SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
June 30, 2015
The World as Boat
51° 37.2’N x 007° 53.3’W
Description of location
Old Head of Kinsale
Ship Heading (degrees)
Ship Speed (knots)
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan (from 1300 Watch Change)
Clear, mists of Ireland
Marine Mammals Observed last 24hrs
100+ birds (though non-mammal), plus whales (fin whale?) and dolphins
Sargassum Observed last 24hrs
Land is very close (I can smell it) and I would like to share what have been in my thoughts ever since a few weeks into the Transatlantic Crossing program here at SEA.
Imagine a spherical boat. It is the most extraordinary boat one ever laid eyes upon. It is equipped with everything—food, water, warm places, bars, public houses, spectacles of all kinds. Sailors on this boat come in all types: some short, some tall, some lean, some bulky, and so on. Each of them are good at different things: some are engineers, responsible for the logistics of the boat; some are thinkers, responsible for directing others, and the “big picture;” some are cooks and stewards, in charge of feeding hungry mouths that they may stay healthy and work another day. Most importantly, they are all sailors—travelers and pilgrims into the unforeseen, the unfathomable, longing always to arrive at their destination, a place they know not what, because they have never been there. This boat is currently wandering around an empty vastness, a sea of darkness that shows just how small it—though it is in fact the largest, grandest boat ever known to man—actually is. Where is it going? Where did it come from? Where is its home port?
Now more than three weeks into the program, I am used to musings such as these, that is, thinking of the entire world, the planet Earth, as one large boat sailing across the inconceivable vastness of outer space. I do not think I am the first human being to have such musings, only because the analogy fits perfectly—the sea does resemble outer space, and people on earth do play specific roles on this planet, as do sailors on boats. Our planet is self-sufficient, as all boats need to be self-sufficient in order to last for long stretches of time out at sea. Every environment outside of the boat is inhospitable, and the same is true of all things to the outside of Earth. The analogy is compelling, and demands further elaboration.
This leads me to what I think is the most important lesson learned while at sea. No amount of neuston tows, data processing, sail handling, or project work quite measures up to the importance of what I think I learned these past few weeks. The lesson is this: we are all on the same boat, in all senses of that idiomatic expression. The significance of that expression lies in the simple truth that everyone is responsible for what happens on the boat, which in turn means everyone is responsible for one another. Boat life is structured in such a way that if any single person fails to be responsible in his or her job, everyone else and ultimately the entire boat is adversely affected. No other location on Earth—and if there is I have not encountered it yet—testifies to the truth that one must care for others as one would care for oneself as evidently as on a boat out in the middle of the ocean. On a place where everyone lives on the same food, shelter, and hearth, what one does for others turns out to be equal to what one does for oneself. *(In fact, it may even be the case that what one does for others is of greater importance than what one does for oneself, insofar as a group of individuals is stronger and more able than a single individual; and so the effect of what one does for others will have an effect of “net gain,” as opposed to there being neither gain nor loss. The full justification for this, which I do not have yet, is beyond the scope of this blog.)
The significant point is that, on a setting such as this, what goes around comes around, always. Everyone uses the same heads, walks on the same soles, cooks in the same galley, spends watch on the same deck. One does not have to go further than common sense to understand that any hazards you take are everyone’s hazards, what hurts you may impart on the boat are hurts borne by everyone. The moment you step on board, you are responsible for everybody and must care for everybody, because, as it turns out, in a setting like this, “yourself” equals “everybody.” The distinction between “self” and “other” is blurred, and “I” marries “we.” The boat, the crew, and every individual member of the crew, become one and the same.
The aptness of comparing the Earth to a boat—and I do not mean to boast here—is brought out most clearly here. On Earth, too, human beings gain energy from the same food, drink the same water, live on the same ground, find roof under the same skies. This being the case, should it not also be commonsensical to say that, on this “boat” too, what goes around comes around? This idiom is even more apt when applied to the Earth, because the expression, when applied here, is literally true also. The Earth is round. Due to the existence of the oceans functioning as roads that connect the disparate landmasses of our world, what gets dropped in one part of the world quite literally comes back to where it started. Take plastics for example: people may decide to dump plastics into the ocean for convenience, on the premise that it is “trash”—that they will never have to deal with them again, or that someone else might deal with the mess for them. This kind of attitude is naïve, to say the least, and quite plainly misses the mark. Due to the cyclical nature of this our world, what those people are doing is merely delaying what they have to take responsibility for in the first place, and suffers consequences as a result. Those people forget that the food they eat come from the ocean as well, and the “trash” they were supposed to have gotten rid of now enters their stomachs, not to mention in other peoples’ stomachs. In a self-sufficient world such as ours, there is no such thing as trash—everything gets cycled back to where they started. If one thinks back to the fact that, on a boat, what one sailor hazards becomes the hazards of all, the phenomenon of dumping plastics into the ocean ought truly be a universal human concern.
This leads me back to the big picture, and the greatest lesson I learned from sailing with SEA. SEA has helped me to realize, through sailing the oceans and living on a boat, that the whole world is connected just as a boat is—what goes around comes around, that all human beings are responsible for one another by the simple fact that, on a round planet, what one does for others, one does for oneself. We are all on the same boat. All seven billion of us.
Ireland here I come!
Message in a bottle:
I have written about as much to you all as I wrote my first year at camp… my apologies. I’m missing all of you a lot but sea life is great, though coming to an end. Looking forward to speaking with you all in a few days and I have tons of unbelievable videos to share! I love you all very much, Joseph