It’s The Little Things
November 6, 2022
Henry Hua, A Watch, Cornell University
16°43.8’S x 151°26.5’W
Docked in Uturoa, Raiatea
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Wind WxN BF3, rain on and off but the sun finally peeked out today
Description of location
A beautiful dock that transitions into a small park before the city
Everything on this ship serves a purpose. From the items, to the devices securing the items, to the storage areas for those devices, everything has its place and its purpose. These items keep the ship operating, serve the crew, or prevent damage from the inevitable rocking that will occur. It’s the little things that get a shout out in this blog post today.
We begin on deck with Gene (our little wooden sail boat). It bears a heavy burden for organization on the boat by carrying stacks of buckets, cleaning supplies, and laundry materials. Infrastructure to hold the small boat along with Gene also live here. These rails and blocks are custom cut to match the exact curves and edges of each boat’s hull (bottom of boat).
Oh and don’t get me started on chafe gear. In every little spot where two areas may rub against one another, there is a hand sewn piece of leather secured, extra rope weaved in, or old fire hose wrapped around it. The multitude of locations where these alterations exist, and the physical embodiment of care in this small preventative measure provides me with comfort. The work accomplished by the previous 304 crews and ship yard crews have brought us to this point. We are truly in good hands.
Next is Wayne’s world (storage shed on deck), which holds many of the tools on the ship. It always smells like old paint in there, but where we students see an overwhelming metal shed, crew members like Bird and Charlotte see chaotic functionality. Each item has lived in its home for a while and established its place. For example, a flathead screw driver lives in a little hole drilled through a shelf and has been elegantly outlined in black marker as an indicator to what the tool is and where it belongs.
Shelves and drawers carry many smaller materials that cannot be individually secured in place. To prevent shelf items from throwing themselves to the floor, there is a bar running across their middle which can be lifted to access items and lowered to trap either books, sauces, or chemicals from running away. Drawers have a clever little ramp attached to their sides so that they can slide to a certain point and fall into a tiny block that prevents all movement unless lifted.
In the galley, purpose and place matter to a higher degree. On the stove there are two adjustable bars that are placed around pots to prevent them from throwing up their contents. Knives live in a block, but while still in use, are placed under the cutting board, which I believe is a great practice even off the boat. The day reefer (fridge) is latched shut but, when open, has bungee cords across each shelf, which shocked me the first time I had the reefer open as we rolled to starboard (right of the ship). Dishes are placed in a cabinet with sectioned walls, and we never place dishes higher than those walls.
Grip pads don’t quite fit into this narrative. They have immense purposes but no specific place. They allow for things to be secured on any flat surface. They are easily overlooked, yet thoroughly appreciated when holding food on the hutch (shelf for leftover food), keeping centrifuges in place, or just keeping a keyboard in place so our wrists aren’t working overtime.
Grip pads are the silent ruler of this ship; a strike or walkout from them would spell catastrophe.
Finally, to the bunks. It has taken quite a while for everything in my bunk to find its place. Things that serve no purpose on a boat like money, backpacks, and dress pants must lie in a faraway corner, awaiting their time to come out of hibernation. From shirts to sweaters to pants to socks, every item has its section. But the boundary between each item’s territory is quite ambiguous. Each section melds into the next, much like boat supplies in the Laz (storage area in the back of the ship).
Now, back to me: As a crew member on the Robert C. Seamans, I felt a complete sense of purpose and place throughout the entire trip. However, I haven’t had enough impact to warrant my own customized holder like Gene, nor have I been here long enough to earn my own outline identifying my place like those flathead screwdrivers. I stand watch for the ship, but my service could never compare to that which grip pads provide. These items thrive on the ship and provide so much that they’ve integrated into the very fabric of the ship itself. This isn’t to say that our purpose is any less prominent.
It is more of a question of place. For those that have found their place on boats after completing this trip, I truly applaud you. It is difficult, yet thoroughly rewarding work. However, good luck competing with chafe gear. It too, is a worthy sailor in high demand on ships. While I don’t currently see myself belonging on a ship in the future, I do see myself working so much harder to research and protect the spectacular marine wildlife and dynamic physical systems that we’ve experienced during the past 5 weeks. I am forever thankful for the heart and soul that the students, deckhands, staff, and mates put into their work and this experience. You will all continue to empower me long after we part ways in Tahiti in a week.
PS: Happy Birthday Aster! Wishing you a fun, exciting year ahead full of land and sea adventures.
Solomon, we’re thinking of you always and we appreciate your updates so much. We’ll be in touch soon. Wishing you the absolute best. The Joe Biden counter stacked up on some days but today its going back to zero.
Mom and Dad, don’t worry about me, I’m doing great and I’ll see you soon.
Leave me to struggleeee, I need to grow.
Katie, I hope you’re learning so so much and you find your way through these years and end up at a place you enjoy! Choose wisely, work hard, be grateful always.
Thank you for 8 Audrey, here’s to 9!
Dylan, we need to catch up soon and I’m sorry for breaking our ritual this semester Angel, thanks for always being there and I’ll give you the most amazing updates soon Hi So, I really don’t know how you went through this, it was so tough in the beginning, I feel like the amazing ending of the trip just skews the entire experience towards the positive side. Now that I know a little about sailing and from what I heard from Kelly, I can see how amazing of an ocean being you are!
Stella says I love you Allison Fitz in Cuba!
Howdy from Tierney to the fam in Alvin town!
Shout out to Anise and Benny – Much love.
Paloma says hi Imi, Conrad and Josie!
Henry Hua, A Watch, Cornell University
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Funny, witty, and kind 🙂 Thanks so much, Henry.
Brilliant topic, Henry. It was fun and informative to read. Maybe you could pass the marlinspike to another crew member, and we can read “It’s the Little Things, Part II.”