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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer

November 23, 2020

Prologue: Looking back before we set sail

Sarah Hutchinson & Aleeya Malik, Dartmouth ’22 & Gap year student


Above: Sunset over the Brinton Environmental Center; Below: C-295 students on a boat between coral reef surveys

Noon Position
24.662° N, 081.462° W

Weather / Wind
Sunny, 27°C, wind 14 knots from the SW

Description of location
Brinton Environmental Center/Florida Sea Base, Summerland Key, Florida

Marine Animals Observed last 24 hrs
A Nurse Shark in the marina!

Souls on board

We board the SSV Corwith Cramer tomorrow! It’s been a long road to get here already (literally and figuratively), and we haven’t yet set eyes on the ship. We’ll run you through some of the details.

Exactly four weeks ago, we all arrived in Woods Hole to start this adventure. Many of us were a little apprehensive about taking classes. Mostly, however, we were excited to meet each other and be together, even with Covid-19 precautions. We soon settled into the rhythm of classes, including an intensive course on Florida Marine Environmental History (Thanks Mark! We miss you.), Oceanographic Research preparations, Nautical Science, and Scientific Illustration. In the evenings, we’d cook and eat a group dinner, which definitely stretched and improved our cooking skills. (Even pasta can be difficult when it’s for 21 people.) Taking advice from C-294, we tried to walk to the beach most days, bike often, and listen to music while cooking dinner. Highlights from the three weeks we were in Woods Hole included pumpkin carving on Halloween, obsessively checking the Georgia election statistics, and playing kickball in the rain to test out our foul weather gear (aka foulies)!

Once we were all confirmed to be Covid-free, we started preparing for Florida. The weather in Woods Hole was unseasonably warm, but it was still hard to imagine what life would be like in the Keys. The last night was a late one, sleepless for some, but by the morning, we were ready to load all our luggage, two days of food, and 24 sea-goers onto the bus. Not surprisingly, we slept for most of the bus ride.

It’s a long drive to Summerland Key from Woods Hole. The Florida coast alone took 10 hours, and the trip overall was 34 hours. Some descriptions of the bus ride included “delirious” and “out-of-body experience,” but by the end, the bus felt a little like home. It was refreshing and hopeful to finally see the ocean on both sides of us as we drove south and then west on Route 1 through the Keys. Crossing the Seven-Mile Bridge was breathtaking.

Since we’ve been at Brinton Environmental Center (BEC)/Florida Sea Base, the rhythm of life has changed a lot. Whereas Woods Hole felt like a small college, this feels more like summer camp. We no longer cook for ourselves (which we miss), we sleep in bunk rooms with new groups of people, and we do our work at picnic tables. Instead of a damp New England November, here, the days are consistently sunny and 80°F, and the nights drop only to 75°F.

We spent one of our first days conducting two coral reef surveys on Looe Key, where we also got a taste of being on a boat in the open ocean for most of the day. The waves definitely disagreed with some. We collected coral, fish, invertebrate, and chemistry data which we’ll use for our Oceanographic Research projects. Most other days we spend doing a lot of science and processing data at the picnic tables, under the sun, and listening to the wind in the palm trees.

Yesterday, we conducted a mangrove survey for which we kayaked to a nearby mangrove and collected chemistry data for collaborative research with Mote Marine Laboratory and snorkeled in foot-deep water to observe coral, fish, and invertebrates. There were a lot of Cassiopeia (“upside-down”) jellyfish, probably thousands. We learned the hard way that their stings are not comfortable, but they are by no means unbearable. Getting such a close look at life in the mangrove was worth the stings, however.

Today we saw BEC’s coral restoration efforts, which occur through the process called micro-fragmentation. Corals are broken apart because they grow faster at a smaller size. The small coral colonies are nurtured for about a year until they are large enough to be planted on a reef, where they’ll eventually fuse together and continue growing. It was an interesting and hopeful way to complete our coral study here at Summerland Key.

Now we’re preparing for the start of part three of this semester. By the time you read this, we will have boarded the Corwith Cramer in Key West (which means another, much shorter, bus ride)! We’re particularly nervous and excited to be assigned our watch groups, which will become the primary group of people we interact with, and to leave internet and phone connectivity behind. Also, many of us don’t know much about sailing. Overall, we feel very lucky to be Covid-free and have the opportunity to embark on this voyage! Stay tuned for more updates that actually involve sailing!

- Sarah Hutchinson, Dartmouth ’22, and Aleeya Malik, Gap Year student

P.S. Big hugs to family and friends. We’re thinking about you as Thanksgiving approaches and wishing we could celebrate together.
P.P.S. Hi Mom! I miss you and your hugs. I’m sending warm, sunny thoughts back to Massachusetts. – Sarah
P.P.P.S Hey A team + Mom + Dad, I love and miss you guys. Have a great Thanksgiving at home, and I hope

Previous entry: Reflecting on (almost) 9000 miles    Next entry: S-299, Summer Session


#1. Posted by Phyllis and Don Freeman on November 24, 2020

We are with you all in spirit on this great sailing/research adventure!
Megan’s Grandma and Grandpa

#2. Posted by Margaret Rixom on November 24, 2020

Best wishes to all the students undertaking this journey!  I hope that you all have an amazing time.  Looking forward to seeing all of your updates! 

#3. Posted by April Malik on November 25, 2020

Have a wonderful time Aleeya and All!
Can’t wait to read your upcoming posts!
Take good care and have fun!

#4. Posted by Bill Duggan on November 30, 2020

Best Wishes to the crew of C295. I’m sure it’s great to cut the dock lines and head out. In the words of Melville “whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; ... I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” Enjoy the rolling sea, sunrises, sunsets, stars, your crew and fellow students and boat checks !



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