After the Adventure
Jackie O’Malley, Steward-in-Training
Ship Sail Plan
Partly Cloudy, 27°C, F2 E Winds
Francis Bay, St. John
As one of the stewards on board, I roll out of my bunk around 04:30 every other morning to make breakfast for the ship’s company. For a quiet and sleepy hour or so, I am just about the only person awake below deck, and this time alone in the galley inevitably fosters some good contemplation. As I remove the butcher paper from each carefully packed plum, I can’t help but notice the similarity to unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. When we anchored in Francis Bay I was surprised to notice holiday lights adorning the hills in the distance. I find it hard to fathom that back home my family and friends are experiencing snowfall, warm cocoa, and cozy sweaters. Being at sea makes it easy to forget what’s going on in the rest of the world, and the stark difference in climate has made my land life feel even farther away.
Just four weeks ago we were at the dock preparing to get underway, autumn leaves and the smell of crisp fall air still fresh in our memories. We have since snorkeled at many a reef, felt the full force of the Christmas winds, and eaten our way through the majority of a once full freezer. In a few short days, students will disembark the Corwith Cramer to head back to their home ports and spend the holidays with their loved ones. As an SEA alum myself, I can tell you that the transition back to “normal” life is not always an easy one. To the family and friends of students on board, I ask that you listen with an open mind and an open heart as your loved one tries to execute the impossible task of conveying the experience of being at sea.
Even after a number of trips with SEA, I myself still find it difficult to explain to my friends and family what it’s really like to live and work on a sailboat out in the open ocean. As such, I am assigning a brief homework assignment to the friends and family of C-301. Shared with me by a former shipmate, “After the Adventure” by Morgan Hite captures what many of us feel when we return home from sea. I urge you to read the piece in full, but here is a short excerpt:
After the adventure I am expected to go home.
I arrive there, carefully carrying the thick, tattered web of bonds I had with my fellows, torn apart and divided up too hurriedly at the parting. All their ghosts are still with me, as they will be for days, and the lot of us barely fit through the door together. My family and friends look somehow wrong, as if they are being played by actors. I go to sit down, but old chairs do not feel the same with all my new parts, new muscles. I greet my old lover and silently wonder, alone, if this is the correct universe.
–Morgan Hite, “After the Adventure”
Hite then goes on to describe the difficulty of depicting an adventure to one’s family, the pain of leaving friends (in our case, shipmates) behind, and the challenge of trying to make sense of an experience that feels so disconnected from “the real world.” He ultimately concludes that the only way to forge ahead is to remember the adventure by writing about it, sharing it with others, and embracing the ways in which it has changed him. He writes, “I enrich this place with the distilled essence of that place, drop by drop. The passage of time can work for me or against me: I must not drop the ball, and I must keep my name, so painstakingly discovered.” C-301, I urge you to take this experience and all it has taught you back home and keep sharing it, even when it feels like no one understands. Hold on to that tattered web of bonds and use it to weave your story. As Hite writes, “We must hold on to our dreamings, all of us, now that we have earned the right to dream.”
P.S. Sending love to my wonderful family. I am endlessly grateful for your support of my adventures, especially when they prevent me from being home for Christmas.
Also, hello and happy holidays to my C-300 friends who wrapped those plums (and so much more) in St. Croix. Thanks to you, they (and I) have made it to the end of this voyage in remarkably good shape.
Jackie O’Malley, Steward-in-Training
Contact: Douglas Karlson, Director of Communications, 508-444-1918 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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