In a Pickle (and Out Again)

July 3, 2022

Maddie Speagle, A Watch, Wellesley College


Emily learns Born a Worm!

Ship's Log

Noon Position
33 19.508'N x 159 50.149'W

Ship Heading
359 T

Ship Speed
4.0 kn

Weather / Wind 
Weather: Sunny and cool with off-and-on squalls

Sail Plan
Storm Tris'l, Main Stays'l, Fore Stays'l, Jib

Souls on Board

One of the first and firmest lessons I've learned so far aboard the Seamans has been this: every action has its consequence, and they are swift. A heavy door left unlatched will, without fail, swing around and hit you. The first night, I fell into my bunk after a long day of working and learning (my group's first watch began in the evening after our day of training ended) and tossed my sandals on the floor, too tired to care about putting them away in the drawer where they belonged. The next morning, I woke up right before watch meeting, and went to put on my sandals. Where had they gone? I searched every drawer and asked around; thankfully, a helpful bunkmate pointed me to the "gear adrift" box, and sure enough, there they were. I was annoyed at the time, but I came to realize that in a tight environment like the ship, little things like this actually matter. A bunkmate getting up for dawn watch could easily trip on my loose shoe.

Tonight, a jar of pickles slid off the table in the saloon (where we eat

meals) when the ship rolled, and they spilled, not just on the sole (ship-speak for "floor"), but down an emergency hatch into the machinery room. A few of our crew spent almost ten minutes picking them up. Accidents happen a lot on the ship, because, I mean, come on! The deck is constantly tilting and it's also frequently wet! But the amazing thing is that, in just a week, we've all already adapted to become more aware, more vigilant, care for each other, and roll with the punches (or pitches), even ones as silly as dropping a jar of pickles.

Life at sea has many joys equal to its challenges: standing on lookout as the sun rises and watching the sky expand.  Grinning at each other after we successfully haul in the main. Oohing and aahing in lab at cool blue stuff (or, ya know, the 73rd copepod.) Science today was especially exciting, because it was the first day we really started to see large numbers of what we came here for: today we saw plastics drifting by, including a flip flop with barnacles growing on it, and a Porpita porpita the size of a quarter being eaten by a Janthina janthina (!!) And more joys: saying hi to Steve the Stomatopod, Leonard the crab, and Pipsqueak the Porpita in the aquarium.

Being cared for by dearer friends than I thought you could make in a few weeks. Eating the AMAZING food (no hardtack and salt pork here!) And teaching and learning songs on the uke and fiddle up on deck every night, as pictured.  Amazingly, fearing for our lives as we slip and slide down the deck while scrubbing galley mats really bonds a watch group. And when I look back, I realize more information has come into my brain than should be possible, about lines, and lab procedures, and names of constellations, and how to use the trash compactor. It's amazing and overwhelming in equal turns.

To Mom and Kathy, I miss you guys!! Thinking of you every day. I wish I could share with you every time we see a seabird and how much I'm enjoying Moby-Dick (you were right, the ship has a copy.) And I'm making broccoli pasta for my galley day and thinking of you. See you soon! <3

-  Maddie Speagle, A Watch, Wellesley College

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  1. Carol Hadlock July 5, 2022 at 14:10 - Reply

    Dear Madeleine, We loved reading your blog and are so happy for this exciting adventure you’re having. And you’re learning so much! Lots of love, Mom’sMom and PopPop.

  2. Heather July 5, 2022 at 18:03 - Reply

    Maddie, we’re thinking of you every day too! Keep greeting the gulls and petrels and whoever else is up there in the sky. I’m imagining your comic book about the adventures of Steve, Leonard, and Pipsqueak. xoxoxo Mom

  3. Kathy Veit July 6, 2022 at 17:40 - Reply

    Hi, Madeleine! So glad you’re having such a great experience thus far, and love that you’re sharing your music and broccoli pasta with your mates!
    PS Now you know why I have nagged you all these years to pick up your stuff–including your shoes! It was to prepare you for this voyage!! BTW Uncle Eric says you’re getting a little taste of the Naval Academy plebe experience, though hopefully without hazing LOL.

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