SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
December 03, 2014
The Wide Sargasso Sea
14°58.4’N x 47°33.0’W
Description of location
NEC Transition Zone/Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Ship Heading (degrees)
Ship Speed (knots)
Taffrail Log (nm)
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan (from 1300 Watch Change)
Weather is fair, Cloud cover 3/8 Cumulus/Stratocumulus, Winds ESE Force 3, motorsailing on port tack with mainstaysail, forestaysail, topsail, and raffee
Marine Debris Observed last 24hrs (estimate of totals)
Sargassum Observed last 24hrs (estimate of totals)
many windrows in every direction!
There is an ebb and flow to life at sea that creeps into your bones. Three weeks ago, many of us crowded onto the quarterdeck of the Corwith Cramer for the first time, having never set foot aboard a sailing ship before, much less crossed the second largest body of water on Earth. Today, at the midway point of our voyage, we are much more than the varied crew of 29 who waved goodbye to Gran Canaria on November 15. When our voyage ends, we will become part of a very small group of people to have completed a tall ship trans-Atlantic voyage after the end of the age of sail.
We have all settled into our watch schedules, so much, in fact, that it’s a little hard for me sometimes to imagine any other life besides waking up as the sun sets and moving about the deck, setting sails under the light of the stars. We have sailed with sperm whales, leapt through bioluminescent waves with porpoises, glimpsed the green flash at sunset, spotted the glimmer of a hundred flying fish in the early morning light, and gazed with awe upon seas filled with vast fields of sargassum with no land in sight. I have felt firsthand the irresistible pull of the open ocean. When we arrive in Dominica next week, this will all be over.
Over these past few weeks, we have become part of the ship. Old maritime texts refer to sailors as “hands” – the most important part of the sailor’s body, the interconnected web of fingers, palms, wrists, and calluses that were once the only engine that vessels ever carried. This morning, I called: “Hands to set the raffee!” The cry was taken up by the members of my watch crew, all of us eagerly reaching out to grasp line and sail. But our hands were also working in tandem with our main engine, which has been powering us over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge since last evening, when the wind that has been our constant companion for the last two weeks finally weakened and died.
As the wind died, the sun has taken its place. These last few days have been the sunniest, hottest days we have known so far. The smell of sunscreen wafts through the air. Some of us have gotten redder, some browner, and all of us thirstier. A few crewmembers, including me, have been talking longingly of the ice cream and cold drinks that we’ll buy as soon as we anchor at Dominica. But the island still seems so far away, and meanwhile we float through seemingly endless windrows of Sargassum. It drifts tantalizingly close under the waves, but we’ve discovered, after some adventures with our dip net, that it’s farther and deeper than it looks.
All of us have recently been cleared to go aloft, and yesterday I climbed to the top spreaders on the foremast for a brief morning break. From the topyard, the windrows radiate in beautiful lines from horizon to horizon. Under them swim mahi-mahi, flashing brilliant blue, yellow, and green, and above, sea birds ride a wind that we can only barely catch with our tallest sails.
It is that elusive wind that we seek to harness with our sailor’s hands as we sail a passage across the Atlantic that was once as common as our modern highway but has now largely been forgotten by the world. For me, that is the greatest honor – to follow in the footsteps of the sailors before me, to set sails and steer by the light of the sun, moon, and stars through the wide Sargasso Sea.
Shoutouts: to my family back home in Houston, Happy belated Thanksgiving! And to Shane, love and miss you!
Megan’s Planet Addition:
Shout out to the incredibly talented contemporary glass artist Josh Simpson and his Infinity Project! It’s been a privilege to carry one of your beautiful glass planets all the way to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge! We’ve sailed well over 2000 nautical miles to make it here to the world’s largest geologic feature and longest [underwater] mountain range! Today I eagerly tossed the beautiful planet into the deep blue hoping it will stay there or melt and harden into new ocean crust remaining here on our blue planet to infinity!
-Megan Lubetkin, B Watch