SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
December 09, 2017
39°21.4’S x 176°57.2’E
Course & Speed
Sailing at a speed of 5.8 knots to an underwater spring dubbed “Small Jawn Springs” in the middle of Hawke Bay to gather scientific samples, and then continue to Tangoio where we’ll anchor for the night before heading to Napier.
Motor sailing under a double-reefed main, tops’l, forestays’l, and mainstays’l.
Sunny with a chance of winds ranging from 15-25 knots.
A big “Ahoy, matey!” from the deck of the Robert C. Seamans! As we reach the 3-week mark of our open ocean cruise, your favorite pirates are getting comfortable with life at sea and the trappings that come along with work on a tall-masted ship. Although we are scraping the dregs of the reefer and pining for fresh vegetables, don’t fret – unlike voyagers in the 17th and 18th centuries, we aren’t suffering from scurvy quite yet!
After dinner last night, Captain Bill called a mysterious meeting to discuss an exciting activity that we would be participating in today. We were curious what was going to happen, as the schedule that’s pinned in the main salon was completely blank and gave no indication of what our day would look like. As we sat on the edge of our seats, Captain Bill disclosed that on the nautical chart we have been using to plot our course, he had seen a new symbol in the middle of Hawke Bay that he had never seen before, and after some digging, discovered that there was a small cluster of underwater springs situated there. Whether or not they were hydrothermal vents, freshwater springs, or sulfuric springs was nowhere to be found – a perfect opportunity for scientific exploration using our trusty Neuston tow, CTD carousel, and meter net! Captain Bill then announced that we, the students, would be tasked with a mission: to plot a course to the springs, sail there, gather scientific data and a phytoplankton sample to give to the Napier Aquarium, and navigate to Tangoio and set anchor there for the night… by ourselves! Of course, the mates and Captain Bill would be around to supervise the deck and make sure that we didn’t crash the boat (or start the “nu-tiny” that has been discussed in quiet corners), but the majority of the sailing responsibilities of the day would be totally under our jurisdiction. Woohoo! Phase 3 was set to kick into a high gear.
The course of the day was to be split up between the three watches: A watch would get us underway in the morning from 0500-0700, B watch would be on duty from 0700-1300 to continue on course to the springs (now operating under the moniker of “Small Jawn Springs, or SJS), heave to for science as close to the springs as possible, and begin science, C watch would continue data collection and get us underway on course to Tangoio from 1300-1900, and A watch would continue on our course and anchor us from 1900-0100. Each watch was responsible for their own leg of the trip, and within each watch, each member had a specific role to play that was determined following a collaborative group discussion. For my watch, Evening Primrose and I filled the roles of Junior Watch Officers for the first and second halves of our legs, giving orders and making sure everything that needed to get done was done, Isaac and Maddy S. were our designated Navigators and were in charge of plotting our course, determining our GPS position, and getting us where we needed to go, Katie and Annika were our Science Officers in charge of science deployments and lab work, and Helen was our Engineer and Dishwasher. After our watch meeting, we split off and met with members of the other watches in our similar roles to formulate a plan and prepare ourselves for the next day, which included reviewing sail handling, looking at the weather (which was predicted to be quite stormy windy!) and look at the charts and our proposed route. Then, it was time for bed so we could get some quality ZZZ’s for the big day ahead of us!
I woke up bright and early this morning to the sound of the anchor chain being hauled in – a very loud noise from my bunk in the foc’sle, as the anchor mechanism lives directly above my head. As the chain groaned and rattled, I could hear the deep, rhythmic chanting of “TWO, SIX – HEAVE!” ringing out on the deck above as A watch set the sails. And just like that, we were underway… and I was on my way to get a big steaming cup of black coffee (or three). Out on the deck, the sun was out and the water was eerily calm, which was quite unexpected as the weather forecast had warned us of high winds. As the chalky white cliffs and rugged green mountains slipped away behind us, I was filled with excitement for the day ahead. IT WAS A GREAT DAY TO HAVE A DAY!
After breakfast, B watch took the deck and settled into our set positions. As lookout for the first hour, I was responsible for standing perched on the bowsprit and scanning the horizon for anything of note. I saw a couple of ships in the distance, and was struck by how strange it felt to see other vessels on the water after 3 weeks along on the open ocean. As we sailed through the morning, we kept tabs on the ships that passed in and out of our plane of sight. It was smooth sailing for the first leg with EP in charge, and we were vigilant about applying and reapplying (and reapplying, and reapplying) our sunscreen and drinking enough water (hydrate or die-drate!). At the halfway mark, EP gave me the lowdown and it was my turn to be Junior Watch Officer and to run ship operations. Woohoo! Phase 3 responsibility strikes again. My three-hour stint as student-in-charge went pretty smoothly, with a couple of exciting moments. One of which was the appearance of a HUGE Maersk container ship on our starboard side, which was moving rapidly towards our projected path at a speed of 21 knots (which is cruisin’!). After a few minutes of taking visual bearings and examining the computer, we determined that if we continued on our projected course to the springs, we would be dangerously close to a collision in the next hour. You guessed it: time for a course change! Captain Bill walked us through it to make sure that all was well, and after a brief adjustment, we were back on our way to the springs. From there on out, things went according to plan, and we ended up heaving to within 0.17 miles of the springs – not too shabby, considering all we could see was flat blue water with nary a hint of a spring!
Team Science then got underway with the deployments that they had predetermined to undertake, and stepped out of the lab looking super fly in their scientific squid party hats (not to be confused with the raffee, which is referred to as the ship’s party hat). A CTD was cast, a surface sample was taken, and a Secchi disk was deployed, which turned out to be a lively event with lots of bets being placed on the level of water column turbidity. The stakes were high – word on the street is that Rudy was the biggest spender, betting a hefty sum on 13.5 NZ cents on the outcome of the deployment. Talk about big money! Lucky for him, he didn’t lose much when chief mate Kirsten won the competition – and a super cool visor. Protect yourself from the harmful rays of the Day Star, people! And just like that, B watch was over, and we handed the reigns over to C watch to complete data collection and get us underway. As I write this, they are currently sailing us to Tangoio, where we should arrive within the next 4 hours.
I’m constantly reminded of how absolutely crazy it is that after 4 weeks, we are now the ones responsible for sailing the ship. It seems like just yesterday that we first stepped aboard, and as our time here winds down, I find myself reflecting on just how much I’ve learned in the past month, even though sometimes I may feel like I know nothing at all about sailing (cough cough… heaving to.. cough cough…). It’s pretty amazing, and I think that I speak for my whole class when I say that this semester has been extremely formative in terms of perspective and perception of what’s important. There was a quote written on the main salon whiteboard the other week, which read “A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its original dimensions”, and I think that really rings true in our case. One thing’s for sure – I’m having a great time, and I’m looking forward to soaking up everything I can in the golden days to come. Stay tuned for updates - things are about to heat up in the next few days as we explore Napier and get off the boat for the first time in weeks! First thing to find out: do sea legs really exist? We’ll find out soon enough!
P.S. A big shoutout to the Call family – miss you tons but I’ll call you at some point in the next few days while we’re in Napier! To any of my lacrosse family who’s tuning in: hope fall ball is going great and that you’re all hanging in there during finals week – you’ve totally got this and you’re gonna CRUSH all your finals! And to any other friends – missing you tons and wishing you good luck with final exams – also, check your mailboxes before leaving for winter break! Call me, beep me (or really just text me) if ya wanna reach me - I’ll be able to respond to texts for the next couple of days while I’m in port and would love to hear from you - signing off!