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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer


March 05, 2019

Lazy, Lapping, Lackadaisical

Sasha ‘Vuk’ Vukasovich, C Watch. Reed College

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View from the Cramer.

Current Location
19° 06.9’ N x 074° 34.4’ W

Ship’s Heading & Speed
270 degrees true at 6.60 knots.

Weather
Winds light and variable, tending south of east. Seas low, north of east. Clear skies.

Souls on board

You wake up sweating. It sticks to you in a sheen mixed with dirt and the shine of sunscreen and mosquito spray left over from the day before yesterday. Tomorrow’s your shower day. Your bunk is an oven. Thick, maroon curtains trap the heat you made while asleep, your blanket is a crumpled heap at your feet. You check your watch and decide you don’t want to get up. You roll over, your mattress grating against the sunburn on your back. You can feel a trickle of sweat marching down the nape of your neck. The deep, engine-rumble of a groan makes it to your throat and, defeated, you drop to the sole from your bunk. You’re not sure if it’s the heat or the sunburn that chased you out.

Dazed, you stumble to the hutch looking for leftover food. Brownies and cheesecake and french toast with maple syrup. It’s still warm and delicious and pumped so full of sugar you can feel the energy surge through you with every bite. You’re still sweating, but much less. The air circulates more in the salon than in your bunk. You’re afraid to make the journey on deck and out into the sun but the eventual inevitability of a watch meeting forces you away from your book.

It’s dry on deck. Sun-warmed teak is hot enough to burn your feet. A faint haze floats at an infinite horizon and not a cloud drifts in the sky, a third of which is so bright that it leaves spots in your vision if you chance a squint in its direction. You have to wear sunglasses to keep from burning your eyes on the sun’s reflections off the waves. The engine thrums lazily from the bowels of the ship but, by now, you have to actively think about the sound to notice it. It sounds like the rhythmic, unceasing roll of a thousand deep drums. The stays’ls and the tris’l slowly and uselessly wave from beam to beam, hung on the mast and stays like towels on a clothing line on a hot summer day.

You spend way too long coming up with two truths and one lie for your watch meeting since you spent most of the time at the horizon watching the waves roll by.

The waves roll by. Swell is what we call them at sea and for good measure. When you think of waves you think of crashing, foaming, lapping, slowly rising and violently falling water on a seashore. Swell in a hot and windless Caribbean spring breathes, like the ocean is sleeping. You time your breathing with it. It rises and you breathe in. The ship silently rocks to one side, breathing in too. The sails flap and, sometimes, the rigging creaks: the sounds of her lungs. At the crest of the swell you hang for a moment that can feel like forever. You feel your weight, the ships weight, the weight of the swell and, beneath it, the whole entire ocean. The whole sky above. You feel that weight begin to build momentum as slowly you breathe out, the swell falls, the ship slides down as smoothly as a figure skater on ice, its masts swinging like pendulums in a grandfather clock except upside down. All that momentum pushes a whispering rush of water beneath her hull, around her bow. It quietly jumps and dances and swirls, for a moment excited and free and full of oxygen. It quickly fades and lapses again into the sleepy rhythms of the swell.

You’re on watch, lunch has passed. You’re at the helm and sweat is trickling down your brow. There’s no wind to be had, no traffic on the horizon. The swell has come from far away. Your mate paces the quarterdeck, bored. Plastic drifts by with the swell. Sheets and bags and shoe-soles, bottles and spoons and straws all intermixed with seaweed and the rare resting seabird. In a sea so full of plastic it feels like the seabirds don’t belong and not the other way around. Your mate takes a bucket from the science deck and throws it into the ocean, draws it up, splashes cool water on the quarterdeck. The air instantly feels cooler. She does it again. She walks from port to starboard, repeats.

“There’s an art to drawing water in a bucket.”

“There is.”

“Yeah. . .”

You yawn. It’s hard to drift off course with no wind. Your mate continues watering the deck for the next hour.

The sun gets low and paints a shimmering, golden trail on the sea for us to follow. The wind dies out. It’s just the swell now; the ship barely rocks. The sea turns the color of mercury and the sun grows dim, painting roses in the sky, then orange peels, iris-purple, a whole spectrum of blue that, astern, nears the color of midnight. Sirius wakes up early, stretches his arms and affixes his light to his brow. The whole ship’s company falls silent as the sun touches the horizon, now a perfect, crimson orb. We stand vigil as it dips below the edge. The sea cloaks itself in a crimson red before it fades to grey, then black as the world finally falls asleep.

You fix your eyes to the sky. There’s Orion with his belt and his sword. Rigel and Betelgeuse draw a line to Castor and Pollux: Gemini. There’s the dippers. Sirius has let out the dogs, Canis Major and Minor; its light paints a silver trail on the sea.

You finish your watch and announce yourself as you climb below. You eat dinner and fold yourself into your bunk, your body cool and refreshed. You pull your blanket to your chest. You fall asleep with the rest of the world.

All that while the waves lap, lazy and lackadaisical upon a silent, slumbering sea.

- Sasha ‘Vuk’ Vukasovich, C Watch. Reed College

Previous entry: Last Day in Napier    Next entry: On The Road Again

Reactions

#1. Posted by Fred Saas on March 07, 2019

Great entry!  Hello to Emma—I hope you are holding up well and singing some sea chanteys!


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