Nothing like the Bowsprit

Posted on April 6, 2019 by Class Afloat student, Emma W.

Class Afloat provides students with various opportunities and tools to experience the ocean first-hand and as up close and personal as possible. Climbing aloft and venturing out into the bowsprit to work with sails and to do maintenance, as well as relaxing during our free time are some of the amazing ways we get to experience the wonders of the ocean.

Although somewhat daunting at first, many students love the feeling of being suspended above the water or standing 40m above deck looking out at the never-ending blue. Some of our crew prefer being up aloft, but for others, the bowsprit is the perfect spot.

The Gulden Leeuw student crew
The Gulden Leeuw student crew up on the foxhole and the bowsprit, enjoying a calm day in the Mediterranean Sea.

The bowsprit is the forward most appendage of the Gulden Leeuw, very noticeable when admiring our Dutch home. It is where the three jib sails lay on the j’boom — the large metal rod that protrudes from the bow of the ship. It is surrounded by netting which allows the student and maritime crew to work with the three head sails. In addition, it provides a comfortable place to lay and stare at the infinite beauty that continuously surrounds us, something that many students enjoy during their spare time.

Afraid of heights? That’s not an issue! Climbing and working aloft is not a must on Class Afloat; no one is ever forced to go. The bowsprit is an awesome alternative for those who want to see more of the ocean while remaining level with the deck. There’s a certain rush as you drop down with the swells and feel the mist lightly brush over your skin as you do so. The sensation of being weightless as the ocean carries you to your next spectacular destination is something that everyone should experience. The undulating motion of the ocean rocking you back and forth is a calming movement that lulls you to sleep as the warm sun basks over you.

The bowsprit is the perfect place for lovers of marine life, whether you’re out there for watch or for your own pleasure; the sights are something to behold. The first time I ever went out on the bowsprit we saw a pod of dolphins as soon as we stepped into the netting. We watched the pod of common dolphins play in the wake of the bow for over two hours! It was an unreal and stunning experience that not very many people get the chance to encounter. They are truly majestic creatures whose ability to move effortlessly through the sea is simply an unbelievable sight.

Doplins and bowsprit
A pod of common dolphins off the coast of northern France in the English channel. We had a great view from the bowsprit as they spent two hours playing with the propulsion of the bow.

Class Afloat provides their students with opportunities and resources to experience marine life in a very personal way simply by living aboard the Gulden Leeuw. It also presents us with the tools we need to explore our interests in the ocean by offering an oceanography course for high school students alongside a marine biology course for university students. By allowing us to venture out into the bowsprit during our free time or during these class times, Class Afloat students have a unique, hands-on opportunity to observe what others may ever only see via documentaries. The ability to admire the ocean which we are proud to call our home every moment of everyday is heightened when taking the time to venture out into the netting of the bowsprit.

Taking the time out of one’s day to sprawl out in the bowsprit is one hundred percent worth it. It is a relaxing place where you can be alone with your thoughts or chatting with your friends as your reality drifts away and melds with the endless ocean. The day before arriving in the Dominican Republic, myself along with a few other students hurried out to watch the sunset behind a Caribbean island whose name we did not know. Sitting with those who share such deep admiration in the serenity of such quiet moments reminds you of what truly matters in life, a deep sense of connection through these beautiful experiences. Every day, I look forward to the next moment.