As a person who does not have a watch to keep time and who only knows the day of the week based on whether it is Field Day or not (i.e. in my mental calendar, it is either Saturday or some other day of the week that is not Saturday), it is not surprising that I was completely blindsided when I heard that we are entering “phase 3” of our trip tomorrow. The final phase?!
How have we gotten to this point already? As is always the case for these kinds of trips, I feel like I have spent the last few weeks riding that long wave of excitement and newness and an eagerness to do all the things and learn all the stuff- without really taking the time to fully process where I am and what I’m doing. In an effort to slow down for a second, I found some time to sit alone on the charthouse top today with a notebook and reflect upon these last few weeks. Because my distracted mind and racing thoughts often need a wee bit of structure, I decided to categorize my observations and experiences in this chaotic journey that has been 305.
Our good friends bidding us farewell as we head back out to sea!
So here it is: 5 things I have seen, 4 things I have heard, 3 things I have felt, 2 things I have learned, and 1 thing that I know.
5 things I have seen:
1.) Squall lines, dark and ominous in the distant sky:
I have seen the thrilling and humbling sight of an approaching storm, and the way your entire world can shift in an instant, with no sympathy or concern from the forces of nature. I have seen people contemplate the dark clouds, before carefully choosing their course of action (grabbing some soap and shampoo to capitalize off of the free nature shower, grabbing a pair of foulies and battening down the hatches, or - if it is spooky enough- gathering some watch-mates to do some quick sail handling and get the heck out of dodge). I have seen squalls come and go- each one with its own trajectory and personality; each one its own adventure.
2.) A very special community forming between groups of previous strangers:
I often forget that we all came to this boat as various distinct
groups- that is, the professional crew, the original Seamans class, the original Cramer class, and the faculty from shore. I sit in the main salon and see a group of people play cards, or witness a pile of humans sweating a halyard on deck, and I forget who came from where and what specific roll they fill on this boat. I do not see staff and students. I see a crew working together to keep this wonderfully complex ship going. And I find that to be beautiful.
I talk a big game about how inferior land is compared to the
ocean- but boy, oh boy, are these Polynesian islands beautiful. All of a sudden, I see the silhouette of a towering land mass looming on the distant horizon, after weeks of seeing nothing but ocean and sky. I see giant rock spires, horses on a distant beach, and houses tucked within mountains. I think about the people who live in these places, what their lives look like, and how their experiences differ from mine. I think about how lucky I feel to be a visitor in these waters and land and get a glimpse into their
culture- cultures built on the strength of relationships with each other and the sea.
4.) Sunrises and Sunsets, and the awe-stricken faces of those watching it:
Every single morning and every single evening, I watch the show that the sun graciously puts on for us, and I am reminded of how breath-taking our natural world is and how humbling it is to be able to experience it in this way. I watch intently as the painted sky transforms before my eyes, each second emitting a new color and showing a completely different landscape. I see my new favorite color and new favorite cloud every single day. I wonder if it will ever feel common-place or routine to watch the sun set over hundreds of miles of open ocean.. I don’t think it ever will.
5.) The beautifully chaotic process of students learning how to sail a 130-foot Brigantine tall ship in just a few weeks:
Today I saw a group of students double-gybe, then set the tops’l, JT, and fisherman- with relatively no guidance or instruction from staffed crew. I heard them contemplate the trim of the sails, as others coiled down lines or broke away to complete the hourly boat check or weather- all of this happening at the same time, like they’ve been in this routine for years. I see knowledge, collaboration, and hard work. I remind myself that it was only a few weeks ago that we were teaching them how to handle a line and the names of the different sails, and I am overcome with admiration and awe.
4 things I have heard:
1.) “Bunk Sounds”:
I hear the very particular set of noises which create the sweet little symphony that lulls me to sleep every single night (or whenever it is I happen to be getting some shut-eye in my bizarre schedule). I hear the rhythmic “chirp” as the CHIRP collects sonar data on the depth- a sound which I have to remind myself is not, in fact, the sound of little distressed birds stuck in the hull. I hear the turning on and off of my fan as the plug becomes loose from the outlet; which I have learned to respond to by covering my face, as this is a sign that my fan is about to fall. I hear the port hole cover slam shut as we hit an extra large swell (could I lash this? yes, but where’s the thrill in that?). I hear the jingle of harnesses as the current watch standers carry out their hourly boat checks.
I hear my name being gently whispered as I am woken up for my next watch.
2.) Weird boat-isms:
I hear the very niche collection of phrases that are spoken (or shouted), almost without fail, on a daily basis (I will list these without any other context and encourage readers to use their imagination):
“Here we are, sailing under the 4 lowers,” “Dijon/Dij-off,” “Hot coming out!” “Hands to brace sharp!” “What star is that?” “Course ordered and steered?—> followed by “Wouldn’t you like to know, weather person?” “With alacrity!” “Gybe ho!” “Watch below,” “Ooh, ah, science report,” “Every day is valve day”
3.) The sounds of music coming from the quarter deck:
Sometimes- if I am very lucky- I will emerge on deck after staring at the radar and chart plotter, to hear the musical stylings of the resident boat band. I hear the strumming of the guitar, the plucking of the mandolin, the hum of the melodica, and the harmonizing of voices coming from unidentified silhouettes back aft. I hear the sounds made from the people who I am lucky to call shipmates, and I wish I could burn it on a CD and keep it forever.
I hear it everywhere, all the time.
3 things I have felt:
1.) The wind:
Our means of transportation! Our way of life! The entity that dictates how we do anything and everything on this boat. I find myself constantly in tune to what the wind is doing, whether I am aware of it or not. How she shifts, how she builds or dies, how she runs over my head and through my hair (an especially fun feeling now that I’m a bald little bird).
How I can feel her shift behind my ear as we cross the wind in a gybe. How she suddenly cools as a squall approaches or warms as land approaches. I feel her force and her power as she propels us forward under a full set of sails.
Emotionally, socially, physically. The kind of tired you feel when you are surrounded by 38 other people at all times with little time for solitude. The kind of tired you feel after a 6-hour watch filled with setting and striking sails, lots of standing, and lots of thinking. The kind of tired that causes you to fall asleep sitting up in your bunk with your light on. The kind of tired that causes you to pee your pants laughing about nothing in particular. The good kind of tired.
The feeling that I’m creating meaningful relationships with my shipmates and the natural world around me. That I am doing all that I can to help sail this beauty of a boat across the Pacific, surrounded by my shipmates who are doing the same. The feeling that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing.
2 things I have learned:
1.) Ask questions! Always, and to everyone!
This trip has taught me to be curious and to seek answers and solutions. To not be embarrassed by asking what I may view as a “stupid"
question, but rather excited by the opportunity to learn something new. To use the wealth of knowledge and experience that exists within this very diverse community on board. I have learned that no one knows everything, and that is the way it should be! Life would be pretty darn boring if you had all the answers. I suppose I have learned how to learn(!), And the importance of doing it, always.
2.) How to be a better shipmate and crew member:
I am constantly learning how to better take care of the ship, my shipmates, and myself (in that order). I am learning how to tend to needs of the boat (replacing parts of the rigging, patching sails, splicing new tacklines, adding chafe gear where she needs it). I am learning how to best support my shipmates by being observant, empathetic, and patient. I am realizing that my own wellbeing is directly correlated to that of the people around me, and vice versa. I am learning to draw my thoughts away from myself and think about the larger picture. I am learning to be self-reliant when I can, but also dependent on my shipmates when it is necessary. I am learning how to be a better version of myself for the sake of this ship and this community.
1 Thing I know
1.) I’m not the same person I was when I started this trip. Heck, I’m not the same person that I was yesterday. I am changed by every sunset I see, every nautical mile I sail, every conversation I have on the quarterdeck, and every watch that I stand. I am constantly growing as the world around me shifts. And it feels wonderful.
Here’s to a couple more weeks of seeing, hearing, feeling, learning, and knowing!
Bird (Bosun’s Mate)