Japanese Tsunami

The students arrive aboard just before lunch on Mondays, grade 9’s from Calgary all excited about their upcoming week at sea. For some it is their first time seeing the ocean but for all it is their first time experiencing the close confinement of life on a sailing ship.

The first thing I try to impress upon them at our safety talk is that once we are away, we are on our own . There will be no easy access to medical aid, fire trucks or rescue. We need to take care of ourselves, each other and the ship. The kids will need to learn how to move around on the boat. Bumps on the head are common place. They’ll learn how to squeeze past each other in tight corridors instead of maintaining big personal space and they learn how keeping their gear neat and tidy will make the boat much more liveable. Often it is the first time some students have had to do dishes and scrub toilets. Keeping the boat ship-shape is a life skill that everyone can benefit from learning.

But outside of the tight quarters of the boat, it is a big world out there. We are going to take the students kayaking, for beach and forest walks and we’ll teach them how to work a sailing ship. The ocean is going to teach us just how wild she can be. Sailing in February and March, we expect some gnarly weather and this year had it’s share of gales and squalls in addition to ice skimming over the anchorages, cold hands as they worked the sailing rig and then day after day of soaking rain. But it is when the waves build and the motion starts, that’s when the uncontrollable force of the ocean becomes apparent. There is no stopping this ride until the next sheltered waterway is reached, no matter how seasick anyone is! And that is a great lesson to learn. We humans don’t control the world. And the price of the lesson is just a little discomfort.

We learned of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on the weather radio Friday morning. Nothing was reported of the damage only that there was no danger for the inner coastal waters of BC. We sailed our last day in peace, our world focused within the hull of our vessel. Seals, sea-lions and eagles were sighted as we ghosted along under sail. Later in the afternoon, the first inkling as to the power of the events occurring across the Pacific was the strange current that sucked and pulled the boat as we left Tsehum Harbour.

Yes, it’s a fragile vessel we’re riding on, we better take care of it kids. And each another too.


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