Day 1 – S/V Denis Sullivan – From Nikki

August 28, 2018

By Nikki C.

Day 1 on the Denis Sullivan
So far the nervous anticipation has given way to impatient anticipation. They said the time on the ship was like an airport, hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait some more. They were right. While we waited we measured and collected data on water quality at the harbor. We met the crew, found coffee, and learned how to use the head, aka the john, the loo, the toilet. It’s a special process to flush that requires pumping a vacuum to create a seal to suck down the waste. Lake Michigan has a policy of not allowing ships to empty out loo waste into the waters so it stays with us in the bowels of the ship to be disposed of safely in port. I miss my bathroom.
The Captain mentioned weather today which meant there would be rain, wind, and a cold front moving in. We are reminded the Denis Sullivan sails in any weather. The part the ship engineer was waiting for arrived and we were on our way in no time. There was more safety and ship etiquette and duties assigned. In case of emergency one can rest assured I will have a fire extinguisher in case of fire, assist in spotting in case of man overboard, and will help gather personal flotation devices in case we abandon ship. You can find me on life raft #3 just in case. Keeping in mind, as a rule, we take care of ship, shipmates, and self. I like the idea of taking care of others first, very communal minded. I miss my family.
Getting to know the crew they told us about the tradition of tattoos to honor their travels. This may have started as ships traveled a few hundred year ago, encountering the Polynesian, and taking on their practice of tattoos. The shell back is for going across the Equator, the anchor for going across the Atlantic Ocean, the dragon for crossing the International Dateline, a band of rope for deckhands, crossed anchors on the web of the hand for boatswain. Respectfully, U.S. Navy crews have their meanings for tattoos in some of these same symbols. To learn more I plan to visit a web page suggested by Katherine the crew member, The crew members have thoughts on new tattoos for crossing all of the five Great Lakes, the honored symbol would that of a Sturgeon. How appropriate, it is also an Ojibwe clan symbol. Additional honors would be that of the Swallow for reaching 5000 nautical miles. The crew is knowledgeable, and funny, quirky, and talented. I was surprised the Captain is a woman and the women crew members equal the men, if you count Huck, the dog. My expectations of what the crew would be like were way off and I was delighted. I miss my pets.
I was given Station # 19 for my aforementioned responsibilities, but also to be present and accounted for throughout the day. We start the count with #1 for the Captain, onto the crew members, #2 through #13 and then us Educators call out our numbers, or yell to be heard is preferred. As Educators we are in collective agreement that this is an effective way to account for students in class and at camp. Last week I counted kids over and over again, but no more! Next year, we get station numbers and we muster maybe on the hour, every day. I miss my home. Noticing the pollution in the port waters, plastic needles, plastic bottles, and Styrofoam, a suggestion was made to bring along dip nets to collect and dispose of the waste, the way we do beach cleanups. We can do our part while we are here learning about the Great Lakes. I miss my coworkers.
Being away from all that is familiar and new to sailing is like having a new pair of eyes, but in some ways things stay the same on water as they do on land. In the last two days we have learned about invasive species, water quality, and the history of the lakes since the 1600’s. The missing part is the history of the tribes and their relationship to the Great Lakes. There is so much more to know about the original inhabitants of these waters and how the tribes manage and protect the waters today through government to government collaborations and treaty rights. For more information, a good place to start is at the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission website: they have much to offer in educational resources. I miss my community.
This trip has so far been extraordinary, there is so much to share, so much more to learn in the next few days and so much to take home and share with staff and teachers. Here’s hoping to see you next time as a new mentor!
Miigwech. Thank you.