Life on the Ship: Lake Superior Shipboard Science, Friday August 9, 2019

August 11, 2019

****Due to strong winds and lack of internet this post was delayed until today…

“All hands on deck” the captain shouted at 4 a.m. to bring all crew up to raise the anchor and head out to the main body of Lake Superior.  Being on this S/V Denis Sullivan tall ship and experiencing the ship life and how the operation of the boat takes the  entire team and clear/plentiful to make it run smooth has been a wonderful experience.  We would like to share a little bit about ship life and what a “typical day” might look like.  After the anchor was hauled up the sails were raised as we headed out hoping to catch a wind in our favor.   Raising the sails took the entire crew as we grabbed ropes and shouted commands to raised the nine sails on the boat.  Unfortunately, as we turned the corner and were greeted with a strong head wind (20-25 knots) and 3-5 ft. waves. It was a full day of sailing in spraying seas, strong winds, and a rocking boat. Being part of the crew means we help with all ship tasks in all weather conditions, so even though it was a rocky day, all of us still performed our duties as necessary. One of the crew tasks includes being at the helm, which means as the crew we are steering the boat! When our wonderful friend Kelly went to steer she accidentally turned too hard and took us in a full circle. A lot of us were confused for a few moments, and even more of us didn’t even notice what happened. But Kelly can wear a proud smile now as she is the only one of us, who is not a part of the formal crew, that can say she has sailed in every direction! So good job Kelly! Some of the other tasks we get to participate in as being part of the crew includes being on watch. Our watch shifts are 5 hours long, and during that time we take turns standing at the bow (watching for other boats/objects, being the helmsman (driving the boat), and boat checks along with other routine chores. A boat check includes checking on how the engines are running, as well as checking all of the bilges (places to hold water) on the ship to make sure the ship isn’t flooding and is running smoothly. Boat checks happen every hour to ensure the Sullivan is running how she should be. We also do tasks such as cleaning the heads (toilets) and the decks, and the galley’s. There is always work to be done on the ship to keep her running in tip top shape. Speaking of the toilets the picture speaks for itself and of course no toilet paper can be put in the head (in the trash it goes!)

In addition to the general workings on the ship we also get to participate in educational activities and programming. Some of what we learned yesterday was how to navigate and mark where we are and where we are going using paper maps. A lot of us had no idea that these skills were used as frequently as they are today. Our ship captain and mates are extremely proficient at tracking our progress using paper maps and rulers and compasses. They have to be in case the technology ever gives out. Our first mate Katherine said that in the past they’ve been hit by lightning, which fried all of there electronics, but luckily they were still able to navigate due to their diligence at manually tracking their position.

We also got to learn about invasive species from a tribal and larger organization (Sea Grant) perspective. Kelsey, the invasive species coordinator from Fond du Lac, emphasized that invasive species are only viewed as such if it is documented having detrimental impacts to an area, whereas the state follows a very textbook definition of invasive species, where they are all treated the same. Management at Fond du Lac revolves around using invasive species to the best of our ability, and managing them in a good way to only be when they are causing harm to the environment or significant species in some way. Invasive species management for Fond du Lac focuses on using traditional ecological knowledge to be our best stewards of the community we all share and are trying to protect. We also heard from an elder at Fond du Lac, Bob, who shared some stories about a variety of things including how people receive their names and the naming of places.

Throughout this experience thoughts of how people use to navigate and travel the Lakes were often on our mind.  Whether It was people that use canoes, sailboats or the mighty lake freighter the relationship and respect for the Lakes is quite evident.  As people have traveled the Great Lakes, which truly are more of an inland sea, not all have made it with over 6,000 wrecks throughout that remnants of can still be found.   The Lakes have been witness to all that have traveled across them and those that call it home.  To be part of this experience has helped foster an appreciation of those travels across the lakes and the relationships with the lake.

Kelsey and Dave