SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
November 11, 2017
12° 38.7’ N x 055° 30.1’ W
Description of location
Weather / Wind/ Sail plan
Easterly trade winds, occasional squalls, sailing close reach on a port tack under the four lowers
To set the scene of a dawn watch not long ago: Still foggy from my 00:30 wakeup, I rolled out of my bunk, made a mug of tea, and ascended the ladder through the dog house to read night orders, familiarize myself with the deck, and receive turnover information from the off-going watch. Directed to take the lookout position, I walked forward to the bow to relieve Mercer, who was looking out and singing “Lean on Me.” I joined him for a chorus, then as he left I situated myself between the rail and the forestay, and I began to watch. Overhead, the moon shone with a faint corona cast through high ice crystals. As the wind began to pick up slightly the waves gave illusions of dorsal fins. Something flashed in the corner of my eye and I looked up to just catch a view of a brilliant shooting star.
The term “standing watch” is a simple one, but what we do to stand watch is fairly complex. To break it down – it begins with standing. We literally stand for six hours, always at the ready to meet the ship’s needs whether that may be observing traffic and weather conditions, changing the sail plan, steering, etc. The other piece of what we do is watching. While standing watch we are in a state of heightened awareness. This is easier said than done. One can be taught a checklist of things to observe on our hourly boat checks– are the life rafts secure? Do the sails look happy? Are the lines led fairly? Is there any water leaking into the bilge? Is the stove clear of flammable items? Are the various machines in dry stores and the engine room reading within their parameters? But any checklist would be incomplete. The things that we begin to notice and fix on our boat checks come from a deeper place of understanding with all of our senses what is right on the ship and what is out of place. We all must learn what is normal on the ship and then diligently watch to be sure that we are taking care of our vessel, our rigging, our safety gear, our spaces, our things, our shipmates, and ourselves.
A common phrase heard here is “ship, shipmate, self.” Today is Saturday – field day, and although deep cleaning the entire ship is a laborious task, I can always feel the energy and joy that we get from taking care of our home and keeping our ship clean and healthy. Taking care of our ship and each other is how we get along out here, and making sure that the ship’s needs are provided for ensures that we will all have what we need too. As we begin the JWO phase we must take care of each other even more. Together we form a team that works to keep this ship running, and as we move forward our students are taking on more and more of those responsibilities.
They have learned the needs of the ship, they have an intuitive understanding of what must be done to keep us running smoothly. Just as the ever-present motion of the ocean has been integrated into our sense of what is normal, so have the sights, sounds, and smells of our home Mama Cramer. It has been a pleasure to watch this group become immersed in this environment and take on the tasks of running this ship, and I know that together, in six hour increments of watchstanding, we have all we need to make this incredible journey.