Our first full day in Samana greeted us with early morning thunderstorms, reprieved by a tangerine sunrise glow against the passing clouds and developing into a double rainbow under mostly blue skies. An early morning provisioning run to the local market by Steward Ger and a few students yielded some much appreciated fresh fruits and a chance to experience what buying local in the Dominican Republic means. Today's agenda: a field trip to Los Haitises to an active frigate bird and pelican rookery, limestone islets draped in bromeliads and tropical foliage, hidden caves dripping with stalagmites- the expansive compartments laying host to many visitors throughout time with only a glimpse into their secrets with petroglyphs, pictographs, bats, pirate lore, and trade, and rounding out the afternoon weaving through mangrove canals by kayak... for the students.
The ship is a ship and will always beckon for something to be done. Field trip days invite a rare opportunity for the crew to tackle projects requiring time and/or spaces inaccessible while underway or in program; anchorages allow for main engine and generator oil changes, more comfortable rig inspections and repairs, and a chance to get into spaces usually occupied or use equipment less noise friendly to sleeping watches, and we take full advantage! After a boat to boat to boat transfer of the students (Cramer to our tender "Station Wagon" to excursion boat due to surging swells challenging the safety of an alongside pick-up), the "on watch" plugged away at preventative maintenance, provisioning stowage, safety gear checks, inspections, inventories, data processing, and laundry! Today's list for my part included some preventative maintenance, safety checks on watertight doors, life jackets, and fixed fire suppression systems, along with regular boat and anchorage checks. Other than a few squalls, which sent me below diverting my attention to more rain friendly checks like inventories, it was a pretty casual work day for me.
At 1600, the students returned and the sea state conditions had declined.
Our day was far from over as a number of guests were due to visit the Corwith Cramer. First, MJ's family came aboard and graced the ship with the infamous coconut pie (MJ is C277's teaching assistant and she is from the Dominican Republic!). Then we had two dinner guests: Gen's research colleague OmarShamir Reynoso gave a talk to the ship's company about humpback whales and fishing regulations in the region. Omar works for ANAMAR a branch of the Ministry of the Environment similar to NOAA in the US. And finally, MJ's family friend Eladio Fernandez, who is a photographer, gave a wonderful presentation describing his numerous environmental, cultural, and botanical projects he has conducted throughout the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, squalls continued to roll in, and I still had work to do. Keeping the ship and all the equipment in working order is a constant challenge given the extensive time we spend away from shore and ready access to replacements. We have to fix, adapt and make do with what we have. That meant I had to rig a tarp-tent on deck so I could work through the rain until the job was done. By the time I made it out from under my green tarp, dinner and dessert had concluded and the presentation was about to begin. Though I had been focused on a maintenance project, the academic program rolled on and I was glad to see the students fully immersed by our guests' experience and expertise.
Afterward, I had the opportunity to catch up with a few students and learn about their day in Los Haitises. One highlight of note was of a kayak capsize from an 'accidental' collision. No parties were harmed and the photos of the moment show surprise and laughter. What a journey with these incredible minds and great senses of humor, C277- here's to you!
- Céili Chilcott, C-Watch!, 3rd Mate