That experience of failure on the mast haunted me into the next couple of days when I had to face one of the biggest challenges on the ship. I started to really miss my family.
We weren’t allowed our phones with us on the ship, so I had absolutely no contact with my family. I’d lived away from home before and hadn’t really suffered to badly then but I’d been able to text them whenever I liked. So, for the first time in my life, I got a taste of what homesickness felt like.
Homesickness is a bad label for it. I didn't miss my physical house at all. I missed my little brother and how he takes over every conversation. My sister and how encouraging and kind she is. My parents who are so supportive and I think quite possibly, my best friends.
I wanted to tell them about waking up in great barrier island and feeling a complete sense of awe and peace. I wanted to tell them about paddling to the nearby shore in rafts, with my teammates. I wanted to tell them about the bonfire and the hiking, and my new friends, but I couldn’t.
Then came the experience I will probably carry with me forever.
We were back on mid ships. We had four sails that we were going to put up.
I had dreaded this day.
Nobody was going to force me to climb, so I could stay on the ground if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to be able to climb the rigging and not freak out. I wanted to be able to come back as a trainee.
To this day, I don’t know how I did it, I think I said yes so fast my brain didn’t have time to process what I’d done but when they asked for climbers to prep the sails, I was practically already in a harness.
This time we weren't going to the second sail up, we were going to prep all the sails which meant going all the way to the top. I somehow managed to say yes to going to the top and to the edge, again, probably before my brain could stop me.
This time the shaking and runny nose started before I had even touched the rigging. Never the less, I launched myself at the rigging and started climbing. My brain was shouting at me to stop and I could feel the panic simmering so I started to climb faster.
I figured, if I could get all the way to the top before the full panic set in then I'll have no choice but to stick around and finish the job.
I was just clipping on to the starboard side royal which is the topsail on the right side of the ship when my brain caught up. Again, I started leaking tears and the shaking was so bad I was scared I would lose my footing on the skinny rope.
But then instead of freezing up, something else took over. I can only describe it as a stubborn fire.
My fear and panic were still there but it was like it had been pushed aside. My mind went blank again but this time not with fear, with something else. A stubbornness.
I launched myself onto the beam and inched my way to the end in fury. I yanked at the rope and pulled it off allowing the sail to fall a little way. The helping hand that was supposed to be beside me, had just caught up and taking in the snot and tears cautiously asked me if I was okay.
I practically yelled back that I was and determinedly started undoing gaskets. Allowing the sail to come free.
Then I was back at the mast. I had made it.
We were faster than the other side so we had to stop and wait for them to catch up, and for the first time, I stopped to admire the view. The ship's deck looked small beneath me and the clouds closer than the sea.
When I made it to the bottom I collapsed once again, but this time instead of the slow dull presence of disappointment, I felt victory.
Later that day, when it came time to take in the sails, I gleefully rejoiced in the fact that because I had already climbed I wouldn’t have to be involved in stowing the sails.
But some of my teammates were feeling queasy, so due to my sturdy sea legs, I was to go up to the royal again.
I harnessed up waiting for the fear to sink in. I started climbing, waiting for her to scream in my ears that I was going to fall. To take control of my limbs and stop them from moving. But the scream never came. I felt it simmer in my stomach but it never left that area.
I got out to the edge of the beam, I yanked the rope over and I started pulling in the sail. My nose was dry and I wasn’t shaking. Instead, I was smiling.
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More coming soon, thanks for reading..!