SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
Last Minute Lessons
23 Nautical Miles NE of Auckland
Clear, cool, light SW winds, 15°C
Today is our last day of sailing. That sentence has been repeated countless times today, always with disbelief and a little sadness. Our last day at sea, our 41st day on this boat, an end of this chapter. Many of us have been feeling a slight bit of nostalgia, and reflection on all we have learned and how we have grown in these past 41 days. In the spirit of that, I’d like to share the number one thing I’ve learned on this trip: the ocean, and this boat, is constantly moving. Yes, that sounds obvious. And yes, I mean that the boat is rocking back and forth, and cups slide off tables, and bodies roll in bunks, and doors slam in their hinges. Those things were the constant movement that I expected. But it’s way more than that.
This second type of constant motion occurred to me somewhere off the coast of Fiji, after our fifth consecutive tack in under an hour. I was hunched over, sore hands finishing a coil on the jib sheet. I lifted the coil, pulled the line through the loops, and passed it over the top of the pin. Ready to step back and finally take a deep breath. My hands hadn’t yet left the pin when I heard the call, “HANDS TO PASS THE JIB”. Without pausing I lifted the line over the pin, dropped the coil to the deck, and began to take turns off of the pin, immediately undoing everything I had done in the past five minutes. We were tacking once again.
Setting sails feels like making art. It’s a lot of hard work, and when you truly appreciate it, is incredibly beautiful when you’re done. That’s why at the beginning of this experience I found it so frustrating to watch all of our work be undone in seconds, as soon as we heard the call to strike the sails. It was during that sixth tack, watching all my work hauling on the sheet to pass the jib be immediately undone, that I realized the importance of this undoing. In the constantly moving, and unforgiving world of the open ocean, change is necessary. To adapt to the wind we set and strike our sails, to adapt to the current we change our course steered, and to adapt to the rolling our tables are gimbaled. So yes, sometimes striking a sail you set ten minutes before can be extremely frustrating, but it’s necessary to adapt and move forward.
I’ve never been a person who is good at change. Rolling with the punches just isn’t on my list of strengths. I like to plan, and I like when things stick to those plans. But out here in the middle of the Pacific, I’ve felt myself letting go more. Things are going to change, nothing will ever be still. And I’m finding that I’m okay with that. On the horizon is Auckland speeding towards us, and with it, the end of our life at sea. Right now it’s hard to be okay with that particular change, but I feel ready to deal with it, and ready to work with what comes next.
A couple of weeks ago, a mystery crewmember posted some inspirational readings, songs, and poems in random spots around the boat. A piece of the reading posted in the forward head I think sums up my number one lesson I’ve taken away from these past 41 days.
“If only more people were as fortunate as us to have had experienced life from the perspective of the high seas and deck of a sailing vessel. Maybe then we could all develop a certain humble respect for our place in the world and deal with life’s issues in a modest and straightforward way. The same way in which we deal with the safe and successful navigation of a ship on the constantly changing world of the sea.”
– Captain John C. Wigglesworth, January 1989
So now it’s on to Leigh Marine lab, and ten more days with these awesome people. Here’s to getting our land legs back.
Over and out,