On our Last Day Offshore, Science, Sunsets, Songs, and Lots of Knots

The last day aboard the Cramer is a microcosm of everything we’ve experienced aboard: science, hands-on learning, our duty to the ship, and team bonding via songs and puns.

Muscongus Bay, Saint George River, Maine

September 12, 2018

0445 h

After making our way north to Maine, we anchored at Muscongus Bay Monday evening. Anchoring brought a welcome reprieve from the watch schedule offshore; we’ve been keeping short “anchor watches” during our time here, which have allowed us to catch up on some much-awaited sleep.

Tuesday morning brought rain, but also some excellent poster presentations, as the students crowded into the main salon of the Cramer to share the results from their scientific research projects. Another highlight of the day: marlinspike seamanship class, in which students worked on knots — and “knautical” puzzles. (When you’ve been together on a ship for 10 days, your humor tends to take a turn for the punny.)

As part of the ship’s crew, our duty to Cramer has structured our days here. Tuesday, as our last full day on the ship, was no exception; our afternoon was designated a “field day,” a time to clean and care for every inch of this ship that’s been our home this week and a half. The rain stopped as we finished field day, and we were rewarded with a beautiful, final night aboard, full of poetry, conversation, and songs.

two students
Isabella (Colby College, at left) and Morgan (Williams College) present the results of their study on light attenuation in the surface ocean.

Now, it’s early morning Wednesday. Everyone is still asleep but soon the ship will be abuzz as we prepare to get underway and head toward Rockland. Tonight, we will make our way back to Mystic as shipmates, ready for the next adventures of our fall semester.


Thank you to Captain Chris and the entire ship’s crew for a wonderful 10 days aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer! You can follow the last leg of our journey here — https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:426493/mmsi:366724450/imo:8617445/vessel:CORWITH_CRAMER — note, as always, that our position may not be current, as it’s updated periodically and not continuously.

Nine Days into their Offshore Voyage, F’18 has Learned the Lines

On the small world of a sailing ship, there’s lots to learn – from your science class, the world around you, and the vessel itself.

September 10, 2018

1045 h.

43.5′ N x 069.9′ W

Heading north

We enjoyed warm temperatures, calm seas, and light winds for the first half of our offshore journey, but as we head north the air is getting a bit chillier and the wind is picking up.

With 15-knot winds expected, the students learned to reef the mainsail (to take in parts of this large sail to make the ship less vulnerable to strong gusts) during our afternoon nautical class. After class, jackets and hats began emerging on deck. It’s starting to feel like fall.

As new members of the crew, our students are expected to learn all the lines (ropes, in a layperson’s terms) on the Cramer. Luckily, their watches have involved plenty of practice handling lines. Our course has demanded frequent gybing, in which students shift certain sails from one side of the boat to the other to zigzag toward our destination, in the same direction as the strengthening wind.

During quieter moments, the students have also been reviewing pinrail diagrams: intricate maps of the ship with points, placed throughout, resembling nodes on an electrical circuit and signifying “pins,” where a given line is fastened to the ship’s rails.

students in a conga line aboard a ship
Morgan, Madison, Isabella, Valmont and Devon celebrate with a conga line around the deck after a successful line chase.

On Friday, they tested their knowledge in a “pinrail chase,” which involved a healthy dose of competition and even more celebration. With increasing knowledge comes more responsibility; students have started to take on leadership roles during watch, keeping track of hourly duties and even calling ship maneuvers.

Because we are always on lookout as part of our duty to the ship, we have been lucky to spot megafauna! Some of our best sightings were when we were approaching and sailing through Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Some students have spotted mola mola, or ocean sunfish, which they described as akin to square elephants with wings. Humpback whales are a coveted sighting; many students will go so far as to request being woken up to catch a glimpse. And dolphins, playing in our bow watch, appear at night as grey shadows with glowing streaks trailing in their wake, thanks to the bioluminescence in the water. If you listen closely, you can hear them squeak.

As we head towards Maine, students are hard at work completing their shipboard science projects and preparing to present their findings to the whole ship’s company tomorrow.

two students present a hand-draw poster aboard a ship
B Watch students Madison (Beloit College) and Valmont (SUNY Maritime) describe light in the ocean for their daily science report.

TRACK OUR PROGRESS!

You can follow the Cramer’s journey at this link: https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:426493/mmsi:366724450/imo:8617445/vessel:CORWITH_CRAMER

Please note: The information on the location of the vessel is not always updated regularly. If you notice the vessel staying in the same location for extended periods of time, it simply means the website has not updated recently.

A Day in the Life Offshore

Offshore, life follows a recurring rhythm of standing watch, attending class, eating, and sleeping — and spotting dolphins along the way.

September 6, 2018

2030 h.

41° 31′ N x 070° 39′ W

A week into our offshore voyage, F’18 has adjusted to shipboard life, with its rhythm of watches, classes, meals, and sleeping.

Take today, for example, when A Watch stood watch in the morning. Today’s morning watch included a “science super station” dedicated to collecting water and data all the way from the surface to the seafloor of southern Georges Bank. In the middle of the station, we spotted dozens of Atlantic Striped Dolphins jumping in the distance. We paused our measurements of light attenuation (how quickly light dims and dissipates as water deepens) to delight in the antics of these charismatic megafauna.

After lunch, A Watch took a nap, attended classes, and saw more dolphins — this time, Short-Beaked Common Dolphins. Then, they had dinner and headed off to their bunks to sleep before waking early for dawn watch, to repeat the cycle over again.

Every afternoon, the whole ship’s company gathers for a meeting and class. We begin with announcements and then hear a weather report and a science report, both of which are led by students from the dawn watch. The class itself is often interdisciplinary, integrating maritime history with oceanography. Today’s class focused on citizen scientists at sea, from Benjamin Franklin’s 18th-century account of the Gulf Stream to Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea-Wind. 

6Sept_s1
Historian Alicia Maggard leads class on deck.

We followed class with a snack — blueberry shortcake — before diving into a hands-on, nautical class. Students set all three of our square sails — the course, the topsail, and the raffee — so we could sail downwind toward our final super station.


TRACK OUR PROGRESS!

You can follow the Cramer’s journey at this link: https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:426493/mmsi:366724450/imo:8617445/vessel:CORWITH_CRAMER

Please note: The information on the location of the vessel is not always updated regularly. If you notice the vessel staying in the same location for extended periods of time, it simply means the website has not updated recently.

Connections and Community: Alissa Ryan’s (F’17) Williams-Mystic Experience

“I knew nothing about boats or sailing or the maritime community before coming to Williams-Mystic. I really didn’t think I’d be of any use to the ship’s crew on the Offshore Field Seminar, but I found myself knowing the lines, helping pull up the anchor, and steering the ship comfortably.”

This post was written by S’18 alumna Audra DeLaney. She is studying public relations and political science at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. If you have any questions about our program, you can email her at audra.delaney@gmail.com.

Alissa aboard the US Brig Niagara, looking up with a life preserver hanging off the ship behind her.
Alissa Ryan (F’17) during the Offshore Field Seminar aboard the US Brig Niagara.

Imagine this: a little girl who hated the outdoors so much that her parents had to bribe her to go outside grows up and chooses to study environmental science, become a camp counselor, and love the outdoors. For New York University student and F’17 alumna Alissa Ryan, this is the journey that led her to Williams-Mystic.

Alissa was in the process of clearing out her old email when she came across a message from Executive Director Tom Van Winkle advertising Williams-Mystic. The program spoke to her because of its size.

“My school is really big (25,000 undergrads!) and right in New York City, so I wanted to have a small, personal experience for a semester where I could develop a community — and I absolutely got that, along with some hands-on learning relevant to my major that I never could have gotten through my own university’s programs,” Alissa said.

Williams-Mystic taught Alissa the importance of making personal connections and collaborating with others.

“At a big city school, there is very little community and people keep to themselves in big, 300-person lectures. It’s easy to fall into that and keep that mindset even in smaller settings where you have the opportunity to be more involved,” Alissa said. “Williams-Mystic reminded me to talk to my classmates and get to know my professors and be all around more present, which has helped me a lot back at my home college.”

Alissa especially enjoyed a field seminar full of personal connections: the Gulf Coast Field Seminar.

“It felt so meaningful and I learned a lot from talking to individuals there. I’ve been learning about climate change for years in the courses for my major, but seeing its effects in real life, right in front of my eyes, and talking to people about how it’s changed their lives is something I could never get from a classroom and really helped me understand why I’m studying these things in the first place,” Alissa said.

Community living was Alissa’s favorite part of her Williams-Mystic experience.

“I really loved Mallory House. We cooked together, watched movies and TV together, and had SO many mug cookies together,” Alissa said. “The other houses were just across the street, too, so I could cross the street to go see my friends over in the other houses.”

Alissa was surprised at how much she was able to learn as different challenges presented themselves.

“I knew nothing about boats or sailing or the maritime community before coming to Williams-Mystic, and I left knowing so much more,” Alissa said. “I really didn’t think I’d be of any use to the ship’s crew on the Offshore Field Seminar, but I found myself knowing the lines, helping pull up the anchor, and steering the ship comfortably.”

Part of being a Williams-Mystic student is working with others to solve problems or defend positions. Alissa’s participation in Moot Court with her classmates embodied this principle.

“We were all stressed and sleep deprived, a little convinced that we wouldn’t be able to make it come together,” Alissa said. “We kept working and figured it all out and it came together for both teams. It perfectly demonstrated to me how well we had all learned to work together to get things done.”

Alissa hopes to work in the field of environmental science someday and believes that environmental education may be a good fit for her.

“I love nature and the environment and I just want to make some sort of positive change, leaving it better in some way,” Alissa said.

Alissa’s Williams-Mystic experience can be summed up in one word: Gratitude.

“I have met lifelong friends through Williams-Mystic who I could never meet anywhere else. My classmates, professors, and everyone else I’ve met at W-M amaze me with their passion for what they do and their drive to make change,” Alissa said. “The people I’ve met through Williams-Mystic continue to inspire me and motivate me to do my best at what I love.”