In 2014 when I invited two semi-retired male friends to crew for me, they jumped at the opportunity - both eagerly flew to the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten to join me for this voyage northward. But within the first few hours after releasing our dock lines, I discovered my one non-sailor friend had brought aboard way too much baggage
The distance from St. Maarten in the northern Caribbean to Turk and Caicos, once a southern portion of the Bahamas, is approximately 1000 km or about 621 miles. This distance would be an hour and half flight, but for my Mystique, a 40' catamaran, sailing it might take a week.
Despite the facts that our adventure would be his first sailing experience in almost 40 years and we had not seen each other in 30 years, I had ignored considering his inexperience, assumptions, expectations, opinions and feelings about his onboard roles, responsibilities and contributions. I thought I had presented a clear picture of what the trip would entail; however, I gradually realized I had overlooked a great many essential details. During our few days at sea, the reality our Mystique sail was completely different from expectations dawned on my friend. During those initial days at sea, he discovered my Mystique was not some leisure / luxury, catered cruise liner. It was a private yacht - a 40’ catamaran. When he felt the inevitable wrath of ocean motion, more stowaway-ed beliefs, projections, simmerings and sea-things soon emerged from his stern berth. He had assured me he was physically fit, but he was not. His health was an issue as he had two significant hospital operations in the month prior to our departure.
And then another quiet stowaway soon poked me in my consciousness. The reality that I was responsible for having created and accepted an uncomfortable crew dynamic. One in which I trusted all to go well.
Tied to any dock, mooring or anchor, a vessel may initially seem calm, contained and comfortable. Yet when any new crew first step aboard a floating craft, he or she usually enter a unique realm and reality. If they came to sea impressed by beauty, duty or duress, they always carry their own experiences, expertises and expectations. But what is a yearning heart to do when adventurous, even magical or romantic vibes may lure one’s soul from shore? Stuff ears with wax? Strap a body to some mast? Shackle a heart to terra firma? Deflate a wanderlust?
Depending on health and well-being, we all lug aboard or leave behind a footlocker full of personal stuff. Common sense, instinct, inclination, character, personality, flaws and foibles often get tucked away somewhere inside, yet, whether we are aware or not, they too come along for the ride if we let them.
One's reality, doesn't necessarily translate to another's. For example, land-livers may experience the earth as grounding and stable while those accustomed to the sea may view the land world as hard and foreboding. On the other hand, landlubbers may see the sea as unstable and wild while the seafarers experiences it as fascinating and freeing. Just these diverse world-views could collide. Even the entrance into another's home takes some acclimating and accommodating before the newcomer adapts. It isn't always easy fitting into another place, space and time comfortably. It is often very challenging not only to fit into new realities, but to take personal responsibility for one's own thoughts, actions and feelings.
Often new minds, hearts and hands arrive with enthusiasm and high hopes. On any boat they display their own traits, talents and skills...if their attitudes, anxieties, assumptions, concerns, desires, dreams, fears, flaws, preconceptions, motives, uncertainties, unknowns, values or wounds don't scuttle their efforts and intentions. Cooperation, competence and camaraderie may float, but if troubles are hoisted high, any flag of ugly scars can sink any seaworthy ship. Few among us untie from our ego. But thank God for boats, sails and sea - they help crews wash away their facades and come clean.
Futuristic Floating Island Homes
We all have our habits, idiosyncrasies and our comfort zone. And we all know we have to adapt to new surroundings or situations. While some of us may see change as accommodating, some may see it as compromising; some may see change as stimulating and invigorating so while crew may possess conditioning that makes them feel at home. Every ship has its own personality, each an extension / reflection of its captain, crew and/or owner. While many a boat may appear as floating quarters, a mere conveyance from one port to another, it is much more than that. Each vessel is part microscopic culture, community, family and even a temporary home.
Feeling a little green under his gills, one friend prays astern for Neptune's waves of mercy.
Contrary to popular belief, a skipper may not always be in command. Though history, literature, tradition may contradict that notion, a ship's crew often runs, even rules the vessel. While some sea stories have portrayed seafaring captains as directors, dictators or despots, they are not, in my view, the most vital individuals onboard. The crew is often the mainstay of the While the occasional captain may believe, act and behave as if he is in-charge while democracy and consensus have been left ashore, an effective skipper is one who grooms a crew to sail his vessel without him. Any task master sails nowhere well without a competent, content and non-queasy crew.
Board any sailing vessel and land routines soon change.
Life-at-sea reminds us that...
- Nature reigns; weather rules.
- Beauty beckons; beauty lures.
- Currents flow; oceans motion.
- Water revives; water soaks.
- Water softens; land hardens.
- Winds rush; winds push.
- Winds lift; waves drift.
- Calms slow; calms quiet.
- Depth matters; distance spaces.
- Captains lead; crews follow.
- Ships sail; sailing guides.
- Humans err; accidents happen.
Reminder 1: Safety measures.
Reminder 2: Ocean is motion.
Reminder 3: Hands first onboard.
Reminder 4: Feet first overboard.
Reminder 5: Wet steps slip.
Reminder 6: If you feel blue, avoid below.
Reminder 7: Security cleats and knots.
Reminder 8: Knowledge educates; understanding saves
Reminder 9: Sailor's fear fire.
Reminder 10: Most F. E. A. R.s are False Evidence Appearing Real
Reminder 11: Harness / lifejacket in rough seas at night.
Your head (toilet):
Reminder 1: Use when necessary.
Reminder 2: Open then, close valve.
Reminder 3: Never confuse bow with bowel movements.
Reminder 4: A manual flush does not need a man.
Reminder 5: Each head has a pump handle and shut-off valve.
Reminder 1: Change changes.
Reminder 2: Wet slips.
Reminder 3: Soles scoff.
Reminder 4: Flip flops.
Reminder 5: Sands stays ashore.
Reminder 1: Question and ASK
Reminder 2: If you don't know nautical name, point; Use hand signals!
Reminder 3: Sound travels on water.
Reminder 4: Wind drowns sound.
Reminder 5: Don't whistle.
Reminder 6: Quiet in the fog
Reminder 1: Boats rock and roll.
Reminder 2: Latched doors stay closed.
Reminder 3: Hatches admit air and sun as well as keep out waves and rain.
Reminder 4: Return your stateroom to its original state.
Reminder 5: Your berth and state room,
Neither blue nor red states are your floating quarters.
Reminder 1: Batteries drain or charge.
Reminder 2: Boat needs supercede personal.
Reminder 3: Spigots drip; people waste.
Reminder 4: Navy showers; ashore more.
Reminder 5: Sun burns; solar saves.
Reminder 6: Lights brighten and blind.
Reminder 1: Rain drip-dries
Reminder 2: Sun soaks s-undries.
Reminder 2: Clean clothes lifeline
Reminder 1: Safety Procedures
Reminder 2: Cleats / Knots
Reminder 3: Energy Saviors
Reminder 1: You cook, others clean
Reminder 2: You cook poorly, you clean.
Reminder 3: You catch it, you scale it, you cook it. Crew eats it.
Reminder 4: Snack alone; dine together.
Reminder 5: Sun saturates; bodies hydrate.
Reminder 6: Rum sinks below the yardarm.
Reminder 7: Rum rationing after sunset.
Reminder 8: Sick overboard. Drunk bunk.
Reminder 1: Landlubbers survive; sailors learn sea ways to thrive.
Reminder 2: Land and sea share shores.
Reminder 3: Water is soft; land is hard; shore can be rough.
Reminder 4: Land is expensive; ocean is motion; sea is free.
Reminder 5: Sea waves and wakes; so do people.
Reminder 6: All hands on deck; never place hand between boat and dock.
Reminder 7: Leave all as you found it.
Reminder 8: Take only photos and memories.