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.
Check out #spiritofnz here.
More coming soon, thanks for reading...!