SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
March 15, 2017
Time at Sea
Queens Wharf, Wellington, NZ
Ship’s Heading & Speed
Clear and sunny with cold southerly gusts
If there's one thing I've learned since sailing, it is that time is undefinable. Hours of watches meld into one another, days bleed into weeks; you blink and the semester is over. How can that possibly be? The sun rises, sets, and the stars set in as night comes as it does every day, and yet time seems to slip away in our ship's wake faster than on land. It is easy to get swept away by the romance of life at sea - the disconnection from land life, a constant feel of accomplishment, and an unexplainable, fierce loyalty to your shipmates, whom you have known for far less time than many others in your life. Time on boats differs from time on land - every moment is compacted, intensified, and full. There is no dull moment out here; there is no boredom, and so the days fly by in a series of indistinguishably exciting events.
This is now the third group of students whose journeys at sea I have had the honor to witness. I try hard to see their personal progress throughout the cruise, to see if I can match it to the growth I felt on my own student trip. I can remember being in their shoes, standing bow watch in freezing rain falling sideways at 2300, exhaustingly processing Neuston tows and meter nets at 0430, staying up to work on projects, type reports, read text, plot positions on the chart table. I wonder if there was one distinct moment, one life-altering second that I can look back on and say, "THAT! That was when it clicked for me. That is when I realized this is where I belong, that this is what I love, that this is what I want to do!" Was it when I jumped off the bowsprit in Lanai? Was it when my oceanography project finally came together after three months of work? Was it when I pre-computed LAN in less than 45 minutes? Was it when my class was all together on the doghouse top, looking at the sunset and singing songs that we didn't really know the words to? Will I ever know the answer? Probably not.
And yet I look for that moment in each and every student I work with. I look for the subtle changes, for the pallid seasick-ridden faces to become focused and determined even in the worst of weather. I wait and see who emerges as a leader, and often times I'm surprised by who steps up. I watch for the look of triumph when they successfully set the main or strike the jib. I stand on the quarterdeck and listen to the conversations around me turn from the steps of gybing to the watch's schedule to project work. I sit in the main salon, see them play cards together, work on journals together, go over data together. I wonder if any of these moments will be the ones to change a student's life.
Life at sea is intense - it requires constant attention, dedication, and hard work. Every time I set sail I think of all the things I want to do while underway, and before I know it, we're headed back into port, saying goodbye, and turning over to a new crew. The best advice that I give to the students is to take a step back and take everything in. I want to remind them to watch the sunset on deck, to appreciate the stars, to go out on the head rig and climb up aloft; because in just one week's time, their time on this boat with this particular group of people will be over, so why not try to make the most of it?
P.S. - A very happy birthday month to all of my sisters - 32, 30, and 28, oh my! Hello to mom and dad. I miss you all and can't wait to see you when I'm home in a few weeks.
P.P.S - A shoutout to all the students on board right now, for constantly singing my praises here on the blog. I feel the love in the galley, and hopefully you all feel it right back!