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What I learned this summer…

Posted by Tall Ships America on August 27, 2010

August 27th 2010

By Samara 

This summer has gone by incredibly quickly. It is almost hard to believe that two months have passed and my internship is just days away from completion. When I stop to reflect on my time with ASTA and the tall ships this summer, it is almost overwhelming to think about the number of new people, places, and experiences I have encountered during my travels in the Great Lakes. Some things have gone well, and others not so much – so before I transition from ASTA intern to Lynx crew member on Sunday it seems appropriate to take a moment to reflect. 

In the last two months I more than doubled my sailing experience, and vastly improved not only my technical skills but also a few that helped me when I wasn’t hauling lines and doing boat checks… 

1. Sailing on different ships: This summer I had the opportunity to sail on four tall ships in two months- Europa, Denis Sullivan, Roald Amundsen, and Lynx. I also was invited to participate in a crew exchange on Niagara for one afternoon day sail. It was hard work to learn the lines and routines of a new ship every couple weeks, but in retrospect I am very lucky to have had those experiences.   

2. Learning new names: At the beginning of the summer I was terrible with names. And I am still pretty bad. However, meeting so many new people (including two international crews) forced me to improve my short term memory by a long-shot.  

3. Taking advantage of my “crew” status in port: Almost all of the ports the tall ships visited this summer went out of their way to offer activities for crew in their off time. Often, in lieu of sleeping, I chose to seek out as many of these offers that I could – and at times even try to finagle my way to additional ones. For example, in Bay City I spent the first days of the festival lusting after the air-conditioned entertainment at the Planetarium across the street. I don’t know if it was because the employees recognized me from the breaks I took there every day, or because they knew I was with the festival – but when I finally got enough free time to go to a show they let me sneak in without a ticket. Likewise, in Duluth the aquarium staff allowed me to climb up on the roof to take pictures, and yesterday the Field Museum of Chicago stamped my hand for entry when all I did was mention that  I was with the tall ships. I have lost track of the number of souvenirs, meals, and experiences that have been offered me this summer, and I am very grateful for the port’s generosity in showing me and my fellow sailors a good time in their city. 

4. Saying yes: The advantage of this is two-fold for me. First, when living on a ship it is essential that everyone shares the responsibility of taking care of the ship. So much so, that usually when you feel like you are doing more than your share, you are just barely doing enough. For me, that translates to constantly saying yes. Boat check? Yes. Help me stow/move/haul/clean/fix/prepare  (anything)? Yes. Second, it means saying yes to experiences. Working long days underway and in port is very tiring. But if I had elected to stay back at the ship every time that I was tempted to, I would have missed out on a lot of incredible opportunities. A recent example of this comes from our last night in Port Washington, when a small group of sailors including Libby and myself decided to take a break from the standard night-life activities downtown and instead follow Hannah from the Unicorn on an adventure. At what felt like three miles into a walk on a road to nowhere, Libby and I almost decided to give up and go home, but we stuck it out and ended up having a blast chasing each other around for two hours at outdoor laser tag.

5. Making anywhere feel like home: With each new ship I sailed on, came a new bunk I slept in. Moving around every couple of weeks made it difficult for me to settle into one location, and as Natalie from the Denis Sullivan put it when I moved onboard in Bay City, “It must be hard to never really feel like one place is home.” And for the first few weeks of the summer I shared that sentiment. But now, after getting to know so many ships and crews I feel at home on almost all of the ships. When the 2010 festivals are over I will be sad to say goodbye not just to the Lynx, where I live now, but to all of the ships I have called home this summer.

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