F12 Offshore – 24 September 2012

Michael from Williams leading his watch as they haul on the main sheet.

Howdy! I’m Lauren, the Assistant Steward.   I’ve never been onboard for a Williams-Mystic trip before, and I’m finding that it’s pretty great!

The students are all very self-motivated and ready to help out whenever they can.  Every day one student is assigned to the galley for the 4/6 hours they are on watch.  Unlike on deck or in the lab where the students work in small groups, the galley gets one student at a time, so I’ve had the opportunity for some real one-on-one time, which I love.  It’s not only a good time to really get to know each other and chat, but a great time to be a little silly and have fun – yesterday Katy and I were singing songs together while washing dishes.

We’ve had awesome weather so far.  The past few days have been relatively calm and very sunny.  It’s interesting that it’s quite cold at sea (Captain Pamela frequently wears three layers of capilene, down, and fleece) even though it’s really hot onshore.  We are right by Mexico—you’d think it’d be warmer!

Students have begun taking over the library and the main salon in preparation for their science reports which will be given tomorrow during class.  They are teamed up within their watches and will be presenting a poster based on data they collected throughout the voyage.

I hope all is well onshore – all is well here at sea, just hoping to see some megafauna soon!  Oh wait, Katie just came down to the galley to tell everyone there are jumping tuna off our starboard bow!


F12 Offshore – 22 September 2012

Saturday September 22, 2012


31°35’N, 119°33’W

Sailing under the four lowers, Topsail, and raffee.

Hello from the SSV Robert C. Seamans! We have been so busy these last few days I haven’t had time to write. So I thought I’d give a day-in-the-life from class on Friday afternoon through class today.

James, Nick, Jenn, Mike, Julieanne, Shelly, Bea, and Katy
enjoying a beautiful day of sailing on the quarterdeck!

FRIDAY 21 SEPT 2012:

1415 – The Line Chase: Each watch lined up on the quarterdeck for a game we like to play to show off how hard the students have worked to learn the ships lines. Each person was given a card with the name of a line, they had to touch the line and have a watch officer confirm they are correct.  Then, relay style, the next person was given a card to do the same.  All three watches did remarkably well but in the end C Watch came in for the win. We were also lucky to have Tom the Engineer playing his Banjo throughout the line chase!

1500 – Student reports: Beatrice from Wellesley gave a description of the life cycle of a crab while her watch mates gave a weather and navigation report of the past 24 hours.

1515 – Class on the Quarterdeck: Lisa gave a material culture tour of the ship. She talked about the Plimsoll mark on the ship, scurvy aboard ships, the Secchi disk, Nathaniel Bowditch, the sounding lead and the binnacle.

1600 – Snack! The galley brought out a huge dish of spring rolls for everyone to enjoy.

1620 – Literature Lab: Every afternoon for twenty minutes A watch joined me forward on the ship to write in their journals, reflecting on life at sea, sketching something on the boat, and other observations.

1700 – I enjoyed a few minutes forward on the ship as C Watch furled the Jib on the bowsprit!

1730 – A quick nap before dinner, zzzzz..

1900 – Dinner!  Pizzas with so many different toppings it was hard to choose. Delicious!

1940 – Galley cleanup: Will from California Maritime Academy and I were on galley cleanup last night.  A deep clean of every surface you can see and a few you can’t. We scrapped down the griddle, cleaned up a minor soy sauce spill in the back corner, and cleaned the mats and sole (floor). This is a big task and very important to our wonderful stewards – they love a clean galley!

2200 – A cup of tea with the students in lab to check in on their plans for the super station in the morning.

2230 – A quick stop on the quarterdeck to say hi to the helmsman and mate on watch.

2300 – Bed time! I was lucky to have so many hours of sleep last night.


0600 – An early wake up from the watch on deck and tasty breakfast burritos to start off the day.

0700 – Science! On deck to see the third and final super station in our deepest depth so far. It took over six hours to set up this station and put about 3800 meters of wire down towards the sea floor.  We used the CTD (measuring conductivity, temperature, and depth), NisKin bottles on the wire (to collect water at different depths) and sent a bag full of decorated styrofoam cups in a mesh bag (more on that later). Students will be presenting the data collected from these super stations on Monday afternoon.

1000 – I have been working on making Grover, the Mallory House mascot, a safety harness and finally finished with the help of a some sewing materials and a hot knife.  I am happy to report that Grover is officially cleared to go aloft!

1045 – The Chief Scientist Lisa send a messenger (weight) down the water to trigger Niskin bottles to close at 12 different depths.

1100 – Relaxing on the quarterdeck, Liz from Bryn Mawr could be seen carefully sketching the helm. Luckly the helm was tied down as we were hoved too for the super station.

1300 – Lunch! Mac & Cheese and salad!

1330 – The wire finally was completely pulled out of the water and we successfully closed every bottle on the wire! As a bonus the Styrofoam cups and a painted Styrofoam head we sent down shrunk at depth! The students in the lab will be processing this data for the rest of the day.

1415 – Class on the quarterdeck: Student reports on the differences between diatoms and dinoflagellates, navigation, and weather. Lisa gave a brief class on the different kinds of ships we have or will see while out at sea. She was able to hail a cargo ship on the radio bound from LA/Long Beach to Taiwan and talk with the Chief Mate on board about life on a cargo ship.

1500 – Fire Drill: A planned, but unexpected fire drill was called, “Fire in the engine room” for everyone to practice exactly what they would do in the case of such an emergency.  A very quick response was a great sign – sail was handled, fire hoses were pulled out, and the captain was pleased.

As you can see it is very easy to get wrapped up in the goings-on aboard our ship. As I sit here in the ship’s library writing, the third scientist Tommy, is playing the guitar and students can be seen reading in the main salon.  It seems as though everyone has gotten comfortable with the schedule aboard and are really enjoying their trip!

Fair winds,


F12 Offshore – 20 September 2012

Thursday September 20, 2012

1900 h

33°01’N, 118°57’W

     Katy was really excited about being able to identify the dolphins she just saw off the port side.

Greetings from the Robert C. Seamans! We are happily sailing along under the four lowers on a Southerly track headed towards Cortes Bank.  The wind is coming out of the West making our sail south very enjoyable! We had our first super station today, one of three during our trip for data collection for student projects. More to come on those later!

We have been lucky to see a few charismatic mega fauna on our trip so far! Yesterday Katy from Williams spotted and identified a pod of Rissos dolphins.  And just now, at 1900 another pod of dolphins could be seen in a “feeding frenzy” after which they circled the ship a few times before heading out to sea on the starboard side.

In our watch system, each six person watch is spilt up to cover different areas of the ship. Three students are on deck, two can be found in the lab, and the last assists the wonderful stewards in the galley.  For example, on deck today Will from California Maritime Academy, stood at the helm, did hourly boat checks, and helped furl the Jib out on the bowsprit. Mike from Williams worked in the lab with his assistant scientist launching a neuston net to bring back samples of the offshore waters of southern California filled with the animals and plants living within! Kirby from Smith is assisting in the galley helping clean and setting up for dinner – tacos! Every student will cycle through each watch station at least once during our time at sea.

I can hear Kirby ringing the dinner bell (a triangle) calling B and C Watch to dinner!

Fair Winds,


F12 Offshore – Day 2

Wednesday September 19, 2012

1722 h

East of San Clemente Island, CA

33° 02’N x 118° 27’W

                                    Anna from Williams at the helm of the SSV Robert C. Seamans.

Greetings from sea! We have had a busy day sailing through the Channel Islands off the shore of southern California.  The Williams-Mystic students are becoming steadier on their sea legs and have smiles on their faces. They are becoming more and more familiar with their roles, the ships lines, and what it really means to feel the wind on their face. Rachel from California Maritime Academy is happy as a lark. When I asked her what her favorite part of the trip had been so far she replied, “I just really like the feeling of the water, I like standing up at the bow and feeling the ship move.”

Yesterday morning, each watch went through safety drills including test driving their immersion suits.  After a short tutorial I watched A watch wriggle into their giant orange suits, velcroing and zipping each other up. This serious orientation takes a lighter note as giggles burst out of student mouths when they see one another all dressed up!

Later in the day we were lucky enough to have an afternoon of music on the port side of the science deck.  There are quite a few musicians on board and bunk #7 is full of instruments including but not limited to a guitar, two banjos, two ukuleles, and a fiddle.  Prof. Lisa Gilbert, our chief scientist, led the charge when she pulled out her banjo during afternoon watch.  As her notes traveled with the wind students gathered to sing along and take a try at the banjo, guitar, and fiddle. Toby from Bowdoin picked up the banjo while Shelly from the University of Puget Sound took a turn on the fiddle. Music has always been a large part of the maritime world and it is clear to me now that having music on board lifts everyone’s spirits.

To start class this afternoon Lisa Gilbert recited “Exultation is the Going.” written by Emily Dickinson in 1890 which comments on what it is like to leave land and head out to sea. For many this is the first time they will not be able to even see land. There is much more to come in our sailing adventure with the Fall 2012 class.  We are looking forward to our first oceanographic Super Station at 0700 tomorrow morning, the line chase on Friday afternoon, and standing watch for sunrise and sunset.

Fair Winds,


Setting Sail from San Diego!

Tuesday September 18, 2012


San Diego Harbor, San Diego, CA

32°43’N, 117°10’W


Good afternoon! This is Katie Clark, the Director of Admissions for Williams-Mystic, the Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport. I am here aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans with the Fall 2012 class, Chief Scientist Dr. Lisa Gilbert a Williams-Mystic professor, and 12 members of the ship’s professional crew. I will be writing throughout our trip on the happenings about the ship so be sure to look back from time to time for updates!

We arrived in San Diego on Monday to a warm and sunny California day. After a brief look-about at the San Diego Maritime Museum our students and their heaps of luggage were taken by small boat to board the ship. This means that our students hopped in a dingy from shore, rode through the traffic of the Harbor, and climbed up the ship’s ladder and placed their feet on the deck of the ship they will crew for the next ten days. Students are split into three watches: A Watch, B Watch, and C Watch which are six person watches led by a Mate and an Assistant Scientist. Fall 2012 students will learn to steer the ship at the helm, read a compass, handle lines, furl and unfurl sails, help in the galley (the ship’s kitchen), and check on the extensive workings of the engine room, among a plethora of other adventures!

This morning students arose at 0600 for breakfast and jumped right into the schedule of the ship. We have been working in stations to cover safety procedures throughout the ship including safety drills, proper line handling, and a science lab and equipment tutorial. James from the New School, Betsy from Wheaton, and Michael from Williams practiced the commands and operations for the wire which we’ll use to deploy oceanographic equipment later in the voyage. Students will be recording scientific observations in the science lab throughout our trip.

We will be enjoying a delicious lunch today made by Lauren and Sayzie, the talented stewards, before we haul up the anchor and leave San Diego Harbor this afternoon! At that point the students will have officially become crew members of the SSV Robert C. Seamans! An exciting step in our offshore field seminar!

Fair Winds,


Admissions from Admissions: Thoughts on Travel, Community, and Alumni Weekend


Hi Everyone! Steph here, the Williams-Mystic Admissions Counselor. It’s an early September morning and I’ve already been awake for several hours: in true Williams-Mystic fashion, the Fall ’12 class departed at what we like to refer to as “o’dark thirty” this morning for the golden coastlines of California and a two-week sail out of San Diego on the SSV Robert C Seamans. Standing earlier in the Mystic Seaport parking lot, the cold pre-dawn air and lingering stars sprinkled in the creeping dawn left me reminiscing over my own offshore experiences just a year and a half ago. Holding up a “Carpe Sea-em” sign (we love puns here at WM) with Director Jim Carlton and Professor Glenn Gordinier, we waved eighteen students and two accompanying faculty & staff members off on the start of their own journey.

Travel seems to have been the theme for Williams-Mystic in the last few weeks: as the admissions counselor, I spend a significant portion of the autumn months traveling to colleges in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states to recruit undergraduates for the Program. I recently spent a week in Pennsylvania, where I visited schools in Philadelphia, the Main Line, and the Lehigh Valley. I mentioned in my last entry that I’m an alumna of Bryn Mawr College, which was one of my stops mid-way through the week. It was so wonderful to come back to campus, to return to the people and places that shaped me over the last four years. More recently, Admissions Director Katie Clark and I traveled to several schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut and will continue to do so until November. While I love to meet new people and see new places, there’s a sense of quiet happiness that I get when I see the signs for Mystic Seaport and the silhouettes of ships on the estuary at the end of a long drive on Interstate-95.


Approximately 250 alums were reminded of that feeling this past weekend, which was our 35th Alumni Weekend celebration. Two days seems like hardly enough time to re-connect with classmates and reminisce about days as a student, but you’d be surprised what you can pack in. After a breakfast at my favorite bakery with four of my ‘mates and several hours volunteering at the day’s festivities, I spent the afternoon running around Mystic, sitting on docks with too many cups of hot coffee, singing sea chanteys until I nearly lost my voice, and enjoying the company and comradery of this fantastic community. This weekend reminded me that although we may be scattered around the globe, it’s our experiences and memories that bond us. My classmates may be as close as across the street or as far as Europe, but having even just a few of them here, albeit only for a day or two, is enough to last me until next year’s migration to Mystic.

I’ll close with a quick quote that I came across yesterday, one that serves as my advice to our students heading offshore and to anyone embarking on a journey of their own:

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.

Fair winds,


PS – I’ll be posting on behalf of my colleagues at sea for the next two week, be sure to check back often for updates on the current class’ experiences offshore!

F’12 After 12 Days

Hello, all!

Let me introduce myself: I am Anna Hopkins, a student at Williams-Mystic for the Fall 2012 semester. Today I’m going to write about my initiation to Williams-Mystic and the adventures we F’12s have been having for the past two weeks.

It all began with lugging our belongings into our new homes and bidding our parents goodbye. As a class, we quickly segued past the awkward introductions phase with a dinner at the iconic Mystic Pizza. I can hardly believe that we ate that pizza (and got lost on the way) almost two weeks ago!

My experience at Mystic is already changing the way I think about the world: since August 28th, we have experienced a whirlwind of introductions, orientations, field trips, and life lessons. One of my favorite introductions so far came on the evening of our first full day— sitting on a dock in the Seaport looking out over the estuary, we were given a “sense of place” lecture from each of our professors in quick succession. Their words overlapped to form a collage that opened my eyes to the complexity of the river setting around me.

We spent last week being transported all around our local area: a walking tour of the Seaport, a boat tour on the steamboat Sabino, and a bus tour of the coastal area. Among these trips and while learning about the rich local history, we’ve become more comfortable strolling around the Seaport. I even witnessed a classmate give directions to a museum visitor—and they just might even have been correct.

In addition to our adventures out and about, the members of my house (shout out to Liz, Toby, and Michael) and I have had some adventures within Carr House. We’ve created four different kinds of cookies, two different kinds of crumbles, and we even hosted a dinner party with Kemble House! We have a wonderful porch where we eat most of our meals, and the other night during dinner we made a canine friend who had wandered away from home. With the help of our fearless leader Jim Carlton, we reunited Gracie with her family. The town of Mystic has a wonderful combination of small-town connections and visitors from all over the world at the Seaport.

Reflection upon the last two weeks makes me grateful for the communities I’ve been welcomed into so far: Williams-Mystic, the Mystic Seaport Museum, the town of Mystic, and the F’12s. Next step for us: a week of reading, maritime skills (mine is canvas work!), and prepping for our offshore voyage. We leave for a port in San Diego one week from today!


Fair Winds,