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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