>> Monday, November 21, 2011
At the halfway point of the trip, I wrote a story for the student crew. Just a short story, of a group of young people signed aboard a mighty wind-ship bound for adventure and a voyage of discovery. The purpose of the story was to encourage them to look deep within themselves and pull out all they’d learned thus far to prepare themselves for the challenge of the second half of the trip. It warned of complacency, of cockiness, and stressed vigilance.
The story was titled “Training Ship”, and it took a supernatural turn as the crew disappeared during a sudden blinding fog, forcing the students to meet the challenges cast before them without the regular input of the professional crew. There was a supporting cast of guardians that watched over them and prompted them through their challenges. The end accomplishment, however, was their own.
Don’t get me wrong. This is no epic work of literature. Its intent was to grab the students’ attention after several days in port and put their heads back into the voyage, while poking some fun at myself and the rest of the staff in the bargain. But I encountered the rough (only) draft yesterday while cleaning out my cabin, and it made me think.
We are a training ship. It is our purpose, our reason to be. The professional crew that join these voyages dedicate themselves with heart and soul. We tell the students that they are all crew of the Harvey Gamage, and that she’s as much theirs as ours. In the couple of days since their mass departure, this never rings more true.
The ship, even tied to a busy road, is eerily silent. I have to go on a search to find another soul. The smallest details and routines become once again huge when the ship’s company once again numbers less than 10. In the last two days, we’ve cleaned, inventoried, organized, graded, laundered, provisioned, and reflected.
All of the conversations involve a reference to a student, a port, an evolution aboard. We share the anecdotes that made us laugh, and those that made us furious. We discuss our raging successes, and dwell on those places we could have done it better. And the ship echoes with their absence. It will take us a few days to transition back to being out of program.
In the story, the crew disappear, and leave the students to adjust to their new status. Now, it is they who have departed us. It is we who have to adjust to life aboard in this in-between mode. The ship demands our attention. There will be another group boarding in just over a week. But, for now, we are still finishing the last voyage.
To the crew of the Harvey Gamage- Proctor Ocean Classroom 2011- the whole crew… THANK YOU! Thank you for a successful voyage. Thank you for challenging me as a teacher, a captain, and a shipmate to be better. I am proud and honored to be each of the three. Thank you for giving the voyage and the vessel everything you had. Thank you for caring so much that it brought out the sweat, the tears, and (unfortunately) a little blood. Thank you for the jokes, the smiles, the helping hands, the photos and the countless contributions you made to the journey. I know it isn’t over yet for me. May it linger a little longer for you as well. You made worthy the ship of her title “Training Ship”. That she has been, for us all. Fair winds, shipmates, and may you give your next journey the heart you brought to this one.
Captain Caroline Smith