The Spirit Of Adventure (Part Two)

I remember watching Auckland slipping away from my grasp, and being painfully aware of how far out of my comfort zone I actually was. I had never been a ‘ship person’. When I was younger I’d had an unhealthy obsession with Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, but that was the extent of my exposure to the high seas.

The panic was overwhelming, it slid up through my stomach to my throat and sat there as I smiled and cheered with the other trainees.

Then Auckland was out of sight and it was lunchtime. I wondered how I would handle eating food with the swaying motion of the ship pushing my stomach around. But after lining up, collecting my food and finding a seat amongst the faces that seemed the most recognizable to me I realized that I wasn’t suffering as much as I had first estimated. After a few moments, I was scoffing down my meal in delight. I don’t think I had eaten since six thirty that morning.

Throughout the entire voyage I never once got seasick, so I must have a little more Jack Sparrow in me than I thought. 

After lunch, they kicked this whole 'sailing experience' off with getting some sails up. My group was assigned the sails at the front of the ship. I was following them to go find our sails when I was whisked aside by one of the volunteer watch assistants. His name was Quentin, he was Scottish and I dare you to find anyone who you’d want to mess with less, but who has a kinder heart sitting underneath all the briskness.

He asked me if I’d done the rigging up and over yet. And I replied with a cautious no, wondering what rigging was and why I was going up and over it. Did they catapult you over the sails from one end of the ship to the other? On this ship, it didn't seem to far fetched of an idea. 

In a few minutes I was harnessing up, for what I still was unsure of. And in a few more minutes I was very slowly following Quentin up the starboard side rigging, clipping my oversized carabiners one above the other. The ship was moving and the rigging was moving with the ship's motion, or I was shaking, probably both.  

We got to the first platform, one of three, and I sighed in relief as we started to make our way down again on the other side. When I got to the bottom, Quentin slapped my back encouragingly and then left me to go rejoin my watch. So that was an up and over.

Having been fueled with boldness after not dying on the rigging, I overconfidently volunteered to be the group leader. The spectacle that followed would have entertained even the driest sense of humor.

Imagine a blind, deaf, chimpanzee trying to teach a group of humans advanced, nuclear, chemical science. I’m not even sure if that's a thing, but that's what it felt like.

Short of understanding that the white flappy things needed to be up in the air and that you did that by pulling some ropes, I was quite lost.

I combated this by waltzing around on deck telling my teammates to 'pull all the ropes'. When our watch assistant frantically interjected with a 'Noooooo, not that one.' I could eliminate that rope from our pulling options. 

It was a process of elimination learning strategy. 

Somehow we managed to get the sails up, although I suspect it may have been due to my teammate's competence a lot more, than to my leadership skills.

That night I settled into my fabric bunk, a little cold from the breeze the open door by my head was bringing in, wondering what on earth I’d gotten myself into.

Little did I know, I was going to walk away a completely different person from an experience I will always credit, in some part, for changing my life.

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More coming soon, thanks for reading...!

The Spirit Of Adventure (Part One)

I had been on standby for the Spirit of Adventure just under a week when on a cold Sunday night my father received a call he almost didn’t pick up because it was the weekend. A position on the next voyage had become available and the ship was leaving Auckland harbor the next day at twelve.

I started packing my bag as Dad was still talking on the phone. Within an hour we had retrieved my sleeping bag from my grandparent's house, booked flights for early the next morning and my pack was bursting at the seams, waiting not so patiently by the door.

At nine the next morning I was on a plane to Auckland and by eleven I was on the ship.

I’ve never been one to fall in love with ships, boats, cars and things like that. And when I saw The Spirit for the first time I can't say I was particularly blown away. It was a boat. It had masts and a deck and sails. At the time I was more worried about getting on board and pretending like I hadn’t just arrived twenty minutes before the ship was to depart and three hours after everyone else had arrived.

I climbed cautiously down the steep steps into what was the girl's accommodation and was met with the sight of rows and rows of blue fold-out fabric bunks. My bunk was number three, right next to the door.

Caitlin, the female leading hand introduced herself with a smile and a wave. She took in the far too large bag that I had awkwardly draped over one sagging shoulder and directed me to a pull out drawer underneath my bunk, about the size of an A3 piece of paper. I emptied the contents of my backpack into the drawer, proud of the fact that my method of packing cells meant I had room to spare. We chucked my empty pack into one of the girl's showers to be taken down into the hull until the end of the voyage and she showed the way to the aft cabin where all the other trainees were gathered.

The aft cabin was like a common room. It was where we ate, played games and held meetings. There were tiered rows of thin tables and benches, like a university lecture theatre. I sat down as quickly as possible, taking the closest available seat and surveying the thirty-two other teens who were already talking and laughing together. Caitlin slid in next to me, for which I was grateful.

A few minutes later the crew came in and started what was our first official meeting as a voyage. They asked us if we really wanted to be here, checking that we hadn’t been blackmailed into it by an overbearing mother, or a father with high expectations. After checking that all the trainees were relatively eager, the third mate broke us into groups that were called ‘Watches’. I was in Port A and the cabin was filled with bustle as the trainee’s rearranged themselves to join their groups.

My group had four boys and four girls. Everyone was nervous so we all made an effort to talk to each other and after a few minutes or so we were all firm friends of circumstance. 

I can’t really remember what came next, I think the shock was starting to set in and everything just started to blur together. Somehow a few minutes later we made our way up on deck to watch the ship leave the docks.

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More coming soon, thanks for reading..!