This summer, I had the opportunity to sail through the Caribbean on America’s Tall Ship. The first five weeks of summer I spent on Eagle with about 150 of my classmates and around 50 permanent crew members. (That’s a lot of people for only 295 feet of ship.) We got on board the day after the last final, and immediately started working. We loaded tons of food into the storage areas and then set sail.
While on Eagle, my shipmates and I had to work hard to earn sign-offs and qualifications. We were given packets at the beginning of the summer with lists of tasks to complete. Once we completed a task, a person qualified in that area would initial that we’d done so far. Once we had all the sign-offs for a category, we could take a board, an oral test, to earn that qualification. We were expected to be helm and lookout and engineering auxiliary qualified by the end of the five weeks. On top of these qualifications, we had several hours of damage control training and were able to take a written test at the end to earn that qualification. Additionally, in the first 11 days, while we sailed from New London to Puerto Rico, we had to memorize the names of all the lines on the ship and parts of a sail. We had to pass these two tests to earn liberty in the first port.
It was easy to get bogged down by the workload and close quarters, but I tried to stay positive. I was really looking forward to sailing the Caribbean after a long school year, but when I got to Eagle, I was surprised by all the work I found out we’d have to do between port calls. For the first few days, I was exhausted and not in the best mood, but I realized that my attitude would have to change if I wanted to make it through the summer. I took on a more optimistic approach, thinking about the great port calls that lay ahead and just the pure opportunity of it all. No other college students that I know get to take a five week field trip to amazing vacation spots with 100+ close friends for free. This opportunity was incredible, and I wasn’t going to waste it with any more negativity. When you live so close to so many people, though, their attitudes rub off on you. It became hard to not let other people’s attitude affect my goal to stay positive. I relied on the port calls to keep me going, and they made it all worth it. (See more in my next blog post.)
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