The Wonders of Watch

Posted on May 17, 2019 by Class Afloat Student Holly B.

Living on a tall ship while studying is something that many cannot imagine, let alone are able to share as their story for a year. This is something that I am immensely grateful for. I always enjoy port time: eating way too much food, meeting amazing people, and seeing beautiful sights but being at sea is where I prefer to be. No matter how far flung the port is, it is the very next crossing that I crave the most, the open ocean, and the sailing experience.

While at sea, I always feel calm and relaxed and there is always so much to do. I love that I wake up in the morning knowing that all throughout the night, the Watches arose (as did I) and sailed the ship safely, so their fellow crew members could sleep. Watch is one of my favourite parts of ship life. The ship only works with team work and the community that is created to be both supportive and challenging. The sailing is not the main attraction for many of the students who are longing for the amazing port experiences. For me personally, sailing is the reason I am here and it truly is what I love and want to do. The ship is amazing for the way in which it balances this with a great mix of amazing sailing and learning opportunities as well as port programs that create world citizens. Watch is fundamental in the running of the ship but also to the development of community, teamwork and leadership: this is one of the reasons I love to be on watch.

Holly Sailing Blog 1
A beautiful sunset viewed from the bowsprit while repairing the sail. Another Tall Ship can be seen ahead of the ship

On board the ship, we stand one night watch and one day watch in a twenty four hour period. Day watch is a period of the day during which we help on deck, sailing the ship and undertaking maintenance activities. Day watch is always a great way to break up sitting in the classroom studying by getting outside and working hands on. Day watch is always different too as the weather and location is ever changing, along with the work and maintenance that needs to be done. For me, striving for a career in the Tall Ship Sailing Industry, it is something that I always look forward to. I love being on deck with the smiles of the maritime crew and the joy of setting, striking, or trimming sails. Maintenance such as sanding, rust busing, or repairing a damaged sail also provides a challenge and a new learning opportunity. The range of knowledge that we learn on watch is vast and not only do we learn, but we learn from each other and we learn to teach one another too.

Some of my favourite watch memories range from laying on the monkey deck next to my fellow watch members, sanding the gutters, and trimmings; climbing aloft in rough rainy weather while the ship is rolling, furling the square sails; taking helm or lookout enjoying the fun on the bridge or just looking at the crystal clear water and starry skies. I could name all of the amazing things I have done on watch but more than anything, it is the little things that make watch special. An extra good pot of tea made by the watch or just the positive atmosphere and jokes in the bridge. Watch is a time during which our team building and leadership skills are challenged.

For me, growing up on a yacht and then working on tall ships since a very young age, I have had plenty of sailing experience but the distance from my home and the ships at home has allowed me to view things differently. I have realized the importance of every moment and learnt to never take anything for granted. I believe that due to my overall experience and time on watch, I have developed as a young adult and also as a leader. I will never forget my time spent on watch aboard the Gulden Leeuw and I will forever look back on the amazing times and not so amazing times that I have had on watch.

Watch is a special time for me and many others and I find it hard to do it justice in words. I can truly say that I have developed and learn many irreplaceable skills during my time on watch and I have always enjoyed it. Watch will always be a special part of your time on board a ship and the attitude that you bring to watch shapes the experiences that you get back. Living on a ship is not easy but you can make it what you want it to be. You get back what you put into ship life.