Standing watch with Williams-Mystic S13 on the SSV Corwith Cramer

Friday February 1, 2013

Location: 24 deg 22′ N x 083 deg 52 ‘W

Clear, Force 5

Sailing under main and stays’ls

Hello from the sunny Florida Straits! This is Stephanie Trott, Admissions Counselor for Williams-Mystic, writing to you after a successful 24 hours at sea with the Spring 2013 class on the SSV Corwith Cramer. Since we departed Key West yesterday, we have traveled approximately 120 miles, much of the time going 7 to 7.5 kts (nautical miles per hour). We’ve seen dolphins, Portuguese man-o-war, flying fish, and a ton of bioluminescence.  Each student has stood watch at least twice at this point; A watch is currently at the helm, practicing line handling and preparing for science deployments later tonight. But what exactly does being on watch involve?

Watches on board the Cramer are set on a constantly revolving schedule (A, B, C, A, B, C, etc.) and are broken down by the time of day: 0700 – 1300 (7am – 1pm), 1300 – 1900 (1pm – 7pm), 1900 – 2300 (7pm – 11pm), 2300 – 0300 (11pm – 3am), and 0300 – 0700 (3am – 7am). They’re designed so that someone is always awake and aware of what’s happening while their shipmates catch some rest, have a meal, or congregate on the quarter deck.

When students first come on watch, the first thing they must do is take a deck walk to see what sails are set, what the weather is like, and what has changed since the last time they were up. If it’s nighttime, Captain Justin Smith and Chief Scientist Lisa Gilbert have each left night orders that students must also read before starting their watch. After being debriefed by the previous watch officer regarding the happenings of the last several hours, students break into two groups: one who will be working the deck, and another who will be working in the science lab. Everyone has a chance to work in both locations several times while on board; students also report to the galley to assist in clean up from a previous meal and may work in the engine room with our engineer, Don Collasius.

While on deck during watch, one student is at the helm and steers a course directed by their watch officer. Another student is on watch, usually at the bow, and is keeping a weather eye for any other ships in the area. The remaining students on deck complete boat checks (in which they check each section of the boat and record their observations in the log book) and stand by in the event that the captain decides to raise or lower sails. In the science lab, students collect samples and data throughout the day and night. Right now, Morgan from Cal Maritime, Alex from Mt. Holyoke, and Mariah from Williams are processing sargassum and zooplankton from our noon Neuston Net Tow. Students also process water samples that we take from the surface every six hours, filtering water for chlorophyll and nutrient analysis. They also keep track of temperature, salinity, and currents.

Tonight we’re headed to our first superstation, where we’ll measure the properties of the water column (temperature, salinity, light attenuation) and will collect water samples from different depths for later analysis. Stand by for more updates from the Williams-Mystic Spring ’13 Offshore Field Seminar!

Fair Winds,


Casey from Mt. Holyoke, Julia from Wheaton, Dana from Drexel,
and Molly from Williams hauling line as we set sails and departed Key West.

Author: williamsmystic

A one semester interdisciplinary ocean and coastal studies program integrating marine science, maritime history, environmental policy, and literature of the sea.

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