SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
December 13, 2020
What we’ve learned from setting the jib
26 deg 49.04’ N x 084 deg 31.72’ W
Storm petrels, Atlantic spotted dolphins, Frigate bird, Portuguese man o’war
Sunny and warm, Cirrus clouds
Description of Location
Southwest of Tampa Bay
Sailing on a port tack under the mains’l, tops’l, fore stays’l and main stay’l
Beneath where the lines and masts join to trace the moon's crescent, we begin our work. All four of us move without words, facing each other just close enough to see the outline of our heads, but unable to distinguish any features under a near new-moon sky. 2, 6, heave! 2, 6, heave! 2, 6 heave! In between: airy grunts and the sound of the sail cars sliding up the stay. Setting the jib is not a task for one person, so we work as a team. Despite this, our bodies are at odds, each of our hands fighting for the highest part of the line. It is anything but easy work. Every muscle in our bodies is used as we ripple our arms up wildly in an effort to grasp the halyard. For a moment, my mind goes to tending soil; we treat the line just as we would a root: roughly but with care, our thoughts anywhere but the job before us.
Nothing about working on a boat is easy. It's not easy to feel like you're doing a task correctly, it's not easy to remember when to sleep, and it's definitely not easy to set the jib. There have been some cold, humid nights, where I am drunkenly drawn out of my bunk by the red light on the hutch, hungry and ill-prepared for my next six hour watch, only to find three measly crumbs of pumpkin bread left festering at the bottom my watch's mid-rats Tupperware. All this to say, yes, it gets rough.
The hardest part, though, beyond a doubt, is feeling as though nothing that you ever write, say, draw, do can adequately bear the perpetual awe that comes with living at sea. Yes, there are challenges. But I find myself challenged more by the people and skills that consistently push me to be that much more grateful, that much more conscientious.
What we are doing here is truly incredible. We operate as a team, fighting over the same line not to be the one that reaches higher but to be the one that provides slack to the hand below you. The incredible amount of awareness that is required to do a task correctly far outweighs the fear of failing at that task itself.
And this air of awe falls not only around people and the cohesive unit we have become but on the place and ship itself. Every day I am struck but what I see around me, be it an Atlantic-spotted dolphin leaving a gift of churned bioluminescence below the bow or a flicker of dusty light that's created on the main salon bulkhead as someone walks across deck over the skylight. There are never enough laughs to be had for the flying fish and never enough "Kyrie, what's that?"s to satisfy the storm petrels.
If I've learned anything in those few brief moments of exhaustion and existentialism while setting the jib or staring at the hutch's red light moments after a 1250 wakeup, it's that we do not deserve the ocean. Or perhaps we do, and we just haven't quite learned how to recognize it for what it is: a gift.
Until next time,
- Emma Stout, B Watch, Tufts University
To family: Hello Stouts! It truly brings me so much joy to picture Andrew singing the Muppets off-key as Dad gets even more anxious about the tree's needle-to-branch ratio while Mom gives a loving sigh, wrapped in her pink Teddy the Dog blanket, admiring the lights, all over Kara yelling and then apologizing for yelling during game night. Anyways, I love you all. Can't wait to see you and join in on the madness in two weeks! (Let me reiterate that what I mentioned in the last blog post about egg nog was no joke).
To friends: I hope you're reading this. You probably aren't. What great friends.
Editor's Note: In response to the coronavirus pandemic, all SEA Semester students, faculty, and crew aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer boarded the ship after strictly isolating on shore, and after repeated negative tests for COVID-19. To ensure the health and safety of those onboard, the ship will not conduct any port stops and will remain in coastal waters so that any unlikely medical situations may be resolved quickly.