How sailing changes lives
I met Captain Laurel Seaborn, founder of SEAMHAP earlier this week when she was speaking at an engagement hosted at the Moffat-Ladd House and Garden in Portsmouth, NH. Captain Laurel attended East Caroline University and Mastered in Maritime History and Marine Archeology and received her PhD in Maritime History from the University of New Hampshire. Captain Laurel gave a presentation about her life on the sea, starting as a child living aboard her family’s sailboat, her life aboard tall ships, and the general benefits of attending and teaching sailing programs to all groups of people.
Laurel has crewed on several tall sailing ships of various types; Brigs, Barqantines, and Schooners. She describes the coordinated tasks aboard that need to be completed and be in a perfect state of readiness in order for things to happen smoothly just when you need them to, such as the proper way to coil lines so they pay out smoothly, or how to belay lines to a pin rail so you know exactly which line you are grabbing when it’s too dark or foggy to see where the other end leads. Helming (steering) the ship is her favorite part, it feels the most empowering because it is the one thing that you do that has immediate affect on the whole ship and what the crew needs to do. I agree, it’s a real thrill to be steering a sailing ship that is moving along at a good clip and in perfect balance with the wind and the sea. You can feel the boat become an extension of yourself.
Laurel also shared how learning to crew a ship is beneficial to a person’s personal growth. According to Laurel, crewing on a ship and learning all the tasks to make it go builds a person in three major areas:
Building Self Confidence – When you first approach sailing, you have no idea what you need to do or even how much needs to be done and done right to make a sailing ship go. First you learn smaller individual tasks like tying knots, and how to properly coil a rope, and then build upon those to develop more complex sets of skills that are used in conjunction with one another to complete varying complex jobs that need to be done. When you have learned how to do all these individual tasks, and combine and use them to accomplish more complex goals such as rigging and hoisting the sails, or charting how to get from here to there, you feel accomplished at getting something really significant done. Using those combining smaller skills to accomplish even greater and more complex goals, such as actually getting the ship underway and reaching your destination is a huge confidence builder and builds that sense that your contribution has real meaning.
Team Work – Team work really starts right at the beginning, because no one new knows what to do. So you are shown how to perform tasks and you shadow and you are asked to help. Not to mention some tasks require a coordinated effort between more than 2 or 3 people. Tasks such as hauling a spar. Not only will it take a few people to haul it up, it takes a few other people to coax the spar into place as it’s being lifted. Lauren said, the first time crew learns how to do this, it can take several hours to get it into place. Thank goodness, you can tie off lines when you need a break. It’s all part of being aboard a small ship and even a small boat. You quickly develop friendships when you work together and get a task that is both monumental as well as complex like that completed. You all feel you deserve a good pat on the back and kick-back for a few minutes together with a soda. You feel you are ready to take on what comes next, and it instills a real sense of community and belonging.
Sense of Belonging – From the moment you leave port for the first time, you begin to realize that you are part of this boat and part of this crew. It quickly become’s “your home” for the time you are aboard, and the people become your friends and family. Indeed lifetime friendships are developed while learning to be crew mates and accomplishing great things together. It’s an amazing experience from which everyone benefits. There is nothing like become friends as part of a team that explores the coast and experiences sites and activities that others just dream about.
I am very glad I met Laurel, and I hope we run into one another again. Maybe our programs might end up collaborating with one another. Who knows. We wish her the best.