November 9, 2022 is a day that I have thought about for many years now. I thought about what bar I would be going to and who would be by my side.
Never did I think of myself having just sailed across the pacific for 37 days and spending the day in Bora Bora. I don't know how in the world I ended up here, but I am ecstatic that I did. My 21st was filled with so much love and laughter surrounded by people who made me feel so special even though they've only known me for a short period of time. It was truly a day I will never forget from the clearness of water, seeing stingrays swim below us, to the free novelty T-shirt I was gifted by a random couple. This boat has taught me so much in the past few weeks and in honor of 21 I wanted to share 21 things I've learned at sea.
- No pilates during sail handling- Doing pilates daily on a boat comes with many challenges. Where to go? How to secure your mat so it won't fly away? The biggest being finding the best time to do it. You can't do any pilates during sail handling, there just not enough room on the high side deck for me to be doing pilates and another watch to be setting the tops'l. I learned this very quickly on the boat. The best time for pilates is during a science deployment.
- Science is hard on a boat- ever look under a microscope while enduring 14-foot swells?
- You can make anything fun- hauling the main halyard? Time for a new chant! Galley clean up? Great opportunity to listen to the new Taylor Swift album! Dumping 3 buckets of slops? Sunset appreciation time! Learning where all 87 lines are? Make it a fun competition with water guns! You can truly make every task fun with the right company (except an engine room check).
- It's very important to know how to tie a good knot.
- Time is really just a societal construct- We don't live on 24 hour days here, we just make up our own. Sometimes you wake up at 1 am, sometimes you wake up at 6 pm. The time doesn't matter. We didn't change time zones until we were at Nuku Hiva, which meant the sun rose at 9 am and set at 9 pm for a while. When we got to Papeete we were still 1 hour off from their time, but we stayed in our own little time zone. The time really means nothing, its either light or dark.
- Travel constipation becomes extreme on a boat.
- You can feel the way the sea moves- When I first got on this boat, I asked my mate what way she thought the swell was coming from because it was so dark, I couldn't tell. She said she felt like it was coming from the Northeast I laughed and thought she was joking. Now 37 days into sailing I can feel the swell. If you close your eyes and stand still you can feel the precise rocking of the boat and it will tell you exactly where the swell comes from.
- If you're having a bad time, you should talk about it- This boat is really fun, sailing around French Polynesia is really fun, most things are really fun. So why wasn't I always happy and having fun? I asked myself this a lot during the middle of the trip when the awe and wonder of sailing had worn down. Everyone seemed as if they were having the time of their life, but I missed my friends. Then I told others how I felt and most of them had very similar feelings at some point along our trip. From then on I realized that it's okay to not be present in every single moment and not think everything on this journey is the most exciting thing I've ever done. It was okay to be sad and it was okay to not be having fun.
- Get out of bed right when you're woken up.
- You can lead others even if you don't know what you're doing- We are the leader of our watches when we are JWO's and most of the time we never know for sure what we are doing, which lines to haul, how to brace the yards, how many turns to put on the helm. We have a pretty good idea, and we talk it through to see what others think. We are confident leaders even if we are not confident in our own knowledge.
- Every decision has a reason- from why we are sailing in the opposite direction towards San Diego, to why that spoon goes in that drawer. Everything in this boat is so thoughtfully planned out.
- It's easy to make a decision- Three good reasons why or three good reasons why not. That's all you need to make the right decision.
- Always ask questions- I find myself constantly asking questions on this boat. Why did the wind die? Why did we just change course? How can we make fruits and vegetables last for 6 weeks? I now know the answer to all these questions because I kept on asking them.
- You can never be sure of anything- we will never know if the sun will rise in the morning or if we will actually get to our destination on time.
- You can solve most of your problems with a good hour on lookout-lookout is a peaceful solitary time I have come to enjoy. It consists of me having solo therapy sessions and thinking out my problems in between song lyrics.
- No slops into wind.
- Lactaid works wonders.
- It's best to worry about what's in front of you- when on a boat you literally cannot control anything outside of what is right in front of you on this boat. It is such a peaceful experience only focusing on your tasks at hand. I have never been less anxious in my life than on this boat.
- It's easy to make strong connections when you're stuck on a boat with the same people for 49 days- I have never made such deep and meaningful connections with people so quickly. There is no better way to get to know people than be stuck with no one else.
- You should never say over and out on the walkie talkie- it's either over or out, never both.
- You can't be afraid to make mistakes or fail- This is the most important thing I have learned on this boat and the thing I truly hope I can translate into my life ashore. I have grown accustomed to trying anything and everything in this boat. When I am unsure to ease or haul a line, I'll try to ease, and see what happens. When I am unsure if we are going fast enough to gybe, I pass over the stays'ls and see if we can make the jibe.
This boat and this community have taught me that it is okay to fail. In fact, it is better to make a decision you think is right and fail, then to make no decision at all. In my pervious life I have lived paralyzed by fears of making the wrong choice, but on a boat that is not an option, you must make decisions in a timely manner because there is lots at stake. I now know that not making a choice will always be the wrong choice and I am no longer constantly afraid of the weight of a wrong decision on my shoulders.
Amidst all the fun in Bora Bora, my birthday was spent making lots of reflections. For me, it was a signal of the trip coming to an end. With only 3 full days left everyone is focusing on relishing each moment and deciding what aspects of their boat selves they want to bring home with them. I hope to bring lots of my boat self into this next year.
- Brighton, B Watch, University of San Diego
P.S. To Shae, Emma, Anna, Madi, Jess, Donovan, and all my best friends in the USD alumni association: I love and miss you all so much and cannot wait for a round 2 of my 21st back in San Diego. It wouldn't be a proper celebration without you guys <3