Prologue Pt VI

A large package arrived in the post today looking more like a patchwork quilt than an envelope thanks to the myriad of Canadian stamps on it!  My pack contained a medical information form, sail trainee declaration, invoice, Articles of engagement and the Handbook for crew… 

The trip seems very real now and just around the corner, I’m getting a little concerned that the deadline for payment is just a few weeks away and my re-mortgage is no nearer completion.

The Handbook really brings the message home that the trip is imminent, and contains a lot of interesting information: the man overboard drill (especially important given the accident in 2006!, Fire alert, abandon ship procedure, heavy weather recommendations, watch procedures etc..

The section on orders and rules is quite comprehensive and there will definitely be a “military” feel to the voyage, not just in the shift structure, but the “order of command” and the policies on booze (“a privilege, not a right”!) are going to take some getting used to!  There are also some interesting general rules, such as: “Do not do jumping jacks over someone else’s bunk, especially at night”! I mean, is it normal to be doing “jumping Jacks” at night above someone else’s bunk?? Is this a normal occurrence at sea???  Do I have to watch out for “half-way-up–the-mast” yoga sessions at 3 in the morning? Or people practising the increasingly popular “seafaring circuit training” (including bow sprints and stern squats!) in the middle of the night?

The seafaring language is also going to take some getting used to, phrases such as “avast”, “Belay the…”, “that’s well”, “Square the yards”, “Clew down”, “Wung out” etc. don’t seem to make a great deal of sense,.. maybe I should watch the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Master and Commander” a few times to get into the swing of things!

To be honest, the Handbook is a little intimidating. In 2000 I thought that my move to Spain was going to be demanding; moving well out of my comfort zone to a completely new environment with the challenges of a new language, a new country and new friends; and it was! But after almost 10 years it just seemed like home!

I then expected my move to Ghana to provide me with similar challenges, (albeit in a completely different and unique environment) and it has done, both culturally and personally, fascinating and enriching.  My experiences in trying to find work, understanding local culture and language and getting used to the lack of electricity and water, all redefined my concept of “challenging”.  Yet, once again after only a year here I feel comfortable and settled.

However, I foresee that this trip is really going to force me to re-evaluate my definition of demanding.

The voyage will not be dissimilar to moving to another country; there’s a new language:

“The mariners are a pleasant people, but little like those in the towns, and they can speak no other language than that used in ships” The Licenciate Vidriera

There’s a new (seafaring) culture (with the added complication of the diverse cultures of the other members of the crew), there’s the regimented structure of life on board, and the very real dangers and challenges of life at sea:

"No man will go to sea who can contrive himself put in jail, for going to sea is being in jail with the added chance of being drowned. In jail both the food and the company are likely to be better. A man who would go to sea by choice would likely go to hell for recreation" - Samuel Johnson.

These elements combined with the additional challenges of the lack of communication with the outside world, claustrophobia (or cabin fever) due to limited personal space and extended periods of isolation (both mental and physical) will create a hostile and unforgiving environment for those not completely dedicated to the experience. 

I have a feeling I am going to come out of this trip a very different person from the one who embarks in 3 months time.

Regardless, it continues to impress me how easy people find it to adapt to different environments, as long as I am open and accepting of other cultures and manage my expectations, there is really no reason why this voyage should be any more difficult than the others I have been on!

Once again, despite the challenges that this voyage will throw at me, there is another quote which neatly summarizes one of the key reasons I am doing this:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”- Mark Twain.

With this in mind the trip doesn’t seem quite so daunting. I wonder, in 20 years time, what I will say when I look back?
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  1. Liam Tayler Says:
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