The Day the World Tilted- by Andrea Martinez.

Jul 21 2013

Editor’s Note: Andy joined us last week for our Freshwater Research and Scientific Communications course. In the rush of the final days of the course, she didn’t have a chance to complete her blog in time to be published during her sail. However, I thought she wrote so beautifully about her experience that I would add it to our One Water Story now, so that you can see through her eyes what life on Sea Dragon is truly about.

Blogger of the Day-Andrea Martinez-Electrical Engineering Student, SUNY Buffalo University.

Sea Dragon-finally in her element!

Sea Dragon-finally in her element!

My name is Andrea Martinez (Andy for short) and this is the day the world tilted.

I am a student at the University at Buffalo, a SUNY school, and am going into my fourth year as an Electrical Engineering student.  I currently play rugby and do research into transient effects on the lifetime properties of electrical systems.  Seems pretty distant from plastics in the great lakes, right?  Wrong.  It doesn’t matter who you are, this matters to you and you should be doing all you can to help.  Plastics in the water, as I’ve been fortunate enough to learn about on this journey, affect the fish, which upwards of 75% of people eat, the water, which we all drink, birds and more.

I came on this trip to experience something different from my normal day to day activities and my world and views on it have been shifted thanks to the brilliant minds and leaders I have the pleasure of sailing with.

Life on a boat is different than land in more ways than I initially imagined.  There is no place to buy food on the water so every meal has to be planned in advance, this seems obvious and it is, but I’m not used to knowing every meal a week in advance.  Most nights I debate what I’ll eat for dinner until I actually start cooking.  I expected the close quarters and I was used to that as the oldest of five children, seven in total, in my household.  The boat sways, even when anchored, but that took less than a day to get used to.

The biggest thing for me is the fact that there isn’t a lot of space on the boat.  It’s 72 ft long, bow to stern and maybe 15 feet at the widest point.  I’m an athlete; I was the MVP of my high school track team three years running and went to California this year with my rugby team where we placed fourth in the country.  I like to run and jump and play so it took about a day for me to go stir crazy.  Thankfully, Asta’s sister Kerstin Mail came up with a workout that can be done, and swimming against a current can be more than enough.

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Teamwork is necessary to bring the sail up well!

So what was different about today?  Today was the day the sail went up.

My day started at 4 in the morning with Anchor Watch.  Much like the night before I spent half the time looking for Orion or the Big Dipper or any other constellation I could find in the dark sky.  Coming from New York City, a dark sky like this was a dream for stargazing.

Around 5:10, the blue-black sky turned shades of pink in the east.  I sat, mesmerized, and watched.  I had seen sunsets and sunrises before, but watching it peek out from behind the trees and light the sky and water on a gently rocking boat was amazing.  I could hear the birds waking up and the fish breaking the surface of the water, which just smelled fresh.  There was also a gentle breeze.

It was the kind of perfection that would be written in a novel.

Shortly after the sun rose, the captain and first mate, Eric and Shanley respectively, did.  It was around 6 when I pulled up the anchor, big mess of seaweed that was, and we set off.  My shift started at six so I stayed on deck until breakfast at 7:30 and after that those of us on deck were grinding and giving slack and yanking on ropes on different parts of the ship.  Below, others were making sure everything was properly secured for whatever lay ahead.  We learned about the keel on day two, a large metal fin that was bottom heavy and prevented the boat from flipping over even if it was sideways; I thought it was just an “in case” safety measure.

Andy grinding the winch with Dr. Bill Edwards assisting in the first sail raise of the trip!

Andy grinding the winch with Dr. Bill Edwards assisting in the first sail raise of the trip!

After lots of hard work an excellent teamwork the sail was up and catching wind.  With the motor Sea Dragon reached up to 8 knots, but Shayne tilted the wheel into a beam reach and with a whoosh of air we were over 9.5 knots.  This was the moment the world changed.  The boat sped up as the wind’s angle inched towards optimal.  The boat also tilted.  The port side began to skim the water as the starboard side lifted higher into the air.  “9.7!”

We all cheered as we grabbed onto things and rearranged footing.  The wind was strong and prefect for cooling down the hot day.  Sea Dragon flew across the water’s surface as we raced towards Toronto.  Under better conditions and a more experienced crew I’ve heard Sea Dragon reached 14.2 knots, but for our first time, scaling 9 was pretty good.  Now what goes up must come down, whether it a rugby ball or a park swing or a boat.

When sailing upwind the ships sails close hull, which has the boat moving in smallest angle from the wind direction possible; this creates a jagged path.  Tacking and gybing, changing which side of the boat is closest to the wind, is how the boat travels upwind.  I didn’t get to see one until after my 1-5pm nap.

In this turn, the jib sail switches from the windward to leeward side and the boat turns so that the leeward side becomes the windward side.  The boat itself evens out before tipping in the other direction.  Depending on the type, tack or gybe, the flattening out is as the boat goes up or downwind respectively.  I’m thankful everything was tied down!

This is Andy on Sea Dragon.  Out.

Andy takes the helm-she's a natural!

Andy takes the helm-she's a natural!