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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer

May 17, 2017

The Opposite of Cathedrals

Madison Lichak, A Watch, Barnard College

Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

A watch furling the jib

34° 51.2’ N x 066° 52.4’ W

Description of Location
North Sargasso Sea

290° PSC

4.2 Knots

Winds NNW F3, Seas NWxN 5ft

Souls on Board

We are sailing once again. Leaving Bermuda was a bittersweet and strange experience. It is hard to describe the feeling of seeing an entire country fade into the horizon as our ship moved further and further into an ever-encompassing cerulean sea. What seemed like an immense and bustling country suddenly lost its grandeur as it shrunk to non-existence behind us. Out here, everything seems both monumental and minuscule.

A watch had evening watch the night we left Bermuda. Off the stern, we could see nothing of Bermuda but pale, hazy, diffuse light. No more than 12 hours before we had been anchored in the harbor. Standing at the helm, staring into darkness, our mate Finn said that he thought it was strange, strange to think that there were people and cars and buses back there. To us it might has well have been the reflection of the moon on the clouds.

And so we are back in the blue sphere of the open ocean. It is curious to be so surrounded by water. The immensity of the ocean is somewhat indescribable to those who haven’t seen it. Imagine the largest thing you’ve ever seen, and then think bigger. In the Bermuda National Art Gallery I spent some time listening to a spoken poetic accompaniment to a mural depicting two human figures eclipsed by a massive, looming landscape. Describing nature the artist spoke, “it is the opposite of cathedrals, it is the opposite of skyscrapers”. Before this trip I don’t know if I would have understood what he meant.

And yet, despite our existence as a small dot in a vast sapphire space, the Cramer continues to keep on keeping on. We are self-reliant in every sense of the word, and the burden of things we take for granted in the sheltered developments of towns and cities—like being able to sleep at night and get take-out food when we don’t feel like cooking—now falls on our shoulders.

For example, I spent today as the assistant to our wonderful steward Sabrina, who cooks us 6 meals a day, 7 days a week (luckily this meant I got to skip dawn watch this morning and evening watch tonight—two full nights of sleep in a row!). We spent the whole day cooking food for the entire ship’s company, an impressive endeavor to say the least. It was a long but fulfilling day and I reveled in the fact that all the way out here, we still manage to eat quesadillas and bruschetta and oatmeal raisin cookies.

And our student crew is becoming even more self-reliant. Yesterday began the JWO (Junior Watch Officer) Phase, where we students take control of the ship, acting as watch officers on deck and lab officers in the science lab. This means that we are in charge of executing the captain and chief scientist’s orders: maneuvering the ship, setting and striking sails, and getting the science gear deployed. I began our voyage not knowing the difference between a halyard and a sheet, and now I can yell “standby to gybe, hands to brace square!” with confidence (and just a little bit of fear).

Our ship and our place in this world continues to astound me. The self-sufficient consistency of the ship is a sharp contrast to the variable immensity of the ocean. Tonight, walking up on deck to marvel at the twilight sky, I could hear the JWO’s commands carry across the bow of the ship. In the limitless expanse of the unbroken landscape, I imagined those words picked up and carried by the air away from our ship, so that somewhere out there the winds whispered of the Cramer, and we existed in a swirling moment as something more than a breath in the darkness. I imagined our voices carrying for some distance before the ephemeral words were lost to a frothy sea that knows nothing of us.

- Madison

Thanks to my dad, for teaching me that there are no ropes on a boat, and other key rules of boating that somehow still apply here. Thanks to my mom, for your self-sacrifice and wisdom, and for teaching me to be the type of person that has the courage to say yes, I can do that.

And finally thanks to my sister. I saw dolphins swimming along the bow of the ship yesterday. And I wouldn’t have cared at all if it weren’t for you.


#1. Posted by Rob Lichak on May 18, 2017

Amazing as always. I have no words but to beam with how proud of you I am. Now while you return on your red over green sailing machine it’s red to the right until you dock.
See you then
love capt. Dad
Your personal USCG master.

#2. Posted by Lisa Lichak on May 23, 2017

You paint a beautiful picture. You need to be a writer smile




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