SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
August 09, 2017
Thank you to the Staff!
12°40‘S x 170°33’W
Ship’s Heading & Speed
160°, 6 knots
Motor sailing on a port tack with the four lowers with a single-reefed main
Sunny and windy
There is a certain bittersweet heartbreak that accompanies departures that are homeward bound after voyages such as ours. The hypnotic draw of the deep blue water is an intoxicating force, and I imagine my shipmates will largely agree that pulling ourselves away from it will be at least a somewhat onerous divorce. You might imagine that gazing into the distance only to be met with the familiar sight of waves and crests upon waves and crests would bore us, but I for one, do not tire of it. It is with those mixed emotions tingeing my thoughts that I find myself remembering many of the simpler things of our sailing voyage through the central Pacific. In this way, I recall laughter, music, stories, and teachings. I suppose the common element is not the location or the sights, although those will be remembered, but rather the people with whom this experience was shared.
I would be remiss if I did not begin with our quiet leader, Captain Chris Nolan. Quick with his dry and witty humor, he patiently instructed us in Celestial Navigation and often graciously opened the pool in our backyard (?) for an afternoon swim under his watchful eye. Chris’ counterpart, Deb Goodwin, Ph. D, a steadfast and comforting presence on the Science Deck, had an answer for every oceanographic question, and sometimes a question or two for a crossword puzzle.
Chief mate Cassie Sleeper, aka the foul-mouthed minion with a variety of voices, was a reservoir of all things sailing. Few souls dared to take her seat at the head of the starboard aft salon table. Second mate Mark ‘Snark’ Waddington was the resident snorkeling expert with a magical eye for charismatic megafauna, and who could always be counted on to break into song with his joyful and enthusiastic baritone (ask your child about his penguin joke).
Third mate Adrienne ‘Heartbreak’ Wilbur’s hearty and genuine laugh, identifiable from aloft 100 feet on the foremast or 134 feet away at the bow, never failed to bring a smile to my face. I remember our Dawn Watch star frenzies as we shot Sirius and Venus and Alpheratz and Canopus and Betelgeuse and others. Abby ‘Abby-Labby’ Cazeult, first assistant scientist, was constantly a bundle of bubbly enthusiasm, at 0100 for Dawn Watch or 1900 for Evening Watch. I will always remember the egg dance, taught by Janet ‘J-Ber’ Bering, second assistant scientist and leader of J-Ber and the Boiz of B-Watch (I’m told the dance works wonders in bars, clubs, and proms). Gabi Chavez, third assistant scientist, put me to shame by learning Cantonese from Carmen as I neglected my studies in Mandarin.
Nevin ‘Chef Nevin with the pops’ Schaffer, steward and our second crossword enthusiast (after Deb), was perpetually working wonders in the rocking and rolling 8 foot by 10 foot by 7 foot (very small) galley. Being assistant steward was a pleasure for three reasons: extra sleep, making the food you desired, and Nevin’s company (as well as the little treats she would pull out of hidden crannies).
Dylan Whitney, engineer and cultivator of the most impressive handlebar moustache period, was an expert ad hoc jeweler (ear rings, knots, anklets, you name it) and the head of the ship’s fishing expeditions (two delicious big-eye tuna and almost a third yellowfin tuna larger than the former two put together).
Amber Kinter, assistant engineer, has possibly discovered the fountain of youth (just 19!).
Cheryl Bube, lab technician and expert citizen scientist, worked wonders when editing my Conservation and Management paper, proving to be knowledgeable on all things SCUBA and citizen science-related.
And last, but certainly not least, Dr. Rich King. Also known as ‘Smew’, due to his strange obsession with the Eurasian Smew (look it up), and lover of all things academic and maritime, is currently writing the modern-day interpretation of Moby Dick (coming to a bookstore near you in 2019!). Avian expert, he spent hours aloft at the top of the foremast for his research, wishing for whales and birds, which he would then teach us all about.
The above constitutes but the smallest introduction of an ocean of information and description of the interesting and sundry crew of S-274. Only meeting them in person can do them justice. The students are a whole other matter, which I leave to the other blogs. On returning to our various homes, many conversations will begin with the striking characteristics of the location, which is nothing short of extraordinary, but I believe that ultimately, when the memories of the ship’s sails and ocean’s waves fade, the people will remain.