Deceased , Modern

Corwith

Cramer Jr.

Cory

19271983

Corwith “Cory” Cramer was a lifelong educator, sailor, and yachtsman, best known for founding the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
His father worked as a yacht broker and the family lived aboard a sailing yacht that cruised up and down the East Coast. As a youngster, Cramer was educated on the family yacht by his mother during the Depression, and he spent his adolescent years sailing and learning about the sea — navigation, seamanship, and sailing small boats on harbors and bays between the West Indies and Nova Scotia.
After graduating Yale University in 1949, he embarked on his first deep sea sailing voyage from Jamaica where he joined the internationally known Englishman, Bobby Somerset, on the 45-foot cutter Iolaire, and sailed her to Europe. Cory sailed on Myth of Malham, which won the Fastnet Race in 1949. He sailed as navigator onboard Woods Hole Oceanographic’s Atlantis, one of the last working U.S. sailing research vessels which was conducting early research on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
In short order, he earned a commission in the U.S. Coast Guard and spent sea time on board several USCG vessels. He retired from the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
After the Coast Guard and a three month voyage sailing in and around the Bahamian Islands on board his sloop Sahara, Cramer returned to school and earned a Master’s degree in Maritime History at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1956, he served as navigator aboard Carleton Mitchell’s famous yawl Finisterre in what would be the first of three consecutive victories in the Newport to Bermuda Race, winning the Mixter Trophy for Navigator of the Winning Yacht in the process.
His sailing career notwithstanding, it is the founding of the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole for which Cramer is best known, (see www.sea.edu.) While teaching ashore, he was inspired by two other sailors who had taken students to sea on sailing ships – Warwick Tompkins, who sailed a vessel called Wander Bird in the 1920s and ’30s, and Irving Johnson, who had served as mate with Tompkins, and subsequently undertook similar deep sea sailing ventures in the famous brigantine Yankee.
With years of experience as a teacher, educational administrator, and seaman under his belt, and having developed an extensive network of friends and acquaintances in the offshore sailing and yachting world, Cramer and his friend Edward “Sandy” MacArthur organized the American Sailing Education Association in 1971 in Lake Forest, Illinois.
After moving to Woods Hole in 1975, SEA began attracting faculty members from the greater sailing and scientific community who would teach on shore and then go to sea with their students in Westward. With equal teaching time ashore and at sea, SEA Semester offered a more balanced and desirable employment situation than the earlier, entirely seagoing program. Today, SEA’s reach includes 41 affiliates and over 200 sending institutions from colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad, all of which grant academic credit for the several deep sea sailing programs offered by SEA.
Starting with the first group of students in 1971, Cramer’s SEA has over 7,500 alumni who are active in a wide range of careers from professional oceanographers to career diplomats to environmental scientists to lawyers and teachers. A number of them have become professional mariners holding licenses as mates and masters with sail endorsements. All of them have taken away a deep appreciation for the oceans, their impact on human life, and the impact human life has on the oceans.
Cramer died of cancer in 1983. The legacy he leaves behind in Woods Hole, at sea on Westward, Corwith Cramer, and Robert C. Seamans; in the hearts of and minds of over 7,600 alumni from the decks of those vessels; and in the sail training of thousands more on the decks of other deep sea sailing vessels flagged in the U.S. and many other flag states combine to make him a worthy candidate for induction into the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

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