Not Your Typical 21st Birthday

November 8, 2020

Ethan Dewald, A-Watch, College of William & Mary

The mountainous coast of Haiti

The mountainous coast of Haiti

Ship's Log

Present Location
20° 22.4’ N x 073° 14.9’ W

Ship’s Heading, Speed and Sail plan
Sailing course of 340° per steering compass, at 4 knots, towards Great Inagua under the Mains’l, two stays’ls and the tops’l

Partially cloudy, Seas E 1 ft, Wind ExS, with the occasional deluge…er, I mean squall

Souls on Board

All blogs from C-294

So, I sat there at the dinner table, eating cake and sipping daintily on a drink. Sounds like a typical evening on a birthday, right? You’d think next up is the grand opening of presents from your family and close friends, and then, because it’s your twenty-first birthday, you’ll have a cold one (or few) and celebrate the night away until you wake up tomorrow afternoon and try to remember the night before.

 Port-de-Paix, Haiti

Small sailing vessels sailing between Haiti and Tortuga;

Well, let’s add some details to my little description to help set the scene. The table is gimbled, meaning that it stays level while your bench seat rocks with the swell of the sea, and if you put your elbows on the table and stop the righting motion you will be wearing your food on your shirt and receive several dirty looks from the others at the table as they enter the same predicament. The drink is pink lemonade, made from powder mixed with water we made ourselves via reverse osmosis, and is slightly diluted from whomever refilled it before my dinner seating. I previously slept through most of the morning until lunchtime, rather than the day after like most would assume on this particular birthday. Oh yea, and I’m on a boat sailing along La Canal de la Tortue between Tortuga and Haiti. Forgot that part. How did I get here you ask? Well, it’s a long story…

I lied; it actually isn’t. If you had asked me six months ago what I would do on my twenty-first birthday, I would have said probably celebrating with my friends at some local establishment after previously celebrating at home with my family. I would have said gifts, eating, drinking and being merry. What I would not have said, was that I’d be sailing around the Caribbean Islands with a group of people I’d only met two months prior, with no alcohol for miles around. But if I told you that this birthday did not live up to the standards, being at sea with SEA Semester, you’d be frightfully mistaken.

Small sailing vessels sailing between Haiti and Tortuga; A-Watch setting the tops’l.

A-Watch setting the tops’l.

I got to start my morning off with a serious squall, with wind gusts up to thirty-nine knots and heeling the vessel so hard that you had to hold on should you fall over the leeward side. But things quickly turned around, and sailing between Tortuga and Haiti was one of the coolest things I have ever done. For someone who has never left the mainland United States before, being so close to Haiti and seeing the small vessels with local sailors and fishermen zipping around us in sailboats that in the US we use as small pleasure sailboats (sunfish), smelling the burning wood and charcoal grills on land, and taking in the picturesque Caribbean architecture against the mountainous sides of Haiti and Tortuga was a seriously cool experience.

I never would have imagined I would be able to spend my birthday here. And just because I didn’t spend my birthday with the friends I had envisioned, I couldn’t ask for a warmer group of individuals. I was wished a happy birthday on several occasions throughout the day (including a procession of my watchmates serenading me at the stroke of midnight) and the stewards Adam and Katey made a delicious chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting for me that we all gathered to celebrate on the quarterdeck after field day (all out cleaning fest). The cake almost made up for having to do two continuous hours of dishes on my birthday…almost. Not what I had originally expected, but certainly one for the annals.

Going to sea has been a really amazing experience for me, and not just the fact it was my birthday. I have learned so much, and met such amazing people out here on the Corwith Cramer that it will be bittersweet to leave. That being said, I will be super happy to be on dry land again with my friends and family also. Enjoy every minute of the experience, but be excited for what is yet to come is the mantra I’ve been living by the last few weeks. We have reached our southernmost point of our cruise track today, and now will move northwest again, sailing along the coast of Cuba and reaching into the Bahamas until reaching Key West on 18 November.

Bouncing around the Caribbean to avoid Tropical Depression/Tropical Storm/Hurricane Eta has added an additional Caribbean cruise I had not expected when I signed up for this voyage south, and I have loved every minute of it. I am wide eyed and excited at everything around me, and definitely feel blessed to be able to have this experience at the time I am with everything going around in the world around me. Sure beats online or hybrid classes, that’s for sure. That is all for now. May you have fair winds and following seas as you continue to follow our amazing journey.

- Ethan Dewald, William & Mary 2022

A series of PS’s:

1. To mi familia, I love and miss you all and can’t wait to see you all again. It turns out, in fact, that I do get seasick. I thought you all would want to know. But rest assured I am having the time of my life. I have so many pictures and stories.

2. To my one and only, I love you so much. I think about you every day, and am counting down the days, hours and minutes until I get to see you again. Can’t wait to catch up with you, and I apologize in advance for the hours on hours of stories you’ll have to endure for the next…well, forever.

3. To Bryce Whitney, my birthday buddy, happy 21st man. Go hard, and I can’t wait to catch up and celebrate with you when I get back.

4. To Aunt Sue, my other birthday buddy, happy birthday. Hope you have an amazing day.

5. To the J3W gang and the W&M Merry Men, hope you all are enjoying following my journey and I can’t wait to get back on campus and on the playing field with you guys soon.

Subscribe for Blog Updates

Share This Blog

Leave A Comment

Adjusting to Land

2024-05-09T15:36:58-05:00May 8, 2024|0 Comments

Author: Amanda Newcombe, Bowdoin College Our first couple of days in Moorea have been a whirlwind of adjusting to life on land, fun, and exploration. After [...]

Sound at Sea

2024-05-06T16:25:23-05:00May 6, 2024|0 Comments

Author: Zahra Lalani, C Watch & Yale-NUS College Ship's Log Thursday 2nd May 2024 Noon Position (Lat and Long): 17.32.2'S x 149.34,2'W Taffrail Log (nm): 3917 [...]