On my way from New Jersey to New London, Connecticut to start my journey across the Atlantic Ocean aboard USCG Barque Eagle, I was all nerves. It reminded me of the feeling one gets on the first day of school. Everything is new and there’s so much to learn. I’ve sailed before, but never on a vessel of EAGLE’s size and rigging. On the first day aboard, I found it intimidating to be around so many people in military uniform, but most were just as nervous as I was. I also met the rest of those who were traveling with Tall Ships America. We all quickly became close shipmates and great friends over the two weeks without phones or the Internet. In these two weeks, we would challenge ourselves in ways we didn’t think we could, and encourage other shipmates to do the same.
The day-to-day life on board constantly changed but also, in a way, stayed the same. Wakeup was at 6:30 which was immediately followed by exercise on deck. We had breakfast and then would muster to discuss the tasks for the day. We then started on whatever work needed to be done depending on which watch we had. I found myself standing around on deck often, waiting to set sails or help with tasks, even if it wasn’t my watch. Lunch would come up quickly and then we would get back to work. While on board we received the EAGLE seamanship handbook which taught each shipmate the history of the ship; every sail, line, and pin there is to know on the vessel, along with sail theory and course of action for different situations. I learned valuable tall ship maintenance skills such as parceling and serving ratlines to protect the standing rigging, how to sew up ripped sails, and how to balance my food tray during a squall.
When not doing maintenance or setting or striking sails, we often spent time in the sail locker watching movies, learning new decorative knots, reading our seamanship handbook, and learning every sail, line, and shackle on board. Our interest in learning about EAGLE lead all TSA members to have the opportunity to study and receive our topman qualifications to be USCG topman certified aboard USCG Eagle, which was an extremely special accomplishment for all of us. Nights sometimes called for ice-cream, but on the days without it, it was the clearest sky one could ever lay eyes on, watching dolphins play in the bioluminescence along the bow, and midrations along with mid-watch talks and shenanigans – which were all treats in their own right.
The biggest obstacle I found myself overcoming while on EAGLE was my fear of heights and going up in the rigging. Before getting on board I knew that one of the requirements was to be able to go up in the rigging. On my first day on board everyone began to participate doing their “up and overs”. This involved climbing up to the first platform near the lowest yard and coming right back down. I got up halfway and almost gave up, but so many people around me cheered me on and offered words of encouragement. I was able to get up and back down again and tell myself I wouldn’t be going back up. Then “FOMO” kicked in and I would hear from others about what amazing views they were able to catch. Over the two weeks I would find myself going out to the tops, then out to the first yard, and then eventually get myself to go a little higher. I definitely would not have been able to do this without the words of encouragement from everyone around me. I never got up to the royals but I am proud to say that I was able to climb up higher in the rigging than I ever thought I would.
I am so thankful for the experiences I had and the people I worked with over the two weeks we traveled across the Atlantic. I know that the memories, experiences, and knowledge I learned on board will carry on with me in many future endeavors.
TSA x USCG Barque Eagle OCS Cruise 2023membership2023-05-19T11:50:06-04:00