With overcast skies, the term “Dawn Watch” may give the wrong impression. There was no sunrise, no brilliant colors – just a slow fade from dark night to dull gray. Even so, waking just before 3 am was more than worth it when I was given the chance to steer the 134-foot Corwith Cramer through the Cape Cod Canal under the arch of the Bourne Bridge and into Hog Island Channel.
From June 27-30, I participated in a colleague cruise with Sea Education Association (SEA). Twenty-two faculty and staff from schools around the northeast sailed with staff from Woods Hole to learn about SEA programs and to experience some of the activities first hand. I was assigned to B Watch with six other colleagues, and we were ably led by Dan, 2nd Mate, Middlebury ’05; Chrissy, 1st Scientist, Cornell ’10; and Anna, who will be a senior at Hampshire College this fall. Through near-constant overcast skies with fog and drizzle, we sailed around Buzzards and Cape Cod Bay and learned to set and strike sails, deploy ocean-science instrumentation, conduct hourly boat checks, and take the helm.
We were quickly integrated into the life and rhythms of the ship. Though we were on board for just 72 hours, the close quarters brought home the interconnectedness of the thirty-seven of us and our activities. Living in the isolated volume of the boat necessitated sustainability in terms of both resources and relationships. A strong conservation ethic influenced the consumption of food, fuel, and water (e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navy_shower), and equally important were respect, responsibility, and cooperation. The environment of the boat seems like a great one in which to learn not only about oceanography, climate, marine biology, and sustainability, but also about how to carry oneself in the world. Everyone worked together to make scientific measurements, maneuver the boat, and keep the ship clean and safe. It seemed only appropriate that the headline of the Daily Hampshire Gazette on the day of my return indicated that the world’s top employers are seeking graduates who can think fast and work in teams (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/firms-seek-grads-who-can-think-fast-work-teams).
My brief experience with SEA has inspired me to think about how CEEDS programs can foster a similar sense of interdependence and the importance of teamwork and adaptive problem solving. For Smith students looking to study abroad, the SEA programs seem like a particularly good match for majors and minors in environmental science and policy and marine science and policy. The SEA website (www.sea.edu) is a good resource for information about their voyages, research, and summer and semester programs.