SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
November 09, 2020
Salty Charcoal Grease
21° 09.0’ N x 074° 47.0’ W
Ship’s Heading, Speed and Sail plan
Sailing 6 knots following a course of 295° PSC under the main staysail, course, topsail and rafee. We are sailing past Cuba en route from Great Inagua to Key West.
Wind is blowing a force 5 from SE x S. Seas are coming from SE x S with 3 foot high waves. Skies are clear, stars are out, and lighting flashes in the distance.
Without port stops, we read land through water. It is 0300. I sit on the floor of lab in a pre-existing puddle of mildly concerning dampness. Three different data sheets are strewn before me. Numbers waver and tallies fade into the haze of the moon. We can’t set foot on land, but we smell it. Our net tow sample spewed an accented fish scent, coated with dirt. “Plastic!” calls Claire, sorting through the tow. A mark. “Charcoal,” from Kerren demands a separate page and another mark. Emily sits at the computer, glowing glasses of blue light emanating softly from her eyeballs. Charcoal, sea grass, plastics and copepods – thus we encounter Haiti.
Without the taste of land, we read water with our tongues. It is 1030. Dawn watch ended at 0700 and I am kindly awoken by Ethan and a swim call. Shedding dreams like pajamas, I stumble on deck. Aileen flawlessly manages her deck team as the ship hugs Great Inagua and dark blue seas become a tactile, clear welcome. Becca jumps first. We follow. Salt coats my throat and it is like meeting the sea for the first time. Yes. Hello. I’m here. (Spit salt.) Megan, Kerren, Jordan and Sam race against the current, pumping arms and flailing legs in this fleeting moment of freedom. We have not stepped off the ship for almost three weeks. Today we don’t step; we leap, we fall, we float. Logan, Campbell and I stuff shampoo between our follicles, seeking momentary respite from the endless sweat lining our ears. We wash it off. We sweat immediately.
Without urban schedules, we read time in grease. It is 1600. Cassie disassembles the starboard jib topsail sheet winch. She hands me pieces. I fetch a yogurt container. First unscrew the bolts, and then disassemble. Gears and plates and springs are thick with coagulated grease, overdue for routine servicing. Time hugs metal in a relatable gunk, seized and tired. I fetch a second yogurt container. Wash every piece with diesel fuel. Dry them. Paint lightly in grease. I become a dentist, an artist, a chemist. Reassemble them and then reassemble them again without that piece falling out. One more time. Done.
Without distractions, we read joy in sunsets. It is 1815. The moment is indescribable.
I am still processing Haiti’s charcoal while my salt covered teeth muse over grease stains. The fleeting sun sets and my day entangles this instant. It is 1818. My next watch starts in 32 minutes. I have a passing thought about sleep – but, it’s gone. And so the sun sets and I am left to meet the stars, spinning through time stained with grease, sweat, salt and charcoal – a colorful amalgamation of a spectacular day.
- Yoela Zimberoff, Reed College
P. S. Happy (early) birthday Lu! You are magical and I’m sending wishes shaped like cheese and crackers on the beach. <3 yo
Editor's Note: In response to the coronavirus pandemic, all SEA Semester students, faculty, and crew aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer boarded the ship after strictly isolating on our Woods Hole campus for a minimum of two weeks, and after repeated negative tests for COVID-19. To ensure the health and safety of those onboard, the ship will not conduct any port stops and will remain in coastal waters so that any unlikely medical situations may be resolved quickly.