It’s easy to romanticize life at sea. It’s easy to marvel at the smattering of stars plastered on the Milky Way. It’s easy to stay enamored by the hues of orange and pink streaked across the puffy tops of cumulus clouds with the rising and setting sun. When on lookout, it’s easy to daydream, staring at the impossibly distant and unchanging horizon where blue meets blue as far as the eye can see. It’s easy to revere the ship as her own beast and one that keeps us unfailingly safe among a world of water. It’s easy to romanticize life at sea, but so much of life at sea is not romantic; it’s gritty and dirty, sweaty and hot, and sometimes seemingly unending.
Robert C. Seamans keeps us incredibly safe; however, our time aboard is not without incident and bodily harm. Pinkie toes seek, it seems, to collide with corners, table legs, and doors. Bruises blossom in nearly every location, consequence of quite literally bouncing off the walls or running into a door handle during a particularly ill-timed swell. Recent daytime watch-standers can, at times (for a couple forgetting sunscreen), be identified by their brilliant red sunburns on arms, neck, legs, and–most unfortunately–feet. Though, as recently mentioned, we will soon be crossing into the southern hemisphere “winter,” dripping in sweat is a common, often multiple times throughout the day, occurrence, particularly if you have to spend any amount of time in the galley to cook (bless our stewards), clean (the daily dreaded evening galley cleanup), or do dishes (of which there are many and are—I’m near certain—the cause of my rampantly peeling hands and fingers). Field day took place on Saturday; though conjuring jovial images of tug-of-war, dodgeball, and fun to the ill-informed, field day is instead a notoriously sweaty event of deep cleaning the ship from the overheads to the soles and everything in between. At night, below deck, the heat does not abate. The “quiet” of night is filled with the drone of bunk fans, each a lifeline to make it through the night. Anywhere near the galley and you’ll also hear the cacophony of pots, pans, and every other kitchen utensil as they smash from side to side. Accompanying the hum and crash, the slam of waves against the hull pervades through the night (at least in my bunk on the often windward side of the fo’c’sle). These waves and swells create what someone once called “a bad rollercoaster” for the wary sleeper that involves pitches up and down as well as rolls from side to side that send those horizontal lurching within their bunks. Besides the joys of an unending, nighttime rollercoaster, lying in bed, any square inch of skin in contact with a surface or another body part is coated in a sheen of sweat. Night on deck is a reprieve from the heat, but not without its own toils. After being awoken for watch at 0100, it’s standard practice to pour a cup of coffee or tea to make it through the following six hours of watch. Being the overzealous tea-drinker I am, it is also standard practice for me to fill my cup to the brim with HOT tea. Therein comes the challenge of teetering up two separate sets of ladders/stairs and onto deck (while, of course, the whole ship rocks). Succeed in that (as I did this morning) and you are faced with the perils of the windy deck wherein today I turned the corner and was shortly wearing a considerable amount of hot tea on my shirt and feet. On deck, more hazards await. The infamous, resident red-footed boobies spend their days above us in the rig, pooping without pause, much to the dismay of watchers below. Though my first incident of bird poop was cause for alarm, by incident #20 or so, a smattering of bird poop is no longer a cause for concern. Nevertheless, I would personally, strongly recommend you keep your mouth shut when anywhere near the rear end of a booby. Graciously, squalls frequently roll through, relieving us of the duty of scrubbing bird poop but leaving watch-standers soaked or washing off freshly applied coats of sunscreen. Life at sea is not romantic. It’s noisy and bumpy. It’s nearly unbearably hot and sweaty and dirty and gross. Yesterday, the sighting of a boat within range was cause for excitement to find we are not the only people here in this watery world. But despite the heat and moisture and every other ailment, there still is the beauty of the sunset every night. There are always unique clouds to observe. We’re constantly gathering scientific data and driving this boat purposefully onward. There is late-night laughter in the lab, camaraderie in the Celestial Body Gym, the ceaseless joy of afternoon snack. The gritty, hot, dark, sweaty, and endless parts of life at sea don’t dim the stars. If anything, they make them shine quite a bit brighter. Much love to my "murder," grandparents (14 (!!) hours ahead), and the rest of the family. Happy birthday to Hayden! Miss you all dearly. Looking forward to our 6 days in August.
-Autumn Crow, Knox College