SEA Currents: c255
A Mountain of an Island
There are a thousand kilometers of “levadas” on the main island of Madeira, neat stone-lined irrigation channels built centuries ago, at great human cost, to carry rainwater from the mountains into the fertile flanks of the valleys. Tenders walked for days on paths alongside, clearing debris and opening sluice gates to allow the runoff down different watercourses.
Pilot Whales and Dolphins
The day started out with B watch on deck at 6:55am. It was a smooth turnover from Alyssa, the Junior Watch Officer from A watch. We were headed for Canical, the commercial port in Madeira. As I was assigned to bow watch, I could say that I had the best view; the skyline was decorated by the beautiful sunset and stratocumulus clouds. As we approached closer to land, we could spot signs of life: houses decked on top of each other on the hills. It had been 9 days since we were so close to land.
Forward to Madeira
Ahoy from the Corwith Cramer, out on the rolling sea / Proud bow, billowing sails – she’s a pleasure to see. The journey has been long / Voyaging’s no small thing / Especially as we were busy watch standing
We resisted the binding spell of a siren / Escaped the gaping jaws of the Leviathan; Weathered many a storm, came out clean from a gale/ Defeated hungry Kraken, hunted a white sperm whale;
Squid, Science and Sailing
Today during afternoon watch we spotted land, the mountains of Puerto Santo lay dead ahead. After not seeing land for a full nine days, the sight was bittersweet. The excitement of Madeira is just 50 nautical miles away, but that also means we are nearing the end of our last long leg aboard Mama Cramer.
Today was a prominent day for science and the crew of the Cramer, because it was Seamount Day! Some of you may be wondering what exactly a seamount is, but it’s exactly what it sounds like, a mountain in the sea. Although these mountains don’t break the surface of the ocean, they can be just as massive as the ones we see on land. These volcanic structures host a very unique habitat underneath the sea surface, and can be home to some species rarely found anywhere else. They also provide an environment high in biodiversity, and create fascinating oceanographic data that is very interesting to study in many of the projects being done by students on board.
On the Lookout
For the past few weeks, we have been assuming various roles on watch such as helmsman, lookout, science labbie, etc., and getting a feel for each of them. Each position contributes to the overall success of the ship, so it is important to for us to become proficient in every role. My favorite job while on watch is lookout. Contrary to what we expected before departing Woods Hole, there are not many other boats sailing or motoring within our sight, so a lot of our time as lookout is spent with our thoughts.
Green Flash Aspirations
On board the Cramer, we students spend almost all of our time together: sitting in class, standing watch, working in the lab, eating meals, playing cards, perfecting our hot chocolate-Nutella-Fluff concoctions. We all love our ship family, but we also all need a little alone time every once in a while, which isn’t exactly easy to come by. However, if we are assigned to bow lookout during watch, we are afforded a nice hour-long period of solitude. When we stand bow watch, we keep our eyes peeled for other ships along the horizon.
200 miles southwest of Cadiz, the wind is cool and dry from the northeast, almost dead astern as we steer our course towards Madeira. The motion is easy, and it’s quiet below. The miles tick by in what has easily been the best sailing run in the trip so far.
Around us, a river of ships comes and goes from the Strait of Gibraltar. Here in open sea, we spot one or two an hour, but our AIS screen shows hundreds, like spilled grains of rice.
Today we’ve had our best wind yet with a steady northeasterly wind that has carried us almost exactly one hundred nautical miles today according to our taffrail log. This is especially impressive given the fact that we were hove to for more than two hours this morning collecting samples. Our morning science station consisted of the regular deployment of Secchi Disk, carousel, Reeve net, and Neuston tow. Our departure from Cadiz yesterday, sailing into the Atlantic under our four lowers past the morning ferries, marked the beginning of phase two of our leadership and nautical science courses.
“Not a single British ship sank – both the Spanish and French were devastated, and far worse than the battle was the storm that followed… but at least we got Admiral Nelson.”
Such was spoken candidly by an archeological specialist at the Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Historico Centro de Arqueologia Subacuatica, during our first day in Cádiz. On this date, 209 years ago, the royal British naval fleet sailed in a V-formation (a noted specialty of Admiral Horatio Nelson’s) to separate the two lines of ships constituted by the Spanish and French naval forces.