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Published: August 2nd 2011
Floating on the sandbar with Moorea in the distance.
Not a sailor am I; having just watched Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time EVER. I enjoyed every minute. A quote was spoken by Jack Sparrow that stuck in my head both for the beauty of the statement and the irony that wraps around the idea. In his words,
“Wherever we want to go, we go. That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and sails; that's what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.”
The irony. I am 26 years old and have more rules and regulations to follow than when I was 12. For any non-yachties reading this let me elaborate. I am told what to wear to work each day of the week, alternating between the attractive skort (which is a combination of a skirt on top of shorts) and khaki shorts which tend to be too big, too long and manufactured in 1970. I am instructed on how to perform during work hours and how to act after work hours; since I am always in a 200 foot radius of my home and work place – I need to ALWAYS be on my best behavior. If one was to question what the best behavior is, they could simply pull out the crew handbook for a precise 15-page explanation.
From afar our yachts may look big but in actuality they are microscopically small. Our crew living space is no bigger than 1000 square feet. Imagine a small one-bedroom apartment and 9 people living in it. This is when your personal space no longer exists.
If you have a craving for a certain meal, forget it at the door. A chef will prepare all meals and buy all snacks therefore taking away any of your ability to make decisions on what you put into your own body. The list then goes on to say who you can and cannot sleep with, associate with or give information to. Since most of the time we are on charter or underway; you are then constricted to internet as your only means of communication. If the signal is low or guests are onboard a fire wall is put up so crew cannot access certain sites such as Facebook; therefore limiting your already limited line of communication to the outside world.
I have to make my bed each morning and make sure my room is spotless. If I on the rare occasion leave something lying around, for instance my cell phone in the crew mess, my punishment is a weekend on watch. Our deckhand left his water bottle on the dock the other day and his consequence was no water bottle for a week. Did I mention he is 29 years old and gets pretty thirsty after an 8-hour workday in the sun?
In some instances a Captain will enforce a curfew. On my last boat the girls needed to arrive home by 10 and the boys by midnight. As sexist as that is, it doesn’t top being on a dry boat. We are sailors; well the others are sailors and no liquor allowed aboard? I wonder what Jack would say about that one?
On our so-called days off we have to be within a certain mile radius of the boat so incase some alarm goes off or a freak tsunami rolls around the crew is close enough to get back in a reasonable amount of time. Therefore, we are always on call, even on “days off”. It’s most similar to a floating prison in paradise. You can see the freedom that exists around you but you rarely touch it.
And so you see my non-liberties add up, they wear you down and make your daydreams become about life on land but I reckon Jack was speaking about something else.
The beauty. I am as free as I have ever been. I have no ties, no roots, and no debts. I can pack a bag today and travel to anywhere in the world I like. My office window overlooks French Polynesian Islands with sunny skies, crystal blue waters and mountainous backdrops. On my weekends off I fly or float to surrounding islands to explore new cultures, foods and landscapes.
We are not pressured to climb the ladder, buy a new car or own a plot of land. Our daily existence formulates as the cultures around us change. After work we are already at home, we have no worries about traffic jams or gas expenses. We worry about where the biggest wave is or where to watch the sun set. It’s easier to save than spend not to mention the pay is good and tips are better.
In short, the things that hold you down on land or the ties that normality allows for are obsolete in my “sea” life. We have no bills, no rent and little responsibilities. Our distance from our homes and families at times serves as an odd sense of being free, as if we were let go and allowed to explore the world.
For those on land who may read this and marvel at the beauty, let me tell you any life can become mundane. We teeter from left to right wanting this and wanting that. We know once we settle and have all the normal things we will look back at our time at sea and KNOW how free we were. But as every life evolves, so will ours. As the salty days become less appealing, the white picket fence looks all the better.
In my words,
As a pirate is forever a pirate, a sailor at heart always a sailor. Once you have spent time at sea something inside you changes. The ocean captured Jack and he never returned back…will the beauty keep me at sea or will the irony eventually coax me back?
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