After a long day packed with trainings for watch responsibilities, line handling, shipboard chores, and safety and emergency protocol, the crew of the Robert C. Seamans is winding down for a night of hopefully deep rest before we set out tomorrow morning, planning to depart at 0900. Many of us, especially those like me who are sailing on a voyage of this kind for the first time, are feeling a mix of initial nervousness and eager anticipation of the experiences we’ll have in the next six weeks.
We practiced drills for different types of emergencies: man overboard, fire, and abandon ship, where each person has an assigned responsibility so that together we can have a quick and organized response to any situation. When the time came to practice an abandon ship drill, Captain Rick asked who had experience wearing an immersion suit. The students got to learn this in the pool at Woods Hole, but because there were just a few who had not (including me!), we all practiced scrambling into the suits in addition to our other abandon ship procedures, with stylish results (as pictured with Captain Rick and me on the quarterdeck).
I’m Mallory Hoffbeck, sailing on the Seamans as a teaching assistant for the students’ conservation and management course, and I’ll join them and the professional crew as a watch stander. I’ll be learning alongside the students the whole way. I just graduated this May with my master’s in environmental policy, specifically marine policy and management, from my school at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. For me this trip is a chance to befriend the marine environment and spend time at sea in a way I haven’t before, to perhaps personally observe some of the issues I’ve studied from my desk, and to share and learn all kinds of skills and ideas from this group of people who all have different expertise. I’ll be writing a magazine article focused on our student Noah and his great research on marine plastic pollution in the Pacific. I’ll also get to help the students with their own articles they will publish in our special issue of the SEA magazine when we return!
Since I arrived on the ship last Thursday, I’ve been admiring rainbows above Oahu, getting to know the ship, learning in which secret compartment every item is hidden, and figuring out how to be part of a crew. Now I think most of us are feeling as prepared and enthusiastic as we can be, ready to sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. As my dad likes to say, away we go!