. I made it to the course yard with some trepidation, but with encouragement from Rebecca and Sean and a feeling that today was one of those days when I had to make something happen or forever regret it, I made it to the top yard (Dad: Don’t tell Grandma). Once I was up there I was amazed at how I stopped being scared in seconds: Watching the far-off whitecaps and waving to Sarah H. at the helm stole away any other feeling besides calm wonder in seconds—
Land ho! Just as I was writing this, Kelli and I heard squeals of excitement on deck and ran up through the doghouse to see Ireland greeting us through the mist, with a pod of dolphins serenading the Cramer at the same time! I would write more but I’ve slept so little in the past three days that I’m going to have to calm myself down and get some rest before acting as Junior Watch Officer for Midwatch. When we sail we live in a different time dimension, one where the passage of days becomes meaningless but the reality of physical exhaustion sets in all the stronger if you’re not careful. To sleep! As 2nd Mate ‘Shlee would say: Ride on!
P.S. Dear Benji: You are my lucky charm. Your birthday brought us blue skies, the raffee, the courage to go aloft, cupcakes for snack, and Ireland. I miss you and love you so much. Make sure Mom and Dad give you the present and letter I left you. I hope you had a wonderful 17th birthday filled with cake and backflips. Love, Yelli. Love also to Mom, Dad, and Haymar.
Messages in a bottle:
Land Ho! Ireland sighted through the clouds at 19:20, a mysterious land awaits! It feels like it has been a minute and a lifetime. Thinking of you all. Love and miss ya! -Ethan
Happy 26th Birthday, Dylan! Hope you have a wonderful celebration to mark the occasion. We beamed fond thoughts in your direction from aloft after lunch today. Much Love! -Audrey and Shlee