SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
November 10, 2018
Upon the Corwith Cramer, community is key. There are twenty-nine of us aboard, each one equally responsible for the health, happiness, and general well-being of the others. One must always stow their gear neatly, brush their hair on deck, and bid their thanks to the day's dish-doer. On or off watch, all things must be done precisely and with purpose. Only two shipboard occasions permit the forgetting of these rules and give way to the overwhelming and often satisfying feelings of competition, chance, and victory.
The first of such events is Whist. Most evenings, after the main salon has been cleared from dinner and sunburnt sailors begin to slip away to their bunks, the more spirited and bloodthirsty of the bunch impatiently gather around the table as someone shuffles a deck of cards. For the next hour, once reputable, well-thought-of shipmates become cloaked in a shadow of snarky comments and cruel intent. Once the cards are dealt, there are no shipmates in Whist.
When the storm recedes and at last scores are tallied, players slink off to bed with either dignity or dismay. For all of them though, is the promise of a second chance. When the stars are set and the sun is risen, once more they will have the opportunity to risk it all; this time, with the Secchi Disk.
The copious amounts of science conducted aboard require a cornucopia of scientific equipment. Sure, the Hydrocast Carousel is expensive. Okay, the Neuston Net is a classic. Alright, alright, the Meter Net is a fan favorite. But for the truly ruthless of the crew, one piece of gear reigns supreme.
What it lacks in sparkle and threat the Secchi Disk makes up for in gambling charm. The disk is just that: a flat, white disk, about a foot across. But, after hanging a weighted block beneath it, and fastening the disk to the ship's hydro-wire, this plain old dinner plate becomes a vessel for rivalry.
Bets are frantically called out from about the ship and the bet-taker scribbles each on a board displayed for all to see. Our Chief Scientist, Ben, takes his place upon the science deck. At last, the time has come.
Meter by meter the Disc drops into the sea. Mate, intern, and student alike peer over the side of the ship, fervently watching as their fate is determined.
The Secchi Disc reaches eleven meters.
Twenty-one meters and the Disc plummets still. Then, a large swell rolls the ship. All is quiet as eyes strain to find the Secchi.
"CLEAR AS DAY!"
The Disc continues to descend.
Scientifically speaking, the Secchi Disc is a tool used to collect data on light visibility. If we can see the Disc, it means light is still penetrating the water to that depth. With a quick calculation this depth can be converted into a light level number, which discerns at what depth plant life can grow in specific areas of the ocean.
"SIGHT! SIGHT! SIGHT!"
On a more intimate level, the Secchi Disc measures self-worth.
"Take off those polarized lenses!"
As anxious contenders see their guesses come and go the energy on the science deck crests and crashes.
"I lost it."
When the Disc can no longer be spotted by any participant the wire begins its slow journey back to the surface.
"SIGHT! Mark that, twenty-six meters."
Faces whip around to see the betting board.
"Twenty-six? That's my guess! HAH!"
For one lucky player, the day moves on in a shimmer of immodesty and self-importance. For all others, the shame of defeat is thick and will only give way with the next cry, this one from the galley, "snack is served!"
- Emma Hayward, B Watch, Sailing Intern