10 Things To Know Before You Go Offshore

by Evan McAlice, Assistant Director of Admissions & Communications

Greetings, readers, from aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer! We set sail from St. Croix just a few days ago and S’22 has already learned so much about what it’s like to be part of a crew – from discovering how certain lines communicate with specific sails, to performing boat watches to make sure everything is ship-shape, to enjoying the sunset on the bow. All of this has been made possible by our Captain, Sean Bercaw, our Chief Scientist, Tim Pusack, and the mates, scientists, engineers, and stewards that keep us afloat.

As many of our students, staff, and faculty have never sailed before, this field seminar is an incredible opportunity to learn the ropes in an open and collaborative setting. As a novice sailor myself, I wanted to share some of the tips that I have found helpful throughout my time on the Cramer. I hope that they can be of good use to any future sailors reading this, as well as our friends from past semesters who want to relive the experience.

1. Keep a positive attitude and an open mind

Being in an environment like the Cramer can be very disorienting for many, so it’s important to remain positive and keep things light. One of the scientists on board (thanks, Kelly!) gave me some great advice – “if you can’t get out of it, get into it.”

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

The crew is very aware that many students are stepping into a brand new environment and learning about a whole new way of life. They are always willing and able to answer any questions, and there is no such thing as a bad question. I was told early on by the scientist leading my watch (hi, Katherine!), “You can ask me the same question 100 times in a row, and I will always be glad that you at least asked.”

3. Always ask for help when you need it

Similarly, knowing when to ask for help is key to being successful aboard the Cramer. Whether you’re hauling lines and need an extra set of hands, or just trying to get below deck and need someone to hold your water bottle. This advice doubles for seasickness – never be too proud to ask for medication, water, saltines, or necessary rest time.

4. Drink lots of water

A great way to fight seasickness and fatigue is to hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate some more. There is plenty of drinking water available on the ship, so you should drink as much as you’d like. When thinking about which water bottle to pack, make sure to choose one that is well-insulated and unique to you. Thermos or Hydroflask-like water bottles are especially ideal, and it’s best if you can tell it’s yours in a crowd. Write your name on it, use plenty of stickers, and make it your own!

5. Seasickness is natural and temporary

For those whose bodies aren’t used to the natural rocking of the boat, seasickness can be intimidating and frustrating. It may be reassuring to know that even the most experienced sailors sometimes get seasick, and your body will adjust to the motions with time and experience. View this as just another step in an otherwise fulfilling offshore experience.

6. Take a moment to look at the stars

During night and dawn watches, you’ll have the opportunity to look at the night sky without any light pollution. Use this as a moment to look at the stars and take in a moment of peace. It’s one of the most stellar sights you’ll ever have the chance to see.

7. Pack baby wipes

Students are encouraged to shower aboard the Cramer every 3 days, which means that sweat tends to accumulate. If you’re ever feeling particularly gross, baby wipes can be incredibly clutch.

8. Do not over-pack

There is often a tendency to try and fit everything you can into your massive duffel bag in an attempt to plan for every possible scenario. Try your best to get out of that mindset and pack only what you believe to be the bare essentials. If you’re having trouble fitting everything into your duffel bag, reorganize and rethink what you may or may not need.

9. Get to know everybody

This point extends to every person you encounter on the ship: the captain, the mates, the engineers, the stewards, and especially your fellow Williams-Mystic sailors. This is an incredible opportunity to meet people from across all walks of life, all of whom have countless fun and interesting stories to tell, so take time to hear them all if you can. The Cramer staff is equally eager to learn about you!

10. Look towards the horizon 

If you’re feeling woozy, look towards the horizon. It’s an easy way to keep yourself stable, even in the rockiest waters.

If you’re reading this and hoping to set sail with us some time in the future, I hope this advice comes in handy. Every offshore experience is different, but the results are the same – it’s an impactful journey that will push you in every conceivable way, but you’ll come out on the other side with great memories and a new perspective.

S’22 aboard the Cramer

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