Day 3 on the Denis Sullivan: Michele’s View (August 14, 2016)

August 14, 2016

Michele on watch.

Life on the Dennis Sullivan seems to be about rhythms.

Under sail, there are the rhythmic sounds of strained ropes creaking on wood and sails flapping in the wind. When motoring, there is the constant hum of the twin diesel engines vibrating through the entire ship. Always, there is the rhythmic breaking of the hull through the water. In gentle winds and small waves, rapid taps are quiet and calming, but as the winds and waves grow, the rhythm slows and becomes louder and stronger, pushing the ship up and down or side to side. This is either fun or sickening, depending on who you are and when and what you have eaten last. I find it fun.

Then there is the grinding rhythm of the watch duty that we really become familiar with on day two. I must admit I am not prepared for the 5 hours on – 10 hours off round-the-clock watch cycle on the tall ship. The dozen educators on board were divided into three watch groups, A, B, and C, yesterday. My team, A Watch, is already on duty when the clock strikes midnight Sunday morning, learning the rhythms of climbing into and peering into deck holes to check bilge water levels; checking and recording engine and electrical system gages; noting weather, waves, and navigational progress in the log each hour; as well as standing forward watches and manning the helm. My team repeats these cycles in the waves and rain until 3 am when we are relieved by B Watch. Wet and tired, we hit the rack of bunks we’ve been assigned just off the galley.

I sleep through breakfast as the rain subsides and take a satisfying deck shower under clear skies with my A Watch buddies when I do get up. I catch up with everyone else just before lunch and hear about missing out on the great scenery of passing through the Manitou Narrows this morning. After lunch, my team is on watch duty again, but after the first 45 minutes, we are excused to muster for the Vessel Report to find all is going well, except that we are using too much water, so we need to reduce that.

The teacher programming this afternoon is engaging and excuses us from part of our afternoon watch. Tori tells us about the Atlanta shipwreck, which burned off the coast of Cedar Grove, WI, in 1906 and now sits in less than 20 feet of water. She shows us pictures of her dives on the wreck. We educators spend much of the afternoon going through an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) lesson that Cindy and Lynn do with their middle school students to teach engineering design principles. It is fun to creatively brainstorm, build working ROV models, and test them in a pool on the deck. It is valuable to chat with other teachers about how these lessons can be adapted and improved for use in our various classroom settings. Finally, Janet shares some Ojibwe stories of constellation myths. This is a fitting transition for the end of our educator time, since she shares the oral traditions about the rhythms of the seasons. For example, what western culture views as Orion, the Ojibwe view as the Winter Maker.

After Janet completes her talk, the rest of A Watch and I return to duty to finish the boat checks while everyone else has supper. Then we are released from watch, eat a delicious chicken enchilada casserole, clean the dishes and the galley, rub down all the galley wood with lemon oil, and head to bed, sweaty and tired. I’m in the rhythm. Our next watch starts at 3 am, and it is forecast to be clear. I’ll be on deck to see the Winter Maker rise.