SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
Rigor and Reward
Alongside in Nuku’alofa, Tonga
Ship’s Heading & Speed
Warm with a cool, light drizzle. Mostly cirrus clouds, but the moon is still bright!
I think back to this past summer, having that same conversation over and over again. “Where are you studying abroad?” Someone would ask. Happy to share the details of my upcoming trip, I would let those who asked know of my plans to sail from American Samoa, to Tonga, Fiji, and then New Zealand with SEA Semester. With a sarcastic smirk many people would respond, “Wow, sounds really tough.” While there have been plenty of leisurely moments, full of relaxation and exploration, most of the work we do is not what I would call easy or infrequent, but it is certainly what I would call rewarding. Let me walk you through the past 24 hours of life on the Seamans to paint a picture of the rigor and reward.
Early this morning, at approximately 0030, my friend Josh Jolly, finishing up his evening watch, pleasantly woke me and my watch up for our dawn watch, which begins at 0100 and ends at 0700. Awaiting us in the main salon were some delicious snickerdoodles and an urn of coffee. The sea rocked the boat gently as we made our way up to the quarter deck for our watch turnover. Greeting us on deck were the waning moon and a sky full of stars. One fell moments after I ascended from down below. Our bodies were tired and our muscles were aching from sail handling the prior day, but A Watch got right to it. We gybed twice, maybe three times, struck the jib, furled the jib, set the jib, struck it again, furled it again and set it one final time. We also set and struck the tops’l. Of course, members of our watch took turns on different lines and with different tasks, and we are all pretty comfortable gybing, and setting and striking the jib. The sun rise was lovely, casting pink hues onto the rounded edges of the cumulus clouds.
After resting in the morning after our watch, we had an all hands muster to prepare for coming into Tongatapu. Docking the Seamans is nothing like docking any other small sail boat or motor boat. The preparation that goes into this task allows few of our 35 hands to be idle coming into harbor. We have to launch the rescue boat, which motors perpendicular to the ships forward hull in order to push the boat towards the dock. We also have to move the gangway so we have a way to get off of the ship. We inflate and put out the fenders, we put the sail covers on all of the sails, we tie the chafe gear around the dock lines, all the while so much else is happening everywhere else on the ship the dock that I have yet to experience. Additionally, from our spot in the harbor, we have a great view of the Tongan royal palace, and the royal palace has a clear view of the Seamans. Needless to say we are on our best behavior!!!
After we successfully maneuvered the ship through the harbor and docked it, which required exemplary teamwork, we ventured into Nuku’alofa. The area is more urban than Vava’u, with schools, coffee shops, restaurants, markets and taverns lining the streets. I went to a place called Friends Café where poultry roamed freely among the tables. Afterwards, all of the students ended up at a restaurant across the street from the café, which had a deck overlooking the bustling street. We enjoyed our free time in each other's company.
We topped the day off with a delicious classic for dinner on the ship, ratatouille and pasta, and watched the sunset from the quarter deck. While A Watch stood evening dock watch, many of the students and staff were off in Nuku’alofa, exploring further what the lovely city has to offer.