A Truth About Sailing

Posted on May 17, 2019 by Class Afloat Student Rosalie A.

Over the span of these last 8 months at sea, I have come across an observation that I cannot shake anymore; if you aren’t at the right place at the right time – when it comes to sailing, you become somewhat expandable. It is not always the greatest feeling. Here is what I mean by expandable; you feel useless and replaceable.

I put emphasis on the word “feel”, because of course, no one here will actually be replaced, especially if they simply stand idle by. But the reason why this feeling seems to bother me so much (I cannot speak on behalf of all my shipmates, however, after discussing this with some friends, most seemed to agree and relate to my description) is that during “All-Hands” call, sailing manoeuvres aren’t just part of Watch anymore, it becomes a social activity between all of us. Maritime crew, Teacher crew, Student crew: for the most part, everyone shows up. The dynamics are changed: you pull lines with people you don’t usually get to sail with, as we retain the same watch groups. And when all of us are together, that is when I find the silliest stuff and the most fun happens. I love moments when the entire boat seems to be having a good time. There is no better example of teamwork than when it comes to sailing, if you ask me.

The fact remains: not everyone gets to participate. Here is an example. Your watch is sent down to raise a jib. You start flaking the downhaul line, make it off and up the sail goes. When you turn around to help on the halyard, there is absolutely no space for you to jump on. In fact, there are so many people on the line that it isn’t even efficiently going up. There is more than enough hands on the sheets and it most likely doesn’t need a preventer. All that is left to do is to stand idle and watch. You might as well go back up to the Bridge deck or start coiling.

Alright, maybe you aren’t completely useless then, but here is another example. On March 1st, we had an all hands call. At first we thought it was an April fools joke, but it wasn’t. It was our snow day, so I only had flip flops and a blanket on: not the best for sailing. By the time I made it to the bridge deck, people were running with the halyards of the Main, towards the aft of the ship, raising the sail in a surprisingly fast and effective way. It looked like so much fun. But knowing that the bridge was already over capacity, I stayed back. No need for me to be up there. So I went to the foredeck. There were already plenty of students putting on harnesses, but for some reason, I was the third one on the bowsprit. I guess I didn’t want to just stand around again.

Bear with me on this one, as I pretend to know what I am talking about and theorize as to what could explain my dislike of being idle. So, why is it so important to me, or to anyone else really, to be a part of the action, to be one with the team? Perhaps it is this comfortable sense of family, of a pack that we have made for ourselves on board of the Gulden Leeuw. We strive to be a part of a community to avoid the inevitable loneliness that comes with the open ocean and long periods of loss of contacts with our outside worlds. Those worlds become one: life on the boat, and most importantly, the people on it. So yes, when everyone is having fun, it is understandable that we would want to be a part of it, it becomes important.

Following this idea of importance, what if being part of something that matters makes us feel important? Or maybe it is as simple as the team aspect of the all hands call, the air charged full of camaraderie, the excited shouting of “2-6!!” and whatever else some clown on the line can comes up to yell. It’s so much fun when we all work together. I can’t stress that enough.

Sometimes, I think that the things we do are done to be remembered, to feel like we matter. This doesn’t automatically mean we are searching for validation, and I certainly do not want to put everyone in this box, but if you are like me, watching from the sidelines, not being a part of the action, is just something I don’t like. It grinds my teeth. Greenhand Nick told me the other day “You can be a part of this experience or you can watch it happen”, and God forbid I watch this slip away.