SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
December 06, 2018
Type 2 Fun
Alongside in Napier
Course & Speed
Light and variable winds, light drizzle
The wait is over folks, here it is, Mia’s account of the time she licked a man-of-war:
“Biovolume the sample.” I read the question maybe ten times before I start trying to answer it. In front of me there is only a graduated cylinder and a small metal lab spatula. I look around the crowded wet lab, too aware of the two minute timer ticking away somewhere out of sight, knowing that if I don’t biovolume something soon, I’ll have to skip the question entirely. I think back to the times I’ve spent in the lab on watch. The only time I’ve ever biovolumed anything, it came from…the gray buckets from the Neuston tow, in the wet lab sink. I commit to this decision before I even process it; my hands are in the lab sink before I even look in the bucket, my mind is still on the graduated cylinder, on meniscus deciphering, on anything other than basic lab safety.
Suddenly, my right hand stings, the way a papercut stings right when it happens. Mindlessly, I bring my hand to my mouth, a typical papercut response. I only look into the bucket when I realize that rather than abating, the stinging has spread to my mouth, and more specifically, my tongue. In the bucket is a blue, translucent, fist-sized Portuguese Man-of-war. I feel panic sinking in. Just then, our Chief Scientist, Kerry, walks through the lab. I quickly get her attention, asking, “Is that jellyfish real?”. She smiles and answers, “Yeah, isn’t it cool –,” but I interrupt her. “Yeah, it’s cool,” I say calmly, “Also I might be mildly injured.”
After I rinse my hand and Kerry brings me a glass of water, I’m back in the thick of the exam, rotating to new questions every two minutes. I try to focus on each question, and not the needle stings on my tongue, or the nagging fear that I might be poisoned or mortally wounded. My shipmates begin asking me how I am, and I answer simply “better”, so as not to inspire any panic. Kerry also checks in occasionally, asking how my tongue feels. The best I can say to that is “Weird. Really really really really weird.” Somehow I make it through the lab practical, bouncing between anxiety, embarrassment, and laughing at the silliness of what has occurred, all because I couldn’t find the tiny seal figurine to biovolume. In the end, I finished my exam (and did fine), but in the moment, I don’t think anything encapsulates the experience of SEA Semester better than powering through a timed interactive exam while dealing with a minor jellyfish sting.
Thanks, Mia, for that riveting account. We are certainly laughing more now that the experience is over. That’s a pretty common theme here at sea, and we like to call it “Type 2 Fun.” In contrast to type 1 fun, which is the regular kind of fun we’re all pretty familiar with, type 2 fun is an experience you only consider fun once it’s in the past. Living on a tall ship is an endless combination of both types of fun. There are definitely times when we’re having regular old fun, but I’ll get to that stuff later in the blog post. A big part of enjoying this experience is seriously embracing type 2 fun.
Something they don’t tell you before you get here is that life on board is hard. Or maybe they do tell you, but you tune it out because you’re just so excited. In all honestly, though, it’s not easy to get enough sleep and get all of your work done in between watches. Some days, it will rain for every second of your 6-hour watch, and you will don your foulies and the rain will fly into your face and you will handle sail anyway. Others, you will ignore the dark, scary rain cloud approaching your boat until it’s too late, and you can’t abandon lookout and you soak your sandals. Later, you will look back and laugh at how silly you were to think you could outsmart the rain. You’ll laugh even though you’re exhausted and wet and cold. You’ll smile because you did it. No matter the obstacles, you finished that watch, and maybe….what’s that? You even had some fun along the way. That’s type 2 fun.
My favorite type 2 fun experience was when I cleaned the oven on our first field day. I had gotten my headlamp to clean the, and I quote, “scary corners” of the galley. As I was prepared with the headlamp, I was the obvious choice to move on to cleaning the oven. I put the entire upper half of my body into that oven and I scrubbed the walls, and the trays, and all of the grease and charred, old food that was left in there. It felt kind of terrible to be inside of an oven, and in all honesty, when I imagined my sea semester experience, it looked a lot more like the Instagram posts of students aloft and dolphins swimming under the bowsprit. In no part of my imagination did it include covering my body in burnt food, but now that I’m here, there’s no other way I can imagine this experience.
Living on the Seamans means being a part of every aspect of the boat’s upkeeping. We rotate through morning and evening chores, helping Sabrina make meals in the galley and doing dishes, deploying science equipment and processing samples, doing boat checks and spending time at the helm. It’s not always straight up fun to be awake and shivering at 4am, or to hit a roll and drop a trash bag on the floor, spilling the contents, or to shove your hand into the food trap in the sink to get the water to drain, but it often makes for a really good story. Every crazy experience makes you stronger and more resilient.
Then, of course, there’s the type 1 fun. Standing on lookout when it’s light out and belting the songs your a cappella group sings, because you miss them. Playing a new card game because you have a couple of hours to kill. Sitting on the doghouse and watching an unbelievable sunset while your shipmate strums their favorite songs, and everybody sings along. Arriving in Napier and seeing mountains, trees, solid ground that isn’t moving, and then climbing up the tallest hill you can find with a newfound appreciation for everything you once took for granted.
Two weeks from today we’ll be back in Auckland, packing up our stuff and saying see you later (because I don’t believe we’re saying goodbye for good, not after sharing this experience). There’s still plenty of time and lots to learn, but we’re also starting to reflect on the things we’ve learned and thinking about the things we want to focus on in these last two weeks. I want to remember to be grateful for every moment, good and bad, because sooner than we know this will be over, and I want to be able to say I made the most of it. Sometimes that’s going to mean gritting my teeth and pushing through, but I know I’ll look back fondly nonetheless. If Mia can engage in a battle with a man-of-war and come out smiling, I’m pretty sure we can all finish this thing strong.
- Sal Cosmedy, Mount Holyoke College