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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans

October 09, 2016

Volcano ho!

Clare McClellan, C watch, Vassar College


Relaxing on top of the doghouse as we sail by Kao Island.

Current Position
19° 34.88’ S x 174° 55.81’ W

Ship’s Heading & Speed
030°, 5 knots

Sail Plan
Four lowers

Cloudy and breezy, but the sun still manages to be hot!

Souls on Board

I awoke on day 2 of our second sailing leg to a pink haze of sunrise off the port beam and a nice breeze blowing us along at 7 knots. What a perfect sailing day! Nothing but open ocean all around, except for one small island in the distance off to our right. Looking around and seeing only blue ocean and cloudy white sky still makes me catch my breath every time as I remember the awesomeness of where we are and what we’re doing. Our planned course will take us by two islands today: Kao Island, an extinct volcano, and nearby Tofua Island, where Captain Bligh of the famous Mutiny on the Bounty was marooned. Don’t worry, no mutinies on this ship (at least while Bex continues to feed us s’mores for snack!).

Life on board Mama Seamans continues much as usual, with meals, watches, science deployments, class, and sleep all rotating through our schedules. I had morning watch (0700-1300) and was on deck, which meant I steered, stood lookout, helped handle sails, and did hourly tasks. One thing most of us are  getting  more used to is all the things that have to be done routinely every hour. When we’re on deck watch we have to do weather observations, boat checks (a walk through the ship to make sure everything is safe and running properly), read the Taffrail log (basically the ship’s odometer), and plot our position on the chart. In the lab on watch we have to record hourly readings of sea salinity, temperature, and chlorophyll-a content as well as any animal or plant life we see from the deck. After a few days of feeling overwhelmed by trying to remember to do all the things at all the right times, it’s beginning to feel more natural and automatic.

This morning during my watch the lab team was very busy, deploying and retrieving the Secchi disk, carousel, and Neuston net. All this science meant the deck team was also kept busy adjusting our course and sails to make sure we were going the right speeds for the deployments. The wind was being somewhat uncooperative, so we actually went backwards on our course this morning, but now Seamans is sailing happily along again. During class this afternoon we practiced line handling and setting and striking sails, another thing we are getting more comfortable with.

The big excitement of the day was sighting more land! Kao Island, the extinct volcano, came into view shortly after lunch, and we passed by it at about 1730. Huge, cone shaped and with the top shrouded in mist, Kao made an imposing and awesome sight. As we got closer I could see waves crashing against the rocky shore and make out silhouettes of palm trees along the edges. I imagined what it would be like to be sailing for weeks in uncharted waters and finally spot this island on the horizon… I’m glad we have our charts!

As I write this Bex is cooking up some more magic in the galley (sweet potato fries!) and bright blue seawater swirls by the library porthole. I’m finally off seasickness meds, as are most of us, and we’re finding our sea legs again after being in port. Life certainly is good! Who knows what tomorrow holds—weather and wind may make us adjust our plans—but if I’ve learned one thing so far during SPICE it’s to live day by day and enjoy it!

Hi to everyone back home and all my friends and family! I miss and love you all, and sorry I haven’t gotten any postcards out yet but Vava’u was strangely postcard-less. Now I have to go catch my final glimpses of the volcano and have some dinner before watch!

From somewhere in the beautiful Pacific,

Previous entry: The New Normal    Next entry: Wind, Waves, and Rain, Oh My!


#1. Posted by Grace Ginther on October 19, 2016

Clare!!!!! You seem to be settling in well. I’m so glad you are enjoying yourself despite the fact that nothing is the same without you and I miss you like crazy and I can’t wait until you get back. I hope you have tons of friends that you love almost as much as me! (for anyone reading this who doesn’t know me, I am joking - somewhat. Don’t forget our love Clarity!) Really though, I really, really, REALLY do miss you. Keep having fun learning interesting things and enjoying the open water like the crazy, not-afraid-of-drowning-in-the-open-ocean person that you are! I’m sure we’ll have lots to tell each other when you get back so I’m scheduling us for a sleepover immediately upon your arrival.
Love, The Supreme Overlord
P.S. Nice post. Really A+ job. Life on the boat sounds great!



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