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Ocean Classroom 2023: A Week at Sea

Scott Allenby

Proctor Academy’s 30th year of Ocean Classroom voyages set sail aboard the SSC Corwith Cramer on Monday, October 2023 after a three week shore component of the program. As the ship navigates to Nova Scotia, educators and students share daily logs from sea via the Sea Education Association website. We have compiled the first week of Ship’s Logs below so you can read about life at sea!

Proctor Academy Ocean Classroom 2023

Monday, 02 October 2023

Noon Position: (Lat and Long):  41 deg 31.4’ N x 070 deg 40.3’W
Ship Heading (degrees):  NA
Ship Speed (knots):  NA
Log (nm): 0.0
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan (from 1300 Watch Change):  Sunny, dry and cool.
Description of Location:  Alongside Dyers Dock in Woods Hole, MA

Welcome to the SSV Corwith Cramer!  The students and crew have now merged as one shipboard community.  We are now a complement of 21 student-crew and 15 professional crew – a full ship’s complement – our crew for the upcoming voyage.  The students have been given their Watch assignments (Alpha, Bravo and Charlie Watch, or A, B, and C) and at present are getting to know their Mate and Scientist who will introduce them to life aboard the ship.  This evening we will remain comfortably alongside the dock in Woods Hole, MA, allowing us to dive right into the all-important safety training required for new crew members.

Life aboard an SEA ship is always an adventure.  Full of learning opportunities and responsibilities.  Before we depart Woods Hole, each student must learn how to properly wear their safety harness, which allows them to safely deploy scientific equipment and climb into the head rig to furl sails.  Students need to learn about the infamous Boat Check – an hourly walk through of all compartments on the ship to ensure all is well.   Students need to learn how to make detailed weather observations, and how to respond to various emergency scenarios such as fire or abandon ship.

After all this training, guess what else is full, their minds stuffed full of important information!  Some of it will stick, some will be lost during a restful night of sleep.  But these lessons will become second nature as the days at sea go by and the sailing/scientific mission progresses. Soon the students will be seasoned salts speaking a new language and describing the strange customs of the sailing research vessel SSV Corwith Cramer.
So please stay tuned and follow along in our adventures in the days to come.

Chief Scientist - Jeffrey M. Schell
PS Sweet dreams to my darling rose and love to family and friends back home.

Proctor Academy Ocean Classroom 2023

Tuesday, 03 October 2023

Noon Position: (Lat and Long):  41 deg 27.0’ N x 070 deg 11.8’W
Ship Heading (degrees):  115 degrees
Ship Speed (knots):  3 knots
Log (nm): 23.6 nautical miles
Weather:  Clear, sunny skies.  Southwest winds Beaufort Force 2.
Description of Location:  Sailing in Nantucket Sound

Our first night aboard the Cramer was uneventful in a good way.  After a day full of learning the ways of the ship, nothing better than a full night of sleep for the students. Today began with an amazing breakfast of blueberry pancakes with hand-whipped cream, sausage and fruit thanks to our amazing stewards Raechel and Sebastian. Then, it was time for the main event – let’s go sailing!

We cast off our dock lines, pulled in the fenders, and made our way to a quieter anchorage in Nantucket Sound! It was a lovely sail in light winds with clear, sunny skies! A picture-perfect setting for setting our first sails, taking turns at the helm, climbing in the head rig, and practicing our science deployments. It has been a day full of learning, full of tasty food and full of smiles.
Now that everyone is familiar with their new home you will start to hear from the students directly.  So stay tuned, the best is yet to come!

Cheers Schelly,
Chief Scientist - Jeffrey M. Schell

Proctor Academy Ocean Classroom 2023

Wednesday, 04 October 2023

Noon Position: (Lat and Long):  41deg 24.1’N x 069deg 13.9’W
Ship Heading (degrees):  060 deg Ship Speed (knots): 3 knots Log (nm):  58.2nm
Weather /Wind / Sail Plan (from 1300 Watch Change):  Motosailing with mains’l,
mainstays’l and forestays’l in light winds from NE x E.  Sunny, clear skies.

Monday morning we woke up and finished packing our duffels and got a surprise visit from Brooks, Heidi T, John B, and Derek. We ate breakfast all as a group and then went for a walk to the beach with Heidi, JB and Derek. We came back to the ‘North Pole’ at SEA. The crew (us) helped toss packed duffle bags and backpacks into the Proctor van. My bag was so heavy but I was able to fit my fowlies and all of my gear in with my shoes and boots tied to the side. I was not on watch, so after lunch, which was leftover pizza and sandwiches, I was able to chill with Riley and Cass and accidentaly fell asleep. But when they got up to be the first group to the Ship. I woke
up and was a part of the first shuttle to the boat. Cass, Ryan, Tallulah, Sophie, Riley and I were the first group. Once we got to the dock, we found all of our bags in a pile on the dock and collected and dragged ours to the gangway. Johnny the chief mate told us what we were doing and then Ryan was the first aboard, Cass was the second and I was the third. I came down through the Mid Science ladder and got my bunk assignment. I usually have the worst luck so I was expecting to not get a great bunk but to my surprise, I got the best bunk and the best bunk mate, Ryan! I am not directly in the Saloon or the head; I am right in-between next to the galley entrance. I am on the top bunk and have the most storage space than any other bunk. I defiantly couldn’t use all of the space I was given so for folks whose bunks could not fit their duffels after unpacking, I stored in my bunk. Some student’s barely got any space so I was more than happy to help out! It turns out this bunk has a nick name… ‘The Princess Bunk’. I slept great the first night, the professional crew was so nice and let us all get a full night of sleep before we set sail.

First Actual Day: I woke up from a great night of sleep! ‘A’ watch was on first to help get the boat ready for departure. I was accidentally  woken up because Madi Zhan is ‘A’ watch and I (Mattie Dickinson) is on ‘B’ watch. Funny right! Oh well it wasn’t the worst because I was able to get to the head before the rush! Then I got some Tea and waited for my watch to get breakfast. Once breakfast was down the hatch, all hands to deck were called to set sail. Since I am on ‘B’ watch our job was fendering; we held the lines the fenders were on and helped walk and bump the boat out of the dock. Jen the director at SEA and SEA faculty watched us leave Woods hole and say goodbye.

First Leg Underway: We have finally set sail after 3 ½ weeks of waiting! We traveled a few hours to Nantucket and anchored for the night. During the day we did 2 hour watch shifts so everyone knew or had an idea on the jobs and positions we have on watch. We learned how to stand lookout, do a boat check, science deployments and stand helm. Once we were done with first rounds of the intro watches we ate some dinner. The overnight into the next day, ‘C’ and ‘A’ watch had 2 hour watch shifts from 1900 – 0700. Then ‘B’ watch (Noah, Teo, Liam, Tess, Paige, Riley, and Me) stood watch for 6 hours after a rare all-nighter of sleep. It was exhausting. We were relieved at 1300 and got some lunch. I took a good but quick nap from 1330-1415. Then we had an all hands meeting and received a weather, science, and navigation report. While the reporting, we were interrupted multiple times with dolphins, whales, sharks and Mola mola’s (sunfish). Those sightings continued throughout the afternoon.  I am sitting here on deck waiting 45 minutes for dinner before I sleep from 1830-2330 for my 0100-0700 watch. My hands are tired and sore like the rest of my body. They have started to call us from all the line handling. And guess what…!!!! WE GOT MAIL TODAY!!!!! All of us were so excited to receive mail!!! So keep it coming!!

Mattie ‘24 

Proctor Academy Ocean Classroom 2023

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Noon Position (Lat and Long): 42deg 00.08N x 68deg 13.827W
Ship Heading (degrees): 300 deg Ship Speed (knots): 1.3 kts Log (nm): 151.4 NM
Weather /Wind / Sail Plan (from 1300 Watch Change): Wind( SWxS BF2), 10 degrees C, Foggy
Description of location: Soling in the Gulf of Maine, presently over Franklin Basin, headed toward Gloucester to wait out Tropical Storm Philippe.

Yesterday (October 4th) was probably one of the best days we have had so far, we were anchored just outside of Nantucket and had our routine anchor watches. Cole, Hillary and I had our two hour anchor watch starting at 5am till 7am. During that time we logged hourly anchor and weather reports and got to watch an awesome sunset right over the Nantucket shore lines. After our watch was up we walked into the saloon welcomed with an amazing breakfast by our stews Rachel and Seb. After breakfast I got to catch up on sleep and prepare myself for my watch that night from 19:00-1:00. I spent most of the day sitting up on the headrig with Whis, Emma and Soph(who are also on A watch). All of us ended up taking a nap and waking up hours later to swells rocking the ship up and down. While the other groups were on watch they overall spotted 3 whales, a Great White shark, 2 Mola Mola and lots of other sea organisms. 

The best part of the night was around dinner time when the sun was setting, colors of orange and blues filled the sky and nothing but ocean waves surrounded us for miles. We sat up above the lab ate dinner and watched stars fill into the sky while the sun entered into the horizon.

Then A watch had their first 6 hour watch from 19:00-1:00. Some people were on deck while Cass and I were in lab, we got to filter chlorophyll-a and use our neuston net to catch bioluminescent little fish and any organism that was laying on the surface. Sophie was on look out around 22:00 when she called all of us over because there was a pod of dolphins swimming around and in front of our bow, the bioluminescence made them look like they were glowing in the water as they jumped in and out. It was definitely one of the best things to ever witness on night watch.

Fast forward to today (October 5) we have gained a lot of nautical miles under our vessel, I was woken up to the sound of the fog alarm. It's every two minutes and very very annoying blowing one long horn then two short quickly after. That went on for most of the day until the evening when we had mostly clear skies and a wind Beaufort of 2ish.  Shortly after we learned that we had to change courses and instead of making our way up to Nova Scotia we have to make a short stop in Gloucester Massachusetts, because of a tropical storm passing through our route. 

By going to Mass. we will be able to anchor there for the night and avoid the winds and heavy seas. My night quietly ended with finishing up afternoon watch on forward lookout and enjoying the sunset. Or at least I thought until just after dinner when Jackson called everyone up on deck to watch Elon Musk's newly launched satellites traverse the sky.  There were more than 20 following one after another moving across the sky until they faded away. They looked like little shooting stars connected to each other or as Tess would say it looked like Santa's reindeer flying through the sky. Stars filled the entire sky and it was clear enough to see outlines of the Milky Way. 10/10 experience.

Madi ‘25

Proctor Academy Ocean Classroom 2023

Friday, 6 October 2023

Noon Position (Lat and Long): 42deg 28.012 N x 070deg 20.82 W
Ship Heading(degrees):  134.4 deg Ship Speed (knots): Anchored at 17:00 Log (nm): 275.6

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan (from 1300 Watch Change): Constant BF of 2, wind coming from SW-SE all day, constant sea direction-SE, constant temp-17 degrees C
Description of location: Anchored at 17:00 in Gloucester MA

After our first few days of sun and light winds that came with beautiful sunsets and many animal sightings, forecasted fog has caught up with us. The beginning of my day along with the rest of C watch started at 1:00 AM.  I was on lab with Cade and Lily where we caught up on our latest Neuston net tow that B watch had deployed the watch before (1900-0100). We examined our tow by first picking out each organism that was over 2cm. The biggest thing we noted from this catch was the lack in biodiversity, usually there would be many various organisms, but our catch only consisted of euphausids (krill), and copepods. After we sorted through the catch, we did a 100 count of all our zooplankton from the Neuston tow to get a general consensus of the diversity. After we logged that info, we collected more samples from the water and put them through a chlorophyll-a filtration system that will allow us to measure those amounts. After that, we prepared our science report for class later in the day, did some line handling, and made a to-do list for the next watch which basically concluded our lab watch.

After getting a few more hours of sleep, I woke up and wrote a whole bunch of letters with some of B and C watch, and helped prepare for morning snack which was prepared by our stews, Seb and Rachel. After the first shower of the trip along with a short nap, I was ready for class. We got the news that we were significantly close to Gloucester Mass, and would be anchoring in the harbor until Sunday/Monday to avoid tropical storm Philippe coming our way. Then Ryan and Isabel did a weather report, Whis and Cass did a nav report, and Lily Cade and I did our science report. After class we did some practice sail handling while entering the Gloucester Harbor. 

When we anchored everyone was so relieved because we were switched to 2 hour watches instead of our usual 6. As the sun started to come down, Ian, Myles, Emma, Whis, Madi, Sophie, Lily and I embroidered our sweatshirts, and read on the lab roof. Then I changed into my overalls so me and Madi could match and take flicks. We were just hanging out when a big wedding cruise passed us and we had to say hi and a big congrats while they circled us. After this, we had delicious pizza made by Seb, Rachel, and Jackson who was the student steward of the day, it was so good. After dinner, Ryan and I had our two hour anchor watch which was full of anchor checks, boat checks, and practicing all of our lines. Finally, after a lotta laughs, we got through it and now I'm writing my blog. Overall it was a gross and foggy day, but our group made the best of it and we had a blast anyways like usual.

Tallulah '25

Proctor Academy Ocean Classroom 2023

Sunday, 8 October 2023

Noon Position: (Lat and Long):  42DEG 35.7'n X 070DEG 40.1'W
Ship Heading (degrees):  075 deg Ship Speed (knots):  8 knots Log (nm): 276.1nm
Weather /Wind / Sail Plan at 1400:  Winds SSW BF 4, broad reach on starboard tack, Single-reefed mains'l, main and fore stays'ls, foretopsail and raffee
Description of location:  ~10 NE of Gloucester Harbor

It was a busy weekend anchored in Gloucester Harbor as we sheltered from Tropical Storm Philippe.  Since we had already cleared out of the US bound
for Canadian waters, we were not permitted to go ashore.  However, that did not slow us down.  Still plenty to do and learn even at anchor while aboard the Cramer.  We took advantage of our comfortable anchorage to hold the infamous Pin Chase - time when students demonstrate how many of the lines they have learned onboard the ship.  It is a friendly relay race among the Watches, a bit of competition to encourage their learning.  Though I don't recall which Watch found all of the lines first, the true winners are all of us.  It was clear that everyone is learning their lines and that means we can set more sails and the captain can feel confident in leaving them up longer even when the winds pick up.

We also used this time to train students in the proper way to climb aloft in the rigging and to continue our scientific investigations in a unique coastal setting.  Our nets were full of young crab larvae, the seafloor sediments were full of small worms burrowing in the mud (good holding for our anchor!), and our secchi disc went no deeper than 4 meters because of all the productive phytoplankton growing nearshore.  And of course, the entire time the students were keeping Cramer safe with hourly boat checks, weather observations, and making sure our anchor was holding, even when TS Philippe passed by in the middle of the night.
Today, as I write this, the winds have abated, the sun is shining and we are making way toward Nova Scotia once again.

Chief Scientist Jeffrey M. Schell

Check out more photos from Ocean Classroom 2023! 

  • Ocean Classroom
  • Off-Campus Program