February 4, 2012

My Year So Far: Sailing From St. Croix, UVI to San Juan, Puerto Rico

I must preface this by saying our voyage blog is a much more thorough summary of our trip.

I left Woods Hole a week before Thanksgiving and spent a week in St. Croix with my parents where I finished up my college apps and had a bit of time to explore the island, SCUBA, snorkel, befriend a cool Rasta-man, and get an uncomfortable sun burn.

The day after Thanksgiving I joined my classmates from Woods Hole aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer in Gallows Bay, St. Croix.

The Cramer was built by ASTACE in Bilbao, Spain in 1987, for SEA. She is a 134' steel brigantine (or hermaphrodite brig), meaning she is fore-and-aft with two masts, one of which is square-rigged. If it looks like there are tons of confusing ropes on board, that's because there are! Mama Cramer has 9 sails (plus a storm trisail) and accordingly, many many lines to set, trim, and strike each sail. Yes, we did have to memorize all of them. We had a competition where you were given a note-card with a line on it and you had to power walk to touch the right one. I forgot the topsail inhaul!!! I thought I knew the squares'ls the best. I was so ashamed. 

Note how these all look identical (course and tops'l inhauls and outhauls)
We lived in small little "berths". I don't have a picture of mine, but imagine a large coffin with curtains, in the salon (living room/dining room) of the ship. It was nice because I could poke my head out and decide if I liked breakfast or wanted to sleep more. But if I slept with my hand out, people would slap it, pull it, shake it, etc... I liked my berth though.

Anyways. We left two days after Thanksgiving and were sailing along, but then had to return to port when a deckhand was injured. So then we left again! And this time we continued to sail happily along without further stall. 

It wasn't long before we started getting sick. I never fed the fishes, so to speak, but did spend about 85% of my time feeling very nauseated. Of course, being the medical mystery I have always been (mysterious spots in my lungs, allergies to blue potatoes etc...) I have some sort of "special" sea-sickness. We think it may be cured by migraine medicine but I probably won't be back on a boat in a while to test that out. 
As I don't really remember that first week (I was pretty foggy most of the time), I will share my ship's blog post from that leg with you:

28 November 2011
2000 Atlantic Standard Time (7 PM EST)
Photo Caption: Sarah and Gus sweatin’ it out on the jib sheet

On this cool and clear evening (temperature 27.2°C), we are sailing on a course ordered track of 005° with the help of a NE×E wind (Beaufort Force 3) at 2 knots because of our deployed Neuston net tow. Our position is around 16°34’N×065°34’W.
Hello world! Greetings from the middle of the eastern Caribbean Sea! We are your first student bloggers, Dylan and Larissa, writing to you from the ship’s sauna (better known as the library) to tell you about our crazy adventures on the Corwith Cramer!
After a somewhat uneventful evening, the first watch of the day spotted what appeared to be an abandoned skiff on the horizon. Upon further inspection, it was, in fact, an abandoned skiff that may have been cast adrift by a storm. We motored towards it, copied down its information to send to the Coast Guard, and continued on our journey south.  Later, we had our first class, a vastly different experience from those in Woods Hole, in part (largely) because of our still uneasy stomachs. However, we seem to be slowly but surely getting our sea legs. The Fisherman sail was set today, which increased our speed and heel, easing the pitching of the ship, making the afternoon snack of Goldfish and Nilla Wafers much more enjoyable! During snack, we had a visitor. Fat Albert, the plumper of two hitchhiker pigeons, crawled out from his home under the rescue boat to hesitantly peck at some cracker crumbs provided by Ian.
From 1300-1900, the two of us were on lab watch, meaning we assisted the third assistant scientist, Julia, with scientific deployments, data processing, and hourly lab reports. Despite initially knowing very little about oceanographic research, we are becoming competent enough to carry out the aforementioned tasks quite efficiently and accurately. Today, we spent a lot of time processing the samples from the previous watch’s Neuston net tow, which included Sargassum, fish larvae, several crabs, and TONS OF ANEMONE, which sting. Ow. We learned how to measure pH using the spectrophotometer and how to assess the makeup of a zooplankton sample by doing a 100-count. In the biggest scientific news of the day, last night, the Sargassum crab in the aquarium mercilessly devoured all three live fish in the aquarium. It was a tough loss.
Thanks for reading,
Dylan and Larissa
A picture of the aforementioned lab. 
I think this is actually from the tow we mentioned!
Albert. How did he even find us???
The library. So hot because the engine room is through the wall at left
We learned how to navigate by the stars using sextants on that leg. Much of the time we actually did, and only used the RADAR for making sure we didn't hit any boats!

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