Life at Sea: Days One and Two of S’19’s Offshore Field Seminar

From how to steer or furl sail, to how to wake people up for class or sanitize dishes, we have been learning specific methods to allow 37 people to safely and happily travel, live, and learn together on a ship only 40 meters long.

Above: S’19 students Chris (Clark University) and Em (Vassar College) help recover sediment from the bottom of San Juan Harbor.

29 January 2019

19 N x 066 W, 30 nautical miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico

two students, one playing guitar, sing aboard a ship
S’19 Oliver (University of Cincinnati) and Jonna (Middlebury College) serenade the ship’s company.

Greetings from SSV Corwith Cramer!

On Sunday, January 27, the Williams-Mystic Class of Spring 2019 joined SSV Corwith Cramer in San Juan just in time for lunch.  For the last 48 hours or so, we have been busy learning ship operations, getting used to walking on a rolling ship, and enjoying being out at sea.

For many, of us, it is our first time out at sea.  And as Melville wrote in Redburn, “People who have never gone to sea for the first time as sailors cannot imagine how puzzling and confounding it is.”  Unlike Melville’s protagonist, however, we have watch officers who are kind and patient teachers, and who allow us to ask lots of questions.  From how to steer or furl sail, to how to wake people up for class or sanitize dishes, we have been learning specific methods to allow 37 people to safely and happily travel, live, and learn together on a ship only 40 meters long with three heads and two showers.

During orientation, we got to know the parts of the ship and our responsibilities on board.  Everyone participated in safety drills and we also conducted our first science deployments in San Juan Harbor.

Then we headed out to sea, into deep water north of San Juan.  Two days in, spirits are high.  We are getting used to the routine and the warm tropical weather.  The food has been amazing thanks to our fantastic stewards and we have even enjoyed some entertainment thanks to some talented students.

Stay tuned for more updates from our Offshore Field Seminar!


Track the Cramer‘s progress by clicking the link below!

https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:426493/mmsi:366724450/imo:8617445/vessel:CORWITH_CRAMER 

Important Note: Vessel tracking information isn’t updated continuously and the Cramer isn’t always able to provide updated location information. (Good reception isn’t a guarantee at sea!) If you notice that the Cramer appears to be in the same location for an extended period of time, it simply means the website has not yet been updated.

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.

On F’18’s First Day Aboard the Corwith Cramer, an Exciting Journey Awaits — and Lots of Mud

It’s day eight of our semester, and we’re embarking on a ten-day sailing voyage in the Gulf of Maine: an opportunity to experience life out of sight of land, and to learn about the ocean by living on it.

Monday, September 3, 2018
At anchor, Menemsha Bight, Martha’s Vineyard

It’s our second day aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer — and the eighth day of our Fall 2018 semester. Last Monday, our 17 students — representing 19 majors, 13 colleges and universities, and 12 US states — had just arrived on campus. Today, they’re embarking on a ten-day voyage in the Gulf of Maine: An opportunity to experience life out of sight of land, to work as part of the crew of a sailing ship, and to learn about the Atlantic firsthand, in the lab and on the deck.

We — the F’18 class, oceanographer Lisa Gilbert (S’96), historian Alicia Maggard, and lab manager Laurie Warren (S’89) — left Mystic on Sunday morning. We boarded the Cramer in bustling Woods Hole just before lunch.

After a brief orientation from the ship’s professional crew, we cast off our dock lines and headed for our overnight anchorage in quiet Menemsha Bight, Martha’s Vineyard.

We plan to be sailing through the night for most of our 10 days aboard Corwith Cramer, taking turns sailing the ship, running science operations, and sleeping. Three groups, or watches, take responsibility for the ship for four or six hours at the time, under the direction of professional crew members acting as watch officers.

At anchor on Sunday, we continued orientation and safety training until sunset. Then, the stewards delighted us with a hearty meal of spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread. Soon after, we tucked into our bunks for a rare, full night of sleep at anchor.

This morning, we continued our training. We learned to furl sails on the bowsprit and practiced deploying scientific gear. C Watch even brought back a sample of the seafloor: some black, Menemsha mud, a quahog, and dozens of slipper limpets. It was our first glimpse into the world we’re passing through and over — a world we’re just beginning to discover.

3Sept_s2
Oceanographer Lisa Gilbert (S’96) digs into sediment samples with students Alejandro Flores Monge (Williams College ’21) and Dionna Jenkins (Smith College ’20).

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.

Passion, Photography, and Policy: Haley Kardek’s (F’17) Williams-Mystic Story

This post was written by S’18 alumna Audra DeLaney. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. 

A Vassar College pre-med student with a passion for photography finds out about an ocean and coastal studies program and chooses to take a leap and participate…and then change her course of study to focus on international studies.

For Fall 2017 alumna Haley Kardek, the story of how she found Wiliams-Mystic is poetic.

“For most of my life, I had spent my summers sailing or coaching sailing in New Jersey. However, the summer of 2017 was the first summer I had been working an apprenticeship up in New York. At the beginning of August, I finally had the opportunity to sail a weekend,” Haley said. “My first day on the water felt so good and, when I got home that evening, I had an email waiting for me from my advisor encouraging me to look into a last-minute opening at Williams-Mystic for that fall. I try to live my life being open and receiving to every door that opens and the moment was too perfect to turn down the opportunity to apply.”

Haley spent some of her time while she was in the program photographing the world and people around her. A few of her photos are featured on our website as well as on our social media platforms.

“Photography and anything outdoors is my “escapes.” I feel most at peace with myself when I am photographing the world and people around me,” Haley said. “Some people say to be human is to be a storyteller – for me, I feel most human capturing and sharing stories through my photography.”

Williams-Mystic gave Haley the opportunity to personally experience the causes, symptoms, and effects of large maritime issues, such as Climate Change, marine bioinvasions, social justice inequalities, fisheries, and more.

“It is one thing to learn in a classroom or read about an issue; it is a completely different opportunity to physically see a roadway that has become covered by water, to listen to a fisherman talk about competition in the scallop industry, to estimate the population size of new fiddler crab communities or look for microplastics in shellfish,” Haley said. “At Williams-Mystic your experiences from traveling to maritime communities and conducting your independent research projects become the cornerstone of learning about maritime issues. This is what I wanted to experience with the program and I was not at all disappointed.”

Haley’s participation in Williams-Mystic changed her path in academia and career trajectory.

“Williams-Mystic very drastically changed my life, path-wise. Up until that semester, I had set my eyes on pursuing medical school; however, a variety of different trains of thought and feelings came together during my semester at Williams-Mystic and I decided I wanted to address the large, systemic issues that contribute to many health issues such as political agency and voice and social inequalities as well as connect more with my passion and love for the environment,” Haley said.

The offshore field seminar Haley’s class embarked on left from Erie, Pennsylvania on Lake Erie. For Haley, this was her favorite field seminar experience.

“The offshore field seminar in Lake Erie was my favorite as it revealed both the hardship and beauty of sailing a tall ship away from the sight of land. Throughout the semester, especially when reading Moby-Dick, I would re-live my time on the U.S. Brig Niagara and be able to relate to the general experiences of living on a ship at sea: struggling to find sea legs, getting an “all hands on deck” call, being so physically and mentally tired you could literally sleep standing up, watching the sun rise and set on a horizon not lined with land,” Haley said.

Williams-Mystic taught Haley the complexity of issues and that you cannot get frustrated when you are trying to solve problems.

“Solving these issues requires working through the many values and differences of experience embedded in one issue. It requires collaboration and connecting scientists with politicians and artists with industry workers. Most important of all, addressing these issues requires active and genuine connection with the people affected by and affecting the aspects of larger issues – a skill very much encouraged and taught during my semester at Williams-Mystic.”

Williams College Experience Enhanced: Jaelon Moaney (S’18) On His Semester Away From Williamstown

This post was written by S’18 alumna Audra DeLaney. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. 

As a political science student concentrating on leadership studies and Africana studies at Williams College, Jaelon Moaney has made connections with his peers and faculty members since the day he arrived in Williamstown. As a result of his ability to reach out, he found out about the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program during an office hours visit.

“With a wide range of flexibility outside of my major I was fortunate enough to have room to explore educationally,” Jaelon said. “Marine Policy was cross-listed as both an Environmental Science and Political Science course which satisfies my Political Science major requirements.”

Williams-Mystic added to Jaelon’s experience at Williams College. Sharing the same overall subject matter with vastly different faculty and shipmates brought to life what he went to Williams to find.

“Williams-Mystic exhibited the merits of applying the interdisciplinary approach to real-world challenges. As an undergraduate at a liberal arts institution, I certainly value the incorporation of all relevant material and stakeholders in decision-making,” Jaelon said. “However, my development of this skill had been hindered by minimal opportunities to practice in an academic setting until I got to Mystic.”

If you are someone who reads our blogs often, you know that many alumni recall their experience during our Gulf Coast field seminar. For Jaelon, this experience deeply affected him.

“Every meal, dance, recap of history and environmental challenge was compatible with a face. Being able to attach real, human lives to each of the disciplines added another layer of significance that still resonates with me today,” Jaelon said.

The emphasis on the community at Williams-Mystic stood out to Jaelon.

“Williams-Mystic is a small, tight-knit community. This dynamic requires each member to selflessly contribute their individual merits for the sake of the whole. The “Ship, Shipmate, Self” mentality became infectious offshore and laid the foundation for former strangers to develop into an interwoven family,” Jaelon said. “Ultimately, this family was not subject to just the semester and year it occurred in but is immersed in the network of alumni produced by each successive year of the program.”

Jaelon was shocked by how quickly he developed bonds with faculty, staff, and his shipmates.

I would have never imagined the invaluable conversations, moments of laughter and collaborative efforts pictured in the program’s marketing coming to life on a daily basis during my own experience. Each interaction was unique, genuine and thought-provoking,” Jaelon said.

Faculty members spent so much time with the students outside of the classroom.

“Every professor took on the role of being a fellow shipmate of every student in the program. Sharing their sense of humor, wisdom, career trajectory and multi-faceted personalities was an investment of time that I respected and benefited from,” Jaelon said.

As a result of being a Williams-Mystic student, Jaelon no longer envisions bodies of water as merely fundamental support for modes of transportation.

“In fact, what covers three-quarters of our planet can be more accurately characterized as a vector of culture, economy, ideology, food, and in many ways life,” Jaelon said. “As a lifelong resident of the Maryland Eastern Shore I have always thought little could rival the Chesapeake Bay. This newfound perspective has not only deepened my love for the Bay but also opened my passion up to understanding the complex intimacy humans share with marine environments.”

When the spring semester ended, Jaelon interned in Washington, D.C. for Congressmen John P. Sarbanes from Maryland’s Third Congressional District. His Williams-Mystic experience helped him have productive and meaningful conversations with a variety of engaged citizens and stakeholders.

A driven public servant, Jaelon hopes to one day faithfully serve the citizens of the state of Maryland in elected office.

“Over the course of my life in the Old Line State I have been enveloped in an unparalleled membrane of history, culture, principles and, most importantly, people,” Jaelon said. “In my opinion, the only way to pay back the debt I owe is to devote my life to ensuring the utmost quality of life for Marylanders of all generations.”

Based off of advice from a past Albion House member, Jaelon has this to say to prospective Williams-Mystic students:

“Try it. Be willing to expose yourself and let go of any perceived notations. Fully immerse yourself in the program.”