Caribbean Update From Our OBR

If you ever find yourself in the Caribbean

Hello from the Cramer!

Currently we are anchored in Antigua. We have been underway now for three weeks, and I am loving every second… well, maybe not when we have to clean the galley, but other than that, everything from a quiet dawn watch under the stars to working with my shipmates when setting and striking sails have been some of best experiences I have ever had. I am sure all of my shipmates can concur. Every once in a while, we will look at each other and exchange a smile, saying without words, “This is incredible. We are actually here.”

Caribbean, tall ship, marine science

I am relieved to say that I have now learned the names of all the sails, most of the lines, as well as a ton of other things I never would have dreamed of learning if I had not been here, having this experience. For example, when at the helm, steering the boat at night, stars can be a better marker for the ship’s heading than a compass. And walking on a rocking ship in 4-6 foot swells is much more difficult than it sounds.  The language used aboard a ship seemed so foreign when we first boarded. Now, we speak it almost fluently, after only two very short weeks. The time is absolutely flying.

One of my favorite activities so far has been climbing the rigging up the main mast to go aloft. Once you’re up there, you can climb onto the yards, and stand one hundred feet over the water. Don’t worry mom and dad, we are strapped to the ship in harnesses when we do it. Everyone loves swim calls too, where we get to jump off the bow sprit into the Sea. After a long day of chores and schoolwork, it is a much appreciated reward.

Caribbean, tall ship, marine science

Last week we were at anchor for a few days by Union Island in the Tobago Cays. There, we conducted nine snorkel missions for our reef research and had the opportunity to meet with an NGO called Sustainable Grenadines. This small but mighty organization is striving to improve the ecological condition of Union Island, and they are doing a good job of it too. One particularly moving project they are working on is the restoration of Ashton Lagoon. A few years ago, the area (in which exists the largest mangrove forest in the Cays) was developed in order to create a marina. The company responsible for it’s construction obstructed the oceanic flow into the area by blocking off the area with concrete, coral, shell, and sand barriers. After breaking ground on the project, and completing the portion, which suffocated the area, the company ran out of money to continue building and was forced to abandon the project completely. The quality of the water quickly degraded, effectively killing parts of the mangrove forest as well as the fringing reefs in the area. Thankfully, Sustainable Grenadines adopted the project to restore the bay to its original glory. They will do so by re-introducing the oceanic flow to the area by taking bulldozes to the concrete piles created by the company. They hope to turn the area into an eco friendly marina, which will benefit the town of Ashton by bringing cash flow into their economy, and encouraging reef growth. It will be a tedious and extremely difficult project, but Ashton Lagoon is in very capable hands with the wonderful people working for this NGO.

After a few day’s sail north of nothing but open sea around us, it was astonishing to see Montserrat’s Soufriere hills volcano, illuminated by the sunrise when I woke up the morning we got here. It stands intimidatingly high above the sea, and still releases smoke from its geologically recent eruptions. It was almost more shocking yet, to hear Meghan, our wonderful ocean policy specialist, say that we plan on going up to volcano in a few days. My pesky inner daredevil is tugging at my shirt sleeve, begging for this upcoming adventure to just start already. We have been so lucky to have the opportunity to explore this lovely mountainous island, dive on their reefs, and learn first hand about it’s infrastructure from Government officials who have been so generous to give us their time.

Caribbean, tall ship, marine science

As I write this blogpost, I sit comfortably on the struck fore staysail on top of the lab (my favorite place to hang out on the ship), with Montserrat behind me, and the Tradewinds which helped is get here blowing enthusiastically at my back. My skin is salty from being splashed by the seawater during all of our science deployments on my watch this morning.

A lesson I have learned from my adventure at sea, is that a small team can accomplish more than you would think. Sustainable Grenadines is a wonderful example of a small group who is almost literally moving mountains. Just three or four people working on deck during our watches can set very heavy sails, if we can work together and communicate. Our oceans are threatened, and at times it seems that there are only a few who seem to care. With a passion to start, some combined brainpower, and hard work to make even small changes.

sunset, Caribbean, tall ship, marine science

I’ll keep you posted!

Next stop: Barbuda

Keiley

Stay tuned for more updates from our Onboard Reporter, Keiley!

In collaboration with Sea Education Association (SEA), Sailors for the Sea is offering an award for a SEA Semester student to become an Onboard Reporter. SEA is an internationally recognized leader in undergraduate ocean education through their study abroad program. As a recipient of the new Sailors for the Sea Onboard Reporter award, Keiley James is chronicling ocean health issues observed during her voyage aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer, one of SEA’s tall sailing ship research vessels, in the Caribbean. Keiley is a Univeristy of Georgia sophmore majoring in Biology.