A ‘Day’ in the Life of a Sailor/Scientist

October 12, 2023

Author: Cass D.


First mate Johnny and Cass cleaning a winch while Riley and Mattie supervise.

Ship's Log

Tuesday, 10 October 2023Noon Position: 41°01.482’N 66°48.830’WHeading: 092°Speed: 4 ktsLog: 476.7 nmWeather: Mostly clear skies, scattered altocumulus. 20°C. Seas 3-4 ft. BeaufortForce 2-3.Sail Plan: Continue eastward to waypoint south of Nova Scotia.Description of location: Gulf of Maine, northwest of Brown’s Bank.

Squalor 00:30Pumped for dawn watch (0100-0700), I jump out of my bunk. A-watch’s previoustimes for dawn watch had been while we were at anchor and I had only stoodwatch for shorter increments (while anchored in Nantucket and Gloucester).The Corwith Cramer needs less hands while she is not actively sailing, butthere still needs to be anchor checks, boat checks, engine checks, sciencehourlies 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 getsme out of bed faster than my usual response time at this hour. Walking bythe ladder to use the head, the near-frigid air reminds me to layer smartlyfor the upcoming watch.

Saloon 00:40After digging around in the foulie locker for a solid five minutes, I don mylayers, foul weather gear (bib, jacket and boots) and make my way to the aftladder. Peeking at the watch schedule on my way by, I am reminded that I amon lab duty for the upcoming watch.

Charthouse 00:45Climbing up the aft ladder into the charthouse, I look over the charts andour plotted positions from recent hours. Looking over the various names ofthe underwater features in our area, I gain a broad sense of where we are inthe sea. While the surface of the ocean is oftentimes mind-numbinglyfeatureless, structures on the seafloor are diverse and plentiful in theGulf of Maine.

Quarterdeck 00:48I step onto the deck and am greeted with the sound of waves breaking aroundus. The conditions are a five on the Beaufort Force Scale, excellent sailingweather. The seas do not seem to have calmed down a considerable amount frompost-tropical cyclone Philippe.

Lab 00:50Madi, Whistler and I step into the lab, ready to be briefed by C-Watch anddirected by our science officer, Ali.

Deck 01:20While many sail adjustments are manageable with the members of the watchassigned to the deck, larger sails, like the foretopsail, require a few morehands. 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 nowsailing on a reach with her foretopsail, forestaysail, mainstaysail and jib.

Lab 01:30Getting right back to work, the lab team starts processing the variousseaweed and critters captured by a net tow the previous day. Madi and Istart with separating out euphausids that are larger than about twocentimeters 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 theorder to start the main engine and strike the foretopsail. Whistler, Madiand I step out of the lab to assist.

Lab 03:45Grateful for the chance to keep my blood moving and energy up, I finishseparating the contents of the net tow and set up to identify the variousplankton we collected.

Lab 04:30Ali and Madi conduct a surface station. They collect a bucket of water fromthe surface of the water and separate it into various containers to test fornutrients and chlorophyll-a. Whistler and I remain inside the lab to conducta ‘one-hundred count’ of the net tow. This process involves separatingone-hundred separate organisms at random from those captured in the net tow.Under the current conditions, I struggle to use a pointed tool to moveorganisms of small sizes across the petri dish under the microscope forWhistler to identify and tally.

Bow 05:30DOLPHINS! Several dolphins are darting around the bow and are kicking upbioluminescence, reminiscent of neon blue fireworks.

Deck 06:15Finished with the majority of our processing, I rinse out our buckets ondeck. The sunrise is gorgeous. There are multiple squalls on the horizon andthe light reflected off of them is orange-pinkish. The seas have calmedsince the beginng of dawn watch and the sunrise is quite peaceful. A rainbowhas formed against one of the closer squalls, bringing a plethora of visualvariety to this morning seascape. This is a perfect way to wrap up the lasthour of our long dawn watch.

Lab 06:45After finishing clean-up, Ali, Madi, Whistler and I compile a list of to-dosfor the next watch and recap the work we did in the lab logbook as those onB-Watch emerge from below decks.

Deck 06:50I’m very much looking forward to crawling in my bunk, but the work isn’tquite done yet. It’s time to set the mainsail. Both A-Watch and B-Watch areneeded to set the largest sail on the boat. After expending the rest of mystrength with my crewmates hauling the halyard, I am ready to go to bed, butI am hungrier than I am tired.

Saloon 07:10Our stewards, Rachael and Sebastian, never come up short when it comes to ameal. Today, they are assisted by Emma, the day’s student steward. Thepancakes, both chocolate chip and plain, absolutely hit the spot after sixhours 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 fewslices. Now I’m awake, it’s time to get to work.

Library 11:30After reading a considerable amount of Death Ship and writing a journalresponse to the section, I move on to compiling which data collections areviable for my group’s research project. Riley, Ryan and I are researchinghow meroplankton are affected by temperature at the depth of highest biomassdensity. We chose this depth to give us the best chance of finding largeamounts of data for the project. Various nets are towed most everyday behindthe Cramer, but not all the tows target the depth of highest biomassdensity. To determine this depth, we can use the Acoustic Current DopplerProfiler, which can tell my group where the depth of highest biomass densitywas and when. Then, we can mark which tows are eligible for our project andcopy the data collected onto our own data sheets to analyze.

Saloon 13:00Lunch is tuna salad sandwiches and kale salad. Like always, it is absolutelydelicious.

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 morebefore the whales leave.

Bow 13:40MORE DOLPHINS! Three fairly large dolphins are darting to and fro across thebow and through the bow wake. It’s incredible to see them this close to theship. I suppose without the sound of the main engine, they aren’t asannoyed.

Deck 14:15Fire drill! There are multiple callouts of a ‘fire’ in the galley and thegeneral alarm rings out. We quickly muster at our watch stations to ensureall are on deck and disperse to carry out our responsibilities. Assigned tofire hose two, I roll out the hose on the port side and point the nozzleover the side, waiting for the pumps to turn on. After the pumps areactivated, the captain orders the hoses to be sprayed on the course sail sothat the water will cascade onto the deck above the galley. Boundary coolingis the job of the students while other measures are taken to ensure the firedoesn’t spread, such as closing the water tight doors, closing offventilation hatches and more.

Quarterdeck 14:40After the drill is over, the ship’s company musters on the quarterdeck todiscuss the drill and how to improve our response to a fire. Ship’s meetingis usually at 14:30, so we roll right into it. Captain Coughlin gives apresentation about fire about how we can optimize our response to it. Coleand Ian report on the expected weather for the near future. Madi, Whistlerand I recap our findings in the net tow. Finally, Teo leads the navigationreport, detailing the ship’s positions over the last day. After somediscussion about the plan for our upcoming port stop in Lunenburg, ship’smeeting ends and we all disperse.

Library 18:00Dinner for A-Watch is in twenty minutes and I am looking forward to endingthe day how I started it. A-Watch is on for evening watch (1900-0100) andwhen I first heard about how the schedule has one watch on for two six hourperiods a day, I was taken aback. However, it makes more sense to not thinkabout days. You are on watch for six hours, then off for twelve. So a day ismore of an eighteen hour period. Three watches, A-Watch, B-Watch, andC-Watch, rotate through four watch periods, dawn watch (0100-0700), morningwatch (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 soundhectic and tiring, learning to navigate the open ocean, understand the lifeand environment around you and adapting to living in close-quarters isrewarding 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.

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