On this trip, we spend a lot of time in darkness, which naturally has me thinking about light.
At first the darkness made me nervous. I wasn’t used to being up consistently from 0100-0700, so I saw dawn watch as 6 hours to just get through as painlessly as possible. I wasn’t used to using exclusively my night vision or red light, fumbling around for ropes and sails of which I was still learning the names. The first few watches in the dark and days feeling in over my head left me feeling exhilarated, but also anxious.
As I adjusted along with my eyes, I started seeing more and more light in things that had previously seemed dark.
Jumping off the Bowsprit into the Pacific Ocean on swim call
There is light even in dawn watch at 4am. It looks like writing delirious haikus in lab until you’re laughing so hard you can’t breathe. It looks like A Watch doing pushups and squats, trying to keep up with the number of nautical miles the ship has travelled. It looks like not being able to set the Jib because Kris is stuck under the sail (ever so briefly).
There is light even when you’re feeling seasick and claustrophobic during the first few weeks of the trip. It looks like getting air by doing Pilates with Brighton and Katie on the quarter deck. It looks like laying out on the netting under the bowsprit (forward of the bow) with Lexi and Morgan and seeing nothing but blue water in any direction. But most of all, light looks like Meclizine meds.
There is light even on the one day a week we clean the whole ship top to bottom. It looks like taking a break from scrubbing the galley floor on your hands and knees to try fresh grape juice that Jackie made. It looks like ending in hysterics every time you clean the griddle with the rest of A Watch. It looks like 30 people showering en masse by getting sprayed down with the fire hoses in their bathing suits. It looks like Krista saying you can stand lookout in just a bikini and a harness while you dry off.
There is light even at the bottom of your plunge into the Pacific Ocean off the bowsprit during your first swim call. When you swim down as far as you can into the 4000m below you, the light cannot fully penetrate, but you get back to the surface feeling lighter than you ever have.
There are so many things here that are so full of light. Stargazing and convo sessions with A Watch on the nights after afternoon watch. Eating a spoonful of zooplankton with Parker on the day we cross the Equator just because. Watching birds dive for schools of flying fish in front of the most beautiful sunset you’ve even seen. This has been one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m so grateful I came across SEA.
As most of my loved ones at home are starting to feel cold snaps and head towards winter, I am crossing the equator. I’m lucky enough to be sailing South with SEA students and crew I’ve grown to know and love so quickly.
We’ve been chasing summer ever since we got to the Woods Hole campus, and we’ll keep chasing the light all the way to Tahiti. This trip has shown me that you get to decide what light looks like. You get to decide whether you’re in it.
Keep yourself where the light is!!
[Olivia Chiota, A Watch, Hamilton College] P.S. We’re at anchor in Nuku Hiva! We aren’t going to shore, but vaguely seeing other people for the first time in weeks and being able to swim has been so much fun! The island is stunning.
P.P.S. Mom, Dad, Chloe, Grace, Graham, Ethan, Whamlax, and Nova: Thinking of you all, I hope everything is going well at home! I’m having so much fun.
Love you, miss you, can’t wait to tell you all about it!!