Woodside, CA

This is the kind of ship I thought I was signing up for. (This is actually the ship that starred in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean‘ – we spotted it while out and about in the San Francisco bay.)


And this is the kind of ship I was on – a beautiful custom-built schooner, impeccably designed, just not quite what I had in mind. But if the ship maybe didn’t live up to expectations, the crew was better than anything I could have envisaged.

Over the course of the three days, we spent time learning to sail and navigate around San Francisco harbour – which confirmed my feeling that I am much happier in mid-ocean where there is very little to hit. Then we headed out to the Farallon Islands; deserted, barren, guano-rich
(i.e. very smelly) islands 25 or so miles away from San Francisco. The lighthouse-keepers there must have had a tough and unsocial time, even worse than my brief (?!) 103 days on the Atlantic.

For me it was a formative experience. I’ve been leading a rather insular life, and to be in the midst of a ship’s crew of randomly assorted women was a new experience for me. There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs when disparate individuals are thrown into a group situation. First impressions are sometimes confirmed, but more often proved wrong. Only over time do personalities emerge, histories reveal themselves, current preoccupations make themselves known.

At the end of our voyage, we were presented with certificates of accomplishment, and our Paper Plate Awards. I believe this is an American tradition, and an illuminating one. Ah, to see ourselves as others see us… and to see others as they are at sea – on unfamiliar territory, with unfamiliar people, adapting to new roles. I came away from it with a renewed appreciation for the challenges that face everyone, every day. My challenges may be more conspicuous, but they are no tougher than those facing anybody else.

Seaward crew
Paper Plate Award

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