SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
May 19, 2015
What a Wonderful Day
40°09.2’N x 073°02.9’W
Description of location
Temperate North Atlantic
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Clear skies, light pollution from city but stars still visible, wind NW, Beaufort Force 3. Sailing in a box off Long Island, New York
Marine Organisms Observed last 24hrs
Dolphins, Shark, Mola-Mola, seahorse
Sargassum Observed last 24hrs
No Sargassum, but Ascophyllum spotted
Good evening! …Or rather, good morning!
This final blog at sea for Cramer class C-259 is being co-written by Anthony and Helena, who happened to be both the Junior Watch Officer and Junior Lab Officer in the same day. It is 0330 in the morning and we have now been up for 21 hours; we have had two standing watches since waking and, oh boy, what a wonderful day. A Watch took the deck at 0700 and the weather quickly turned to squalls and reduced visibility. For the few hours it was raining and foggy, the navigation lights were lit and burning bright and the fog horn blew its prolonged blast followed by two short blasts every two minutes. We managed to gybe before the rain set in and once the wind picked up we struck the Jib and the Tops’l. I will have to say the furl team for the Jib did a spectacular job to make it look pretty for when we’re alongside in New York.
And speaking of New York, our final destination before heading back to Woods Hole for the final symposium: I’d like to reflect a bit on the past few weeks of our adventure from San Juan, Puerto Rico to St. George’s, Bermuda to New York City. I remember first stepping foot aboard SSV Corwith Cramer and looking around thinking, wow, there are so many lines rigged and gadgets all over the ship – and to think now how familiar the entire ship feels. I can confidently set or strike sails in the dark during dawn watch, I can step into lab and process a neuston tow with all of its wonderful creatures, and best of all every one of us on the ship is entirely capable of doing these things. I’m really happy with the community we have created on board and I sure am going to be sad to depart the ship and eventually depart the friends I have made. We will cherish these final weeks we have together to bring together everything we have all been working for. And before I get to emotional I will pass this off to my shipmate Helena (Little H).
Roger that, thanks Big A. I love the community we’ve built here too, and I can say with 100% certainty that I’ll be fighting tears when I have to say goodbye and “until next time” to all these quirky/hard-working/supportive/salty sailors, scientists, and students.
Along the lines of emotions, I’ve got to tell you about something Anthony and I saw last night. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in all my twenty one years of living. Night had fallen, the stars were out, and I was harnessed and clipped in at the very end of the bow on lookout. One of my favorite things to do on lookout (besides singing to myself since no one can hear me up there…I hope) is watching the bioluminescent waves lapping against the hull of the ship. But when I looked down, I saw not only the scattered pinpoints of blue light that often speckle the bow wave, made by tiny bioluminescent plankton. This time, a single streak of light darted across the bow and disappeared. I did a quick reality check: did I imagine that? But then I saw another streak of light zoom across the surface of the water, and another. Squinting down, I realized the streaks of light were pretty big. Fish? But then I heard an exhale, almost like the sound of a human breath, but more powerful. Then a barely audible, high pitched clicking sound. A single dorsal fin broke the surface. Before I knew it, I was witnessing a lightshow put on by a pod of about seven dolphins weaving gracefully across the bow. I was mesmerized (and I admit, teary eyed) by their coordinated patterns and in-sync maneuvers that glowed blue in the wavelets beneath me. My first thought after a period of mental speechlessness was to tell my shipmates. I shouted down the ship to the people on my watch at the stern, but no one heard me. I remembered Kata, our resident student cetacean expert, was at the helm. KATA! THERE’S DOLPHINS! Within a few minutes, half our watch was peeking over the bow at the dolphins below, and pretty soon those of us who were still awake below deck had joined us. They stuck around for a while, maybe hunting for little fish we couldn’t see, or maybe just frolicking around for the heck of it.
Soon after that magical experience, our last day of sailing rolled around. After a scrumptious breakfast of hot berry and whipped cream-topped waffles, we had a very productive Ocean Policy class where we talked about our network proposal for management of the Sargasso Sea that we will put together collectively as a class, and about the final symposium. The symposium is a one-day conference to take place on the SEA campus in Woods Hole at the end of the semester. The cool thing about the work we’re doing, as Amy pointed out, is that it’s not just academic. Our findings and ideas won’t remain in a “to be graded” desk drawer in an office somewhere, reaching a dead end in their life and purpose. At the final symposium, and through other communications, our work will be shared with policy-makers, civil servants, researchers, educators, leaders of environmental non-profit organizations, and members of the public. In this way, the stuff we’re doing now has the potential to have an impact in the real world. This is the kind of work I want to do in the future, so I’m thankful for the opportunity that SEA has given us to become immersed in this professional field so early on in our careers in ocean science, ocean policy, or whatever else each of us might pursue in the future.
Well, the sun is now up, so I guess Captain’s saying holds true: No sleep til Brooklyn! I’ll end with a huge thank you to my shipmates for being so superb during our last watch when I had the chance to take the reigns as Junior Watch Officer and call the shots sailing. You guys rocked all that sail-handling and gybes, and we successfully steered well clear of all the port traffic south of Long Island. To my wonderful family and friends back on land, I can’t wait to talk to you soon and to hear all your news from the past six weeks! To hear all of the world’s news, for that matter. New York City, here we come!
Over and out,
Helena and Anthony
(Most recently, A Watch now stands for “Animal Watch,” because Anthony was such a beast that he snapped the brails right off the Course Tops’l when he was hauling them in yesterday. Our 2nd mate Ashley has since deftly spliced the two ends back together.)
P.S. Happy birthday from Anthony to my good friend Tommy, and to my family and friends I will be seeing you all soon.
P.P.S. Caroline was extremely excited to shout “Land Ho!” when she first caught sight of New York today. We have become very salty sailors indeed.