Beneath a Porthole

Author: Gabriella Bzezinski, A-watch, College of the Atlantic

Gabriella, Nate, Nick and Spatch┘furling the jib sail while testing out our balance over high seas.

Gabriella, Nate, Nick and Spatch┘furling the jib sail while testing out our balance over high seas.

Ship's Log

Noon Position:
17.55.4 N,  65.05.1 W

Ship Heading:
350 Ship Speed (knots): 8

Taffrail Log:

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan:
NE 4, cumulus with squalls looming ahead (plan to avoid) a few water spouts spotted in distance. 3 birds are sailing the winds alongside us (potentially boobies or frigate birds)

Description of location:
Jybing back and forth between St. Croix and st John.

Souls on Board

Oof I've got to say typing on a keyboard out at sea isn't the greatest feeling, but I'll do my best to muster some strength to share my stories from today. As I write this, I am in the library below deck where there's a little porthole with a view of sloshing waves. I'm technically underwater right now with all the fish and dolphins and whales in the sea. And don't forget sargassum too!

Gabriella, Katherine from science as dancers, Ella on the j frame┘deploying shipek grab to collect sediment samples at our anchorage off the coast of Frederickstead, St Croix.

Gabriella, Katherine from science as dancers, Ella on the j frame deploying shipek grab to collect sediment samples at our anchorage off the coast of Frederickstead, St Croix.

Let's see - what did I do today?

I started the day with a gentle wakeup call at 6:00 informing me that I have 20 minutes before breakfast and then my morning watch begins. I get my own yummy bowl of granola and fruit every morning. Will and Audrey, the amazing Cramer stewards, have been accommodating my plant-based diet wonderfully?

Our morning watch was a wild one. I climbed the ladder out on deck and was greeted with a glowing sunrise and dramatic clouds over Fredericksted. My dad used to live here when he was younger. I like to sit and think about being here now as his daughter 30 years later just offshore of where he used to call home. We went snorkeling off the Fredericksted pier yesterday and I hope someone else wrote about that experience and was able to capture all of the color and life we swam alongside into comprehensible words.

I saw a small spotted Eagle Ray with my snorkel buddy, Ella, when I was out there which made me smile from dimple to dimple. There is something so graceful and intriguing about them. What an honor to be able to swim with them.

Oh, yes, back to how morning watch went - we set the sails and poof we were on our way to St. John. Just kidding, it's not that simple. There are so many steps in the process of preparing a tall ship like the Cramer for sailing that I don't have the energy to list out right now. I feel like an overloaded sponge. Overloaded with information in a very great way that is!

Fish for research

Gabriella, Sofia, showing off some specimen found in our neuston net tow┘tiny puffer fish, needlefish, and a siphonophore amongst copepods. We released the puffer fish and needle fish back into the ocean but the plankton and siphonophore will be kept for research.

My favorite part of prepping to get underway is crawling out onto the bow sprit netting (forget the name of it - I'll ask again tomorrow). It's a thrilling circus act. First you clip your harness into another wire out in the netting to catch you if your foot falls off the slide or through the netting and then you tippy toe your way out to unknot the sail ties on the jib. It's a rocky roller coaster out there with the wind blowing you all about and the waves rising and falling dramatically below you and I love it. Other things we did on watch today were science deployments. We deployed an instrument that collects sediment samples into a bucket┘turns out we were over a rocky substrate so it picked up nothing but water, a few  grains of sand, and some sea grass and made everyone giggle when it arrived back on board.

I was the dancer for this deployment, meaning I helped maneuver the instrument as a wire machine lifted it and took it overboard. I also sat for close to an hour listening to the hydrophone. A hydrophone is an underwater mic that gets deployed deeeep down and can pick up incredible sounds such as whale songs or the engineers gossiping below deck. Today, I definitely heard some woop calls by an unknown marine animal consistently.

Listening to the hydrophone with headphones on is an incredibly peaceful experience that nearly put me to sleep multiple times as it reminds me of the serene soundscapes my mom used to play for me that always puts me right to sleep. The crew and captain called my name a few times to wake me out of near slumber - oops! Did I mention life aboard the Cramer is like being in the circus? Just walking around feels like walking on stilts, a skill I have yet to master. I'm working up a collection of bruises and scratches as proof. Don't worry though, we have a wonderful med-staff member, Beans, to help care for us if need be. We ended watch 6 hrs later at lunchtime and I've been chilling ever since.

My next watch starts at 1:00-7:00am and its currently 20:27 pm so I best be getting to bed soon. I can't wait to stay up and see the starry night sky turn into sunrise overnight. I'll be thinking about all of my family back home and wondering what my sister Delaney is up to along with her silly little cat Jasper. I think about you guys all the time and wish you were out here with me.


All of the students taking a group photo while snorkeling moments after being photo bombed by a school of shiny silvery fish.

We used to sail these very seas virtually on our computer games back in the day and now this is the real deal, real life and its amazing but hard and exhausting Living at sea on a tall-boat is no joke. I can't wait to see what these next few weeks bring from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. Sending biiig hugs to all of you out there and extra sqeezes to my family. I love you guys! I'll type up another story in a couple weeks. Back to bed for now, mwah!

P.S. shout out to Captain Sandy from Below Deck! I hope you have a wonderful next season out to sea. My dad and step-mom are big fans of the show 😀 Another shout out to our on shore professors, Chris and Craig, and student leader, Matt. We miss you all soooo much and are grateful for everything you taught us leading up to our new lives on the Cramer. I've heard the crew say multiple times how impressed they are by how prepared and hardworking we have been and that's thanks to you all.

Fair winds,

Gabriella Bzezinski, A-watch, College of the Atlantic

Contact: Douglas Karlson, Director of Communications, 508-444-1918 |

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