I roused myself from bed at the usual time, but last Thursday did not follow my normal routine. When you know you're going to be sailing on a 133ft long, 96 year old historic schooner, you wake up smiling.
I signed up to be relief crew for a Sound Exploration trip aboard the Schooner Adventuress a few months ago. Sound Explorations are the extended versions of Sound Studies, both of which are "designed to spark the imagination and foster an interest in science, leadership and the environment."The big difference between them is that Sound Studies are three to five hours, whereas Sound Explorations are two to seven days.
Seattle's traffic was surprisingly knotted that Thursday morning, which delayed my arrival to Bainbridge Island to sometime around nine. I was still there well before the participants. The Adventuress was moored on City Dock at the Waterfront Park which is where we first met the kids from West Sound Academy.
West Sound Academy is in Paulsbo, which is directly north of Bainbridge. The school is a private preparatory middle and high school, and its students are fantastic. That morning, as we prepared the ship, their burgeoning sixth grade excitement carried across the water from an Adventuress boat-length away. It was infectious.
That's how it always is: the participants are always excited for a new experience, and we're always excited to facilitate it. The excitement builds off of one another, and the atmosphere becomes electrified through our collective effervescence. A wise man once described it as "some kind of hypnotism."
However, this energy is put on hold while we go over safety. Safety and shipboard orientation is a priority. We must go over the essentials: how to don a life jacket, where to muster in an emergency, life rings, etc. But also the personal essentials: where to stow your things, how to use the bathroom, and assigning watch-groups for the remainder of the trip. It is only after what must seem to them a vicious prolonging of their excitement, that we turn them loose upon the halyards.
Then the proverbial bottle is popped and their energy rages forth. Usually the mainsail goes up easily as a result. It's amazing what adrenaline can do for sixth graders.
The rest of the trip was indescribable, though it is my charge to try an describe it. I was a Co-Watch Leader with Aubrey, one of the saltiest, friendliest, cutest people the world has ever seen. We had three stellar-girls in our group. They were highly energetic and very smart.
On that trip, we had amazing wind and beautiful sun. We saw porpoises and sea lions. We laughed and got to know each other better. My favorite thing about being on board is watching the participants grow comfortable with the ship and its atmosphere.
It takes some adjusting: Not showering for three days, washing your dishes by hand, singing chanteys and hauling up sails! It can be overwhelming and bewildering. But they almost always come around.
What I've whittled it down to is awareness; Not only do participants become more aware of their immediate surroundings, i.e. they bump their heads less on the overheads, the don't stub their toes on the cleats, etc, but they become more aware of their environment: They pause to listen as the sea lions slap their flippers upon the water, or their heads snap around when they hear the spout of a porpoise.
With that awareness comes respect, admiration, and passion. I can speak only for myself, but that passion is what I strive to achieve, and I think many of the crew feel similarly. Through our shipboard education, we hope to foster that awareness; we want them to be so inspired that they take their admiration back home. We don't expect people to leave the ship experts on the environment, or in sailing, but we hope to plant that seed of passion so that even after they've left the ship, they'll continue to nurture it into a powerful force in their life.