Life at Sea: Finding Peace in the Emptiness

Posted on 18 September 2018 @ 3:16pm

Life at Sea: Finding Peace in the Emptiness

The voyage has started. All 60 students, as well as our maritime and academic crew, are ready to face this new adventure aboard the Gulden Leeuw.

For my part, the fear and the excitement often mix up together. As we sailed out of the Netherlands and into the unknown, vast ocean, I was soon captivated by the beauty of this spectacle. Of course, seasickness didn’t allow us at first to fully enjoy the experience, but a few days in, as the ocean got calmer, as the weather got (a little) warmer, that is when we truly realized where we were. Nowhere, and everywhere at the same time. 

The emptiness of being in the middle of the ocean, with people you’ve just barely met, can seem very frightening. In fact, it was common for us to feel a little homesick at times. But the majority of people who have not (yet) experienced Class Afloat couldn’t begin to imagine how we all bonded so quickly. Since the first day, everyone has literally been ‘in the same boat’. And without wifi, we had no choice but to talk to each other, at meals, during class, and during night watch to keep us awake. All those connections we’ve made with each other, and with the crew, I must add, are some of the key elements to making this boat feel more and more like our home. The ocean, little by little, feels a little less lonely and empty with this new family on board. 

Class Afloat, Bowsprit

Going on the bowsprit is one of the popular activities as you can see the whole ocean all around (and even under) you.

            Watching sunsets and sunrises everyday, writing in my journal, seeing dolphins and whales, joking around with the students, listening to music, sharing that music, organizing club activities, it’s not hard to see that our lives are very busy. Quite often we nap on our free time, and our bedtime has moved from 2AM (we really enjoyed socializing these first days…) to 10PM. Lucky for us, we are never out of energy thanks to our amazing cooks who make truly delicious meals. We also encourage each other to do some physical activity, like yoga and working out, which I personally enjoy very much. It can be pretty overwhelming at times, to always have things to do and people to interact with, and yet I enjoy the liveliness that there is on the ship all day long, the ‘good vibes’ as we’d say. 

On Watch, Class Afloat

During our day watches, we have many tasks and responsibilities such as painting the ship or setting sails.

            People here come from different backgrounds and have various interests. We all have our own way of enjoying this experience and dealing with the hard moments. In my case, I found (and still find) comfort in the little things. One thing I personally enjoy is the starry sky at night watch. We weren’t lucky enough to have clear skies on the first few days, but it only saved the best for last. I was amazed at how clearly you could see the stars. With the light sound of waves and the silence of the night, the scenery is truly breathtaking. That moment of serenity contrasts with the constant buzzing around the ship all day, and it is one of the only ‘alone’ time we have. I use this precious time to reflect on myself, on this journey. I think of home, of the future, of the past. I also think a lot about the present, the boat, the incredible people I’ve already met. In those moments, I’m not scared anymore. I feel like whatever may come, we are all in this together.

Written by: Class Afloat student, Elisabeth Renaud