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Tall Ships | Becoming True Sailors

March 17, 2016

March 13-15, 2016

Santa Barbara city was like a breath of fresh air. We had the opportunity to shower, and after not showering for about a week, finally getting clean again was, as one of the students put it, like being reborn. Once we finally felt fresh again, our group went to a restaurant off the side of the boat dock. We definitely got some strange looks as a large group of teenagers, but it was nice to be among civilization after seven days of seeing virtually nobody else except the 38 people on our ship. Upon returning to the ship after walking across the pier and shoreline a little more, we were pleased to hear we wouldn’t have to wake up for anchor watches, and headed to our bunks for a peaceful sleep.

In the morning we had the chance to visit the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. We began our tour by watching a video on Ernest Shackleton’s incredible adventure across the Antarctic. He and 27 crewmembers traveled to and got stuck in the frigid ice of Antarctica, and spent 17 long months planning and executing their escape. Miraculously, not a single one of the men who partook in the voyage died. Although we hoped our journey would never go as far south (quite literally and figuratively) as their’s did, it was incredibly inspirational to see such perseverance and determination. Throughout the museum, we also got to learn about such things as the significance of sailors’ tattoos, different types of ships, the history and technology if lighthouses, and the plethora of of scuba gear variants.

Afterwards, we took advantage of having one last trip to flushing porcelain bathrooms and set sail for Santa Cruz Island. Students are definitely beginning to understand how all the lines work and what to do when we hear certain commands. People were hauling on ropes like crazy, rushing fore and aft, port and starboard, and raising the sails without much instruction from the crew. It’s awesome to see everything coming together at last, and I know we all feel more like a part of the crew rather than students.

While underway, we saw several pods of dolphins racing our now, dozens of seagulls, and even a humpback whale breaching. I know for me personally there is no experience like seeing such beautiful and majestic creatures in their natural habitat up close, and it’s even more memorable to practically be one with them while sailing the ocean. After witnessing a spectacular sunset, we arrived at Santa Cruz, and shortly after furling the sales, we went to sleep.

The next day, because we were unable to visit the island due to the wind, we began our long journey back to Catalina early. We once again set all the sails, doing mostly everything by ourselves. We then began our watches with our watch groups – two hours on, four hours off. Each watch has three stations; the Nav lab, where we do things like track where the ship is, how fast were going, and what direction we’re heading, the helm, where we steer the ship, and bow watch, where we’re on the lookout for anything that might be of danger like other ships or buoys. These are the kinds of things that are really once-in-a-lifetime and unique to the ECS program, and is intriguing to be a part of.
One of the most memorable parts of our long sail back to Catalina was the night sail. Despite the fact that we were up in the middle of the night, it was incredible to see nothing but the endless stars and the endless sea. Some groups even had the amazing opportunity to see dolphins with bioluminescence swimming alongside the bow. After 15 hours of straight sailing, (with a little help from the motor), we anchored in Isthmus Cove at Catalina Island around 1 in the morning. It was definitely a very exhausting but rewarding day, and we are all looking forward to what adventures and experiences the last few days of our ECS will bring.