“The sailing ship life, while rigorous,” Sullivan’s welcome manual reads, “is an engaging one.” The same introduction goes on to state that “…a positive attitude is the most important thing you can bring aboard.” It’s been nearly a week since I joined ship, and I will be with the Sullivan until the beginning of September.
The learning curve, so far for me, has been nearly vertical.
Those that work the deck of the Sullivan—
the captain, mates and crew—all have some red in the face: slight sunburn streaking the cheekbones, singed brows. Diligence in reapplying the SPF 70, wearing broad-rimmed hats or baseball caps, and of course sunglasses still means somewhat of a burn, because the hours on deck outweigh even the best protection. But below deck, in the galley where I’ve been assisting our cook, Angela, the challenge is not the sun. It’s the heat.
Our self-lit oven, whose temperature is always only guessable, is turned on an hour or so before meal time and then, one by one, all four stovetops blaze into service to warm what seems to me a gargantuan amount of ground turkey, black beans, rice. By the time those above climb down the companionway to fill their plates, Angela and I are dying to go up on deck, spread our limbs on its white benches, and enjoy the Great Lakes breeze.
It’s easy to focus on these challenges—the sun up on deck, the heat below—because as general rule, it’s simple and human to complain. But no one here does much of it. A positive attitude is the best thing you can bring aboard.
Besides, spend all your time complaining, and you’d miss out on the stars.
Last night, sailing into the mouth of the Detroit River, I looked up. The galley was cooling off from dinner. As always, a crew was on watch. Angela was somewhere singing “Blue Moon”, strumming her ukulele. “You won’t see much,” Joe, the educational programs director, remarked. “Got too much city glow.”
We were nowhere near Detroit itself, but we were near land. Dim lights from the occasional house winked through trees. Still I had never seen so many: the night, in some places, seeming more
white than dark. The stars seemed for the first time remarkably different from one another, some brighter, some weak, others barely there—sudden sputter against black.It’s more than enough to make me want to stay on.
Long after September.
Angela, the cook aboard the Sullivan (left) and
Joe (right), Educational Programs Director