Life’s lessons learned under sail

Picton CastleToday I came across a great blog called  MHC at Sea 2007: Mount Holyoke students take to the high seas during January term. It’s a group blog that captures the adventures of a crew of Mount Holyoke College students during a sail training experience onboard the Bark Picton Castle. From their blog:

Thirteen students and Professor Chris Pyle of the Politics Department will book passage on the 300 ton steel barque Picton Castle for a 14-day voyage from Grenada to Martinique, with stops at Cariacou and Bequia. Students will be integrated with the ship’s crew of 16 (on a three-watch system) as sail trainees, and will learn the arts of piloting, seamanship, and tall ship handling, much as sailors did in the late nineteenth century.

This will be a working voyage, not a Caribbean cruise. Trainees will be expected to participate fully in the ship’s operation, working aloft, walking on ropes 80 feet in the sky to set and furl sails, hauling lines on deck, manning the helm, navigating, standing watch, helping in the galley, and doing basic maintenance. Students will also write a running weblog, transmitted daily via satellite phone. Sleeping accommodations are in tiers of narrow bunks; there is no hot water for washing or bathing.

What I find particularly remarkable is that this group of students joined the Picton Castle shortly after Laura Gainey, a member of the vessel’s professional crew, was lost overboard during the transit from their homeport of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia to the Caribbean. If you only have time for a few posts, I encourage you to read Laura and Laura in my heart which deal with the loss of a crew member at sea.

While this group of students will learn how to sail a tall ship and collect memories that will last a lifetime, the most important lessons they will learn will be about themselves. As time goes by these lessons will be invaluable no matter what course they chart for themselves in the future and their appreciation for them will grow.

Experiences, like sail training, challenge us and ultimately help form us as individuals. They accumulate and carry forward. They inform us and provide a framework for the decisions that we make thoughout our lives.  

I look forward to reading about all of these young people’s adventures and experiences. 

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Peter A. Mello

Husband, father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

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