SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
October 15, 2015
36°31.2’N x 07°01.5’W
Gulf of Cadiz
Lots has happened since my first blog, and even since our departure from Mallorca. Being at sea for so long has made it so much easier to get into the routine of watch schedules, science deployments, and sail handling. I finally feel like I have a grasp on what we are expected to know and do. And, of course, we recently learned that now is the time for a major shift in expectations, just when we were starting to get comfortable. We are officially entering Phase II of the sea component, the middle section of our trip where we begin to learn task management and much of the behind-the-scenes operation of the ship. Now it’s not enough to know how to raise and strike a sail, or what knots to tie. This means that during each watch shift, a student will shadow the watch officer and another will shadow the scientist on duty. The purpose is to teach us beyond the basic skills of being a crew member and allow us insight into decision making and overseeing that is always going on (despite our previous oblivion). During my last two watches, I had the chance to shadow my watch officer Rocky and scientist Laura, and it didn’t turn out to be the looming cloud of terrifying responsibility that I expected it to be.
On deck watch with Rocky, I learned to monitor the ship’s radar systems and plot incoming traffic to determine their closest passage point to us. I got to work with the AIS monitor and watch as Rocky hailed various ships over the radio to alert them of our heading and intended course. Before Phase II, I was only peripherally aware of how much navigational and organizational work happened in the “doghouse” (the part of the ship that is home to all navigational equipment and logbooks). Shadowing Rocky was a blast – not only because of all the new gadgets I got to work with – but because I felt like I learned more in four hours than I had in the past few days. It was great to bring something new into the routine that we’ve been getting comfortable with. Shadowing Laura in the lab felt the same way. As a history major, the lab was incredibly daunting during the first week on the ship. Titrating alkalinity samples and filtering for chlorophyll-a was pretty much my nightmare. But now, under the wise tutelage of Laura, I’ve realized that the hardest part of working in the lab is trying to keep graduated cylinders from sloshing over when the boat rolls. Shadowing watch officers and scientists has been a great addition to our schedule, so I’m a fan of Phase II so far.
The other most exciting thing that has happened to me recently is being trained on climbing aloft. Outfitted with safety harnesses and lanyards, students (and all crew members) can be trained to climb the upper rigging of the ship. Both masts are full of ratl’ns and shrouds to climb on, and platforms overlooking the open ocean. Safely clipping in and then dangling my feet over one of the platforms near the top of the foremast while overlooking the rock of Gibraltar has been one of my highlights for the trip. The square rigged sails hang from yards (horizontal spars coming out of the mast), and those have lines that you can stand on and clip into as well, so you can look down over the ocean off of the side of the boat.
It’s pretty sweet.
We are sailing around the Gulf of Cadiz for another day or so before we dock in port so that we can get some more water/phytoplankton/zooplankton samples on the continental shelf. Stay tuned for more.