Hi to all parents, families, and friends! My name is Emily Benson, and I am a deckhand on the S-310 voyage. I graduated from Hamilton College this past May, and during that time I sailed on the Corwith Cramer in the Caribbean Sea as a student (C-301). I am so ecstatic to be back with SEA, this time sailing the Pacific Ocean!
One thing that has made this experience extra special is the community on board. I am surrounded by such cool people! I love hanging out with the science girlies on the lab top while reading my book or crocheting. Deck times after dinner are a great opportunity to catch up with people you haven't gotten to see during the day. Just the other night, Hannah, Abby G., Sam, Sil, Noah and I were lying down on the quarterdeck gazing at the moon, identifying constellations, and casting each person on board as a character on The Office.
My watch team, B Watch, is especially close. We work well together and have such good chemistry, deckhands and students alike. Izzy, a deckhand, is so knowledgeable. Her sailing skills are top notch and polished - I actually thought she was a mate at first. She always has the wittiest remarks, and it matches my humor so well. I am always comforted by her presence, and I would 100% trust her with my life. The lab top hangout sessions are never complete without Izzy unsuccessfully trying to get comfortable on the mystery bags! Sil, another deckhand, always knows how to make every task fun with his unhinged energy. As the first person I befriended on the ship (we were both on the same flight here!), I'm pumped that we are on the same watch. We are also top-bunk mates, so we always share a good morning, bestie or a good night, bestie each day. The students bring their own awesome energy to the team. Sam is so genuinely kind, sweet, and charming (except when he just wakes up). Some of my favorite moments on the ship have been playfully bantering with him! Along with his goofy personality, he is very caring and helpful. I'm forever grateful to him for teaching me how to calculate sunrise and LAN, despite some bumps along the way. I keep losing the scrap paper we use to calculate them so I can practice on my own, but I usually will just bother him and ask him to teach me again. Olivia has become one of the funniest people on our team. We all check in with each other using a sweat report she made up during one of her lookout rotations (staring at the ocean while standing at the bow for an hour means you have plenty of time for genius ideas), and it's fun determining whether we are a moist mariner (not very sweaty, the average level during evening or dawn watch) or a drippy dragon, extremely sweaty, most common after spending an hour in the galley). I also love talking with her while she's at the helm, and I'm on boat check (or vice-versa)- we are pretty similar people, and I enjoy chatting with her about anything and everything. Fun fact: people mix up me and Olivia's names pretty often on this boat, probably because we are of similar size: small. It's especially common when we both wear braids and come up on deck at night. Abby T. is always bubbling with energy, and sometimes makes up for our lack of energy during the early morning or late night watch lulls. Striking up a conversation with her is so easy, because she is always excited to talk to you about anything! Her passion is infectious in our group. She is a crafter, like me, and we have spent quite some time working on our personal projects side by side. Currently, she is making a Turk's head bracelet out of wire, and I am crocheting many baby turtles (what I will do with them is still a secret to the masses). All together, we are an unstoppable force- B Watch best watch!!
One defining moment I had during the trip was about a week ago. On a whim, I decided to join my fellow watch mates Hannah and Sam on their journey aloft on the Rocky Bonner tops'l yard, which is the topmost horizontal spar on the forward mast. I had not gone aloft since my training earlier on, and I only had to go up halfway up on the platform. The sea conditions were as stable as they could have been, and we weren't going as fast as we usually do: only about 2 knots. We strapped into our harnesses and made our way to the platform one by one; Hannah went first, Sam after, and me last.
I am, unfortunately, a bit afraid of heights. However, as I made my way up the ratlines (rope ladder) to the top, my fear was the last thing on my mind. Once we positioned ourselves on the yard, our knuckles turning white from clenching the rail (and probably from the booby guano) and we turned our attention to the sea in front of us. The sun was about to set, and there was a brilliant spread of orange and pink that reflected on the clouds and sea. Sam, Hannah, and I admired the sunset while discussing our life on shore, our motivations for joining the ship's voyage, and our future plans. As the sun disappeared, and we descended onto (semi) stable grounds again, I felt so content and at peace. It was a magical experience, and we knew it wouldn't be the last time we would go aloft.
Sure enough, I was right! I went up again yesterday with Sil and Abby G. The conditions were much sportier, which means that we were swaying back and forth a lot more than I would have liked. It was Abby's first time aloft on the tops'l yard, and it was so fun being up there with her. The sunset was just as beautiful this time, and we managed to take many photos on the lab camera. Abby and I now have plans to climb all of the tops'l yards in New York together-which is a pretty feasible goal, in my opinion.
Despite our busy schedules, I've had a lot of time for self-reflection on this trip. Every day I spend on the Seamans, I find myself wondering what life might be like if I come back for another program. When I wrote my first blog post as a student a year and a half ago, I talked about how much of an anomaly the experience was in my life. I had never sailed before, and I wanted to do something unconventional. At my final watch meeting on my student trip, I told everyone that I would come back as a deckhand after college.
Now that I am back at sea, it feels less like I'm taking a side path and more like I'm closer to figuring out what I want to do in life. Every day I get more comfortable with the routine of the ship, but every day also feels new and exciting. I still can't believe we only have a few sailing days left! It feels bittersweet, to be so close to ending the trip but to also have gained so many special memories and people. Deep inside, I know that I won't be able to stay away from the seas for long-in the words of Izzy and Supi, I've been bitten by the SEA bug.
Left to right, Emily, Abby G., and Sil (taking the photo) on the tops'l yard just before sunset.