SEA Writing

C-Watch is for Chelsea

Recently, I’ve been thinking more and more about former C-watcher, Chelsea. I found out she’s going through some rough times, and it made me hyper aware of the bonds and friendships we create. Chelsea and I were part of C-watch on the Corwith Cramer, and to say that we went through some incredible (and difficult) experiences together would be an understatement. Everyone on the Cramer formed part of this little family, and your watch mates were like brothers and sisters who you love but sometimes want to throw off the side of the boat, just as well to practice MOB drills.

They’re there at your worst, getting up for Dawn Watch at 3 a.m. as you tried to stumble in the darkness on deck, putting your shoes and harness on. They might even cover for you if you’re nowhere to be found, because it turns out you just fell right back asleep. They’re there when you’re doing Dawn Cleanup, and you’re on your knees cleaning the bathroom, with a squeege, a sponge with several corners missing, and a bucket wondering how did it all go this wrong? Dawn Anything seemed to be rough, except for dawn itself.

But they’re also there during the best of times, kayaking through mangroves in the Dominican Republic, and snorkeling with you through the reefs of several Caribbean islands. Your watch mates are likely to be standing next to you as the sun came up on a new day, and then as it came down, turning the stage over to the moon.

I still remember on a windy night, Chelsea and I were setting a jib or JT. We got it as high as we could by just hauling, then started cranking it up. She was tailing the line, I think, while I cranked. The wind was exerting such pressure on the sail and the lines, the seas were running pretty high, and it was pitch black, that I still remember the sound as I cranked the sail up. The mate of the watch kept telling us the sail needed to go up more and more, but the sound — the line was about to snap. Of course not. But I’ll never forget the feeling of just the two of us against this sail, knowing that if something went wrong, someone could be seriously hurt, and the sound…

Maybe I don’t talk to my watch mates very often or as often as I would like, but I still hold them dear — always will.

A home at sea
07 May 2010

My story began at sea
Sailing along from coast to coast
One day here, one day there
I stared at the wide Caribbean Sea

I may write a story to remember
Of mountains covered in the mist
I take photos trying to preserve
The color, the life, the people

Traveling creates stories full of people
Who you meet along the road
And whom you will remember or forget
Depending on what stories you choose to tell

It can be a story full of regret,
For all the stars I never saw,
For all the nights I wasted deep asleep
For all the sails I never set.

No more Sargasso screams at the rail
Or Boobies to record when in sight
No log to hove back
When the sea quiets down

What I remember from my voyage
Perhaps no story can ever tell
And in my thoughts, I found a home
For all that you could never see

A story always ends
And only memories we get to take
Hoping that the cruelty of age
Will let us keep them in some way

SEA Writing

On Receiving Mail from Bulgaria

I don’t check my mail very often. Very few important correspondence needs to be communicated by regular mail. These days, all I get in the mail are those bulky, useless ad fliers that I neither want or need, and that take up all the space in my small mailbox. As an aside, if you happen to know how to make those fliers stop, do let me know. They’re like the spam of snail mail.

My friend Dilyana from Bulgaria had given me a heads up about something she had mailed, so I have been eagerly checking my mailbox. Finally today, a month later, it got here!

Even as technology makes is possible to chat everyday with people living on the other side of the world, the excitement of receiving a physical object from a distant land hasn’t gotten old — I hope it never does.

Last year, while living at the SEA House in freezing, snowy Woods Hole, Di gave us these red and white bracelets called Martenitzas. They symbolize the end of winter and the beginning of spring, giving the wearer good luck, health and a long life. Martenitzas are traditionally worn from March 1st until the end of March or until you see a blooming tree.  To this blooming tree, you tie your Martenitza.

SEA Travels

Sugar Cane Drinks in St. Marteen

In honor of Travel Tuesday, I’m just digging through some SEA trip portraits and scenes in a second round of edits.


Sailing SEA Travels

A little sailing video

During the transit from Key West to Charleston we were booking it with Force 6 winds and 7-8 foot seas. Here’s a little snippet. I’m now regretting not doing more video. Oh well.

Sailing on the Cramer from patricia lapadula on Vimeo.

I have started a running list of things to do and people to call/email to catch up with. For now I’m focusing on the web projects that I had to put on pause before the trip. Then I’m figuring out some job options on the horizon. Thanks to everyone who has given me leads on things happening at their papers.


Photo by Jeff Schell.

Here I am at the helm while going through the Haiti/Isle de Tortue passage. It would be cool to have a little get together in PHX when I get back. I could hook up the computer to a big screen TV and have a little viewing party with all my peeps there. It’d be a swell way to see everyone and share photos and tales of the high seas.

It’s good to be back, but I don’t know. I miss Cramer and my shipmates. Before we went to sea, we were warned that it usually takes some adjustment coming back to land. I thought that was baloney. Now though, I realize how true that statement turned out to be. Through all the good and bad, that was our world, and to not be in it… Well, it’s weird. The things that mattered, the boat checks, the wake-ups, the bells, are meaningless on land. I guess it’ll just take some time to figure out once again what are the things that matter.


On the course yard. Photo by Maggie Welch.

SEA Travels

Back to reality. Sort of.



SEA Travels

Above despair, kindness

This is a story about the people you meet when you travel. Their faces etched in photographs vainly attempting to capture one moment forever. A desperate attempt to hold on to people and places that you will likely never see again. They are fleeting moments and encounters — a glimpse when all is set and done.

When we travel, we run into memories that we hope to remember when we’re old and done with life. We hope to remember the people who were kind to us, who loved us despite not knowing why they shouldn’t.

Amidst the poverty, I have seen no despair. I’m afraid to lose the stories about the people I have met. I’m afraid to forget the faces, the words.

Mrs. Margaret was an older lady who worked at the Whim Plantation. Her hair was tightly wrapped in a tall, white scarf. The scalding heat of midday prompted me to walk inside the plantation house after a tour and ask if there was anywhere I could get water — maybe there was a water fountain inside. Free water, because I have been spoiled by first-world conveniences, I suppose.

SEA Travels Uncategorized

More photos from sea


Photo taken by Jeff Schell (above). That’s me trying to, by the looks of it, ease the tops’l brace in the middle of a squall. Don’t that sound fancy?

SEA Travels

Desde Republica Dominicana

Mother Cramer. She speaks to you!

Hello there, still alive and having breakfast in Samana, Dominican Republic.

I’ve been living in another world. Seriously. It´s hard to explain how different life on board a moving ship can be. The rules are all different, from how you eat, to how you speak (it´s another language), to how you sleep, walk, shower, everything is done differently. And it’s easy to constantly feel like a total idiot.

But as you stumble on deck for night watch, and you look up at the starry sky. A sky so full of stars, that you cannot help but to stop for several minutes and wonder how you ever lived without experiencing it.

And then you have bow watch, which is an hour of standing at the very forward part of the boat, by yourself, communing with the wind and maybe God if you choose.

Those are the quiet moments in between taking down sails, often in the middle of the night, with nothing but a net separating you and the deep, black ocean.

SEA Travels

Exploring San Juan

We did a lot today.

We started the day well by hitching a ride with a lovely family of tourists who let us share their cab for free. Then we spent the whole day visiting several forts, such as San Cristobal and El Morro. Since the SEA program is called “Documenting Change in the Caribbean” we have been talking a lot about this region, and it was great to finally put things into perspective by actually being here. San Juan is just full of historical places dating back to the Spanish colonization, and to hear the tour guide mention things we’ve been discussing in class was a slightly fulfilling moment.



We did a lot of walking around Old San Juan. Just gorgeous.



We also saw a lady get run over, although she seemed fine, and were overall tourists. Jamaica Kincaid would be ashamed. But I’m happy to report that we did stay and ate at local places. Well, except when Di and I crashed the Marriott’s pool. Good times.



SEA Travels

Puerto Rico

Landed in Puerto Rico today. Beautiful places and beaches. It’s a stark contrast to the rainy, New England weather of the past six weeks. Tomorrow, hopefully visiting El Morro (not sure that’s how to spell it) and then Old San Juan, capped with sunset at the beach (our little local hotel is right by the Condado Beach).


Sarah Dixon giving us her best Top Model look. Tyra would be so proud.