Squalor 00:30Pumped for dawn watch (0100-0700), I jump out of my bunk. A-watch’s previous times for dawn watch had been while we were at anchor and I had only stood watch for shorter increments (while anchored in Nantucket and Gloucester). The Corwith Cramer needs less hands while she is not actively sailing, but there still needs to be anchor checks, boat checks, engine checks, science hourlies and an active presence on deck at all times. While at anchor, watches split up into three small groups that stand for only two hours, ensuring that six hours are split evenly. This morning is no anchor watch, seeing as we’re in the middle of the Gulf of Maine, and my excitement gets me out of bed faster than my usual response time at this hour. Walking by the ladder to use the head, the near-frigid air reminds me to layer smartly for the upcoming watch.
Saloon 00:40After digging around in the foulie locker for a solid five minutes, I don my layers, foul weather gear (bib, jacket and boots) and make my way to the aft ladder. Peeking at the watch schedule on my way by, I am reminded that I am on lab duty for the upcoming watch.
Charthouse 00:45Climbing up the aft ladder into the charthouse, I look over the charts and our plotted positions from recent hours. Looking over the various names of the underwater features in our area, I gain a broad sense of where we are in the sea. While the surface of the ocean is oftentimes mind-numbingly featureless, structures on the seafloor are diverse and plentiful in the Gulf of Maine.
Quarterdeck 00:48I step onto the deck and am greeted with the sound of waves breaking around us. The conditions are a five on the Beaufort Force Scale, excellent sailing weather. The seas do not seem to have calmed down a considerable amount from post-tropical cyclone Philippe.
Lab 00:50Madi, Whistler and I step into the lab, ready to be briefed by C-Watch and directed by our science officer, Ali.
Deck 01:20While many sail adjustments are manageable with the members of the watch assigned to the deck, larger sails, like the foretopsail, require a few more hands. The watch rallies to pull the sail out from its stowed position, furled against the mast. Eventually the sail is set and the Cramer is now sailing on a reach with her foretopsail, forestaysail, mainstaysail and jib.
Lab 01:30Getting right back to work, the lab team starts processing the various seaweed and critters captured by a net tow the previous day. Madi and I start with separating out euphausids that are larger than about two centimeters while Whistler records observations regarding bioluminescence, salinity, temperature and many more.
Deck 03:30The wind has diminished to around a Force 2. Chief Mate Johnny gives the order to start the main engine and strike the foretopsail. Whistler, Madi and I step out of the lab to assist.
Lab 03:45Grateful for the chance to keep my blood moving and energy up, I finish separating the contents of the net tow and set up to identify the various plankton we collected.
Lab 04:30Ali and Madi conduct a surface station. They collect a bucket of water from the surface of the water and separate it into various containers to test for nutrients and chlorophyll-a. Whistler and I remain inside the lab to conduct a ‘one-hundred count’ of the net tow. This process involves separating one-hundred separate organisms at random from those captured in the net tow. Under the current conditions, I struggle to use a pointed tool to move organisms of small sizes across the petri dish under the microscope for Whistler to identify and tally.
Bow 05:30DOLPHINS! Several dolphins are darting around the bow and are kicking up bioluminescence, reminiscent of neon blue fireworks.
Deck 06:15Finished with the majority of our processing, I rinse out our buckets on deck. The sunrise is gorgeous. There are multiple squalls on the horizon and the light reflected off of them is orange-pinkish. The seas have calmed since the beginng of dawn watch and the sunrise is quite peaceful. A rainbow has formed against one of the closer squalls, bringing a plethora of visual variety to this morning seascape. This is a perfect way to wrap up the last hour of our long dawn watch.
Lab 06:45After finishing clean-up, Ali, Madi, Whistler and I compile a list of to-dos for the next watch and recap the work we did in the lab logbook as those on B-Watch emerge from below decks.
Deck 06:50I’m very much looking forward to crawling in my bunk, but the work isn’t quite done yet. It’s time to set the mainsail. Both A-Watch and B-Watch are needed to set the largest sail on the boat. After expending the rest of my strength with my crewmates hauling the halyard, I am ready to go to bed, but I am hungrier than I am tired.
Saloon 07:10Our stewards, Rachael and Sebastian, never come up short when it comes to a meal. Today, they are assisted by Emma, the day’s student steward. The pancakes, both chocolate chip and plain, absolutely hit the spot after six hours of work. I am headed straight to bed after I clear my plate.
Squalor 10:30I heard snack was apples, so I put on my boots and emerged to grab a few slices. Now I’m awake, it’s time to get to work.
Library 11:30After reading a considerable amount of Death Ship and writing a journal response to the section, I move on to compiling which data collections are viable for my group’s research project. Riley, Ryan and I are researching how meroplankton are affected by temperature at the depth of highest biomass density. We chose this depth to give us the best chance of finding large amounts of data for the project. Various nets are towed most everyday behind the Cramer, but not all the tows target the depth of highest biomass density. To determine this depth, we can use the Acoustic Current Doppler Profiler, which can tell my group where the depth of highest biomass density was and when. Then, we can mark which tows are eligible for our project and copy the data collected onto our own data sheets to analyze.
Saloon 13:00Lunch is tuna salad sandwiches and kale salad. Like always, it is absolutely delicious.
Quarterdeck 13:25Standing on the quarterdeck, I take in the beautiful day. Teo, on the helm, spots a whale blow off the starboard side. Well spotted, there are two more before the whales leave.
Bow 13:40MORE DOLPHINS! Three fairly large dolphins are darting to and fro across the bow and through the bow wake. It’s incredible to see them this close to the ship. I suppose without the sound of the main engine, they aren’t as annoyed.
Deck 14:15Fire drill! There are multiple callouts of a ‘fire’ in the galley and the general alarm rings out. We quickly muster at our watch stations to ensure all are on deck and disperse to carry out our responsibilities. Assigned to fire hose two, I roll out the hose on the port side and point the nozzle over the side, waiting for the pumps to turn on. After the pumps are activated, the captain orders the hoses to be sprayed on the course sail so that the water will cascade onto the deck above the galley. Boundary cooling is the job of the students while other measures are taken to ensure the fire doesn’t spread, such as closing the water tight doors, closing off ventilation hatches and more.
Quarterdeck 14:40After the drill is over, the ship’s company musters on the quarterdeck to discuss the drill and how to improve our response to a fire. Ship’s meeting is usually at 14:30, so we roll right into it. Captain Coughlin gives a presentation about fire about how we can optimize our response to it. Cole and Ian report on the expected weather for the near future. Madi, Whistler and I recap our findings in the net tow. Finally, Teo leads the navigation report, detailing the ship’s positions over the last day. After some discussion about the plan for our upcoming port stop in Lunenburg, ship’s meeting ends and we all disperse.
Library 18:00Dinner for A-Watch is in twenty minutes and I am looking forward to ending the day how I started it. A-Watch is on for evening watch (1900-0100) and when I first heard about how the schedule has one watch on for two six hour periods a day, I was taken aback. However, it makes more sense to not think about days. You are on watch for six hours, then off for twelve. So a day is more of an eighteen hour period. Three watches, A-Watch, B-Watch, and C-Watch, rotate through four watch periods, dawn watch (0100-0700), morning watch (0700-1300), afternoon watch (1300-1900) and evening watch (1900-0100).
While a day in the life of a student aboard the Corwith Cramer may sound hectic and tiring, learning to navigate the open ocean, understand the life and environment around you and adapting to living in close-quarters is rewarding to no end. On that note, here’s the rest of my day.
18:20, Dinner. 19:00, On- watch. 01:00, Off-watch. 01:20, Good night.