Why did you choose this program?
I chose this program because I had an avid interest in sailing and the sea for as long as I could remember. So when the opportunity to attend a sailing course through The Boys and Girls Club appeared, I jumped at it.
I knew it would allow me to develop sailing skills and explore the sea, which I had never done before. I knew it would also allow me to explore the world in a totally new way. Proximity was important as well, since I knew my parents would have to drive to the location. Baltimore, Maryland was relatively close to my home in New Jersey.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Once the course fees were paid, Outward Bound provided food, sunblock, and lodging in the form of a thirty-foot tugboat. You are given a list of items that must be purchased before you set sail. Those items include swim wear, bug spray, sunglasses, hats, etc. Personally, a pair of gloves to handle the oars might be a good idea as well.
As previously mentioned, I did have to drive to their basecamp, which is located in Baltimore, Maryland. From there, the course sailed along the Chesapeake Bay. All meals were prepared on the vessel, with cooking assignments and other crew tasks being assigned on a rotating basis – captain, cook, deckhand, etc.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
The advice I would give to anyone embarking on this program is to stay open to learning something new each day, and to meeting people from all walks of life whom you may not ordinarily come in contact with.
Leave your preconceived notions about life in general on the docks. This program has so much to offer if you are simply open to change.
I was a teenager at the time, and I had arrived at basecamp with my best friend. We expected to be on the same boat but the instructors separated us. At the time, I was very upset and considered going right back home. In the end, it turned out to be the best thing the instructors could have done for us because we grew so much in ways we likely would not have, had we had each other to lean on.
We made new friends and were able to come back at the end of the course and discuss all we had learned. Although there were many similarities, there were also many differences. We realized how much we had both changed and grown. Expect to be challenged and to be changed for the better.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
An average day at sea means waking up on oars you slept on the night before (which is much more comfortable than it sounds), preparing for the day starting with breakfast and putting the main mast back up. Sunblock is essential as there is nowhere to hide from the sun out on the water. Staying hydrated is incredibly important for the same reason.
Then you have a crew meeting to determine where your next destination will be. You then take turns rowing your way there. At the end of the day, you lower the masts and prepare dinner. Before bed, someone reads the Captain’s log of the day, which is full of the observations of the day’s events.
You will also have to determine a schedule for bow watch. Bow watch is when someone is awake at all times throughout the night to ensure no other vessels collide with our own. This process is generally done in shifts of one or two, which is also a wonderful time for quiet reflection in the silence of the dark.
Part of the course also includes visiting protected marshlands and helping habitats thrive via gardening, etc. It also includes a solo mission, which requires you to be separated from your boat mates and camp on your own for 48 hours. It is a great time to really think about your experiences throughout the course and also be further immersed in nature.
At the end of the course, you will have to undergo a course final, in which you use the skills you have learned to navigate on your own, without the input of your instructors. You will also be tasked with physical endurance tests.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear going into the course was that I would not be able to keep up with everyone else. Luckily, I did not worry about this for long because I realized how much preparation our instructors were actually administering to us. They were there every step of the way, teaching and encouraging. There were some days where I got frustrated with myself but I still kept going. At the end, not only did I keep up, I thrived.
What is your advice to travelers?
An important bit of advice I have for prospective travelers is to be prepared to be a part of a support system and to develop relationships that last long after you leave the course. You have the opportunity to really step out of your comfort zone and learn things about yourself you never knew. Get comfortable with discomfort. Sometimes, it’s the only way to grow.