Goodbye Mystic, Hello San Juan: Williams-Mystic S14 Begins Their Offshore Sail

30 January 2014, 1830 (6:30pm)

SSV Corwith Cramer

Days 1 & 2, Departing San Juan

Hello from the open sea! This is Stephanie Trott, Williams-Mystic Admissions Counselor and Spring ’11 alumna. I’m accompanying the Spring 2014 class on their offshore field seminar from San Juan, Puerto Rico on board the SSV Corwith Cramer, along with Lisa Gilbert (Chief Scientist and Williams College Geoscience Professor), and Catie Alves (Teaching Assistant to the Sciences).

After a very early bus ride through dark and snowy New England, we arrived at JFK Airport in New York City for a direct flight to San Juan. Once here, we made our way through the city via taxi and to the cruise ship terminals where the Cramer was waiting alongside Amistad, replica built at Mystic Seaport, nestled between two large cruise ships. After a brief safety orientation, we immediately motored into the harbor and anchored, then had a delicious lunch of beans, rice, and tacos courtesy of the stewards, Nina and Jenny.

The afternoon consisted of a jam-packed introduction and safety orientation to the Cramer from Captain Beth Doxee and the Cramer’s crew, time to unpack in our respective bunks, and a literature lab (a.k.a. journaling) for students to chronicle their initial thoughts on the trip. Despite the long day and the large amount of information to be learned, S14 was incredibly attentive and asked questions about everything from the inner-workings of the engine room to typical flora and fauna of this region well into the night.

This morning started at 0615 (6:15am) with a quick breakfast of yogurt, granola, fruit, and hard boiled eggs, then the watch schedule formally began. Students have been divided into three watch groups-A Watch, B Watch, and C Watch-that are responsible for sailing the vessel and completing science measurements throughout the day. Watches are stood on a rotating schedule throughout the day and night: 0700-1300 (morning), 1300-1900 (afternoon), 1900-2300 (evening), 2300-0300 (mid), and 0300-0700 (dawn). Each watch will stand these bracketed times several times during this trip and will learn how to sail from the earliest of mornings to the latest of nights. Standing watch with our students is a professional crew of mates Caroline, Rocky, and Kevin, and assistant scientists Maia, Laura, and Abby. Also on board to help things run smoothly and teach are engineers Ben and Alex and stewards Nina and Jenny.

Before we hauled up the anchor, students completed the first of our Super Stations.  From anchor in San Juan Harbor, students collected scientific data that they will interpret in the lab. We completed a Shipek grab to examine the composition of the harbor’s seafloor, lowered a Secchi Disk to test for light transmission in the water, compared the length of visibility for different colors with Light Attenuation Spheroids, completed a profile of water temperature and salinity, and collected samples of water at different depths which we will later analyze for oxygen, nutrients, and chlorophyll-a.

Right now A and B watch are finishing dinner before evening watch begins at 1900 (7pm). We’ll sail through the night, then will complete another Super Station in the morning, out of sight of land. I’m looking forward to seeing what we find and continuing on our journey. This blog will be updated regularly with the help of our Williams-Mystic crew on land, so be sure tocheck back for updates from Puerto Rico and the surrounding waters.

Fair Winds,



Veronica from Colby College, Nellie from West Chester University, and Rebecca from Ithaca College enjoy a moment on deck before setting sail.

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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