By Purser Allison Steele
As I sit in the comfort of my living room at home in Ontario, having signed off Picton Castle last week after this summer’s Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta Voyage, I find this final Captain’s Log somewhat difficult to write. How do you sum up an entire summer of adventure and learning into a short few paragraphs?
I have watched over 100 crew members learn and grow all summer, despite their age or experience. Some came for a week and felt it wasn’t enough and others came and never left! This life isn’t for everyone and sailing a tall ship isn’t a vacation by any means. Your limits will be pushed and reset and pushed again. You will be exhausted and invigorated, frustrated and amazed, but in the end you will take many lessons learned with you. Not just how to coil ropes, set sails or paint. You will learn how to live in very close quarters with people and accept their idiosyncrasies as there is nowhere else to go. You will learn the protective nature of your shipmates even if you didn’t always see eye to eye. You will learn that you can do something wrong… then do it again until you get it right and will often never do it wrong again after. You will learn that there are no short cuts, just smarter ways of doing things. You will become efficient with your time and energy as the weather and seas can turn at any minute and your ship and shipmates will be depending on you to have their backs as they have yours. You will learn to conquer fears… or not… but you won’t be judged for it. You will learn about community: yours, ours and theirs. And you will learn that it is the small towns and ports that have the biggest hearts and will throw open their doors and pass you their car keys in case you want to drive around.
Each time I sail aboard the Picton Castle the most important thing I come away with is the importance of living your life. That the creature comforts of home are just that: comforts. That you can learn to live without many things in your life and once you don’t have access to them, you start to look around. When you are ‘deprived’ of electronics and internet you start to notice the world. The beautiful sunsets, the small movements of the ship beneath your feet and what they mean, the subtle shift in the wind and how to harness it, the quiet laughter of shipmates, the sometimes not so quiet meow of ship’s cat Fiji, but most of all is the silence. In a world so full of noise and sounds, lights and flashes it is the silence of the ship and the ocean that guides us back to the importance of life. There are no pictures, no matter how beautiful they look on paper or a screen that can convey the feeling you get when whales and dolphins come to investigate the ship. How it’s almost like you can feel the warmth of a sunset through its colours. Those feelings can’t be explained in words or pictures but need to be experienced for yourself.
Each time I leave the ship and get back to my ‘land life’ I find it gets easier. I know now that it’s never ‘good bye’… it’s always ‘until next time’. Don’t forget to stop, open your eyes and take a quiet look at the world around you. It’s there just waiting for you.