When I entered my freshman year at highschool, I joined a program called Mariners. Mariners is a program for highschool students and is technically a Sea Scouting program with a strong emphasis on sailing. I had been sailing since the age of seven and had raced against yacht clubs from all over, but what really drew me towards Mariners was the bonding and close friendships which I had heard about from everyone in it. They weren't kidding. My life completely changed when I joined Mariners, I matured, I became more social, and over all I just learned to function in a generally more socially acceptable manner. Every Mariner meeting is consistently a good time, but one annual event called long cruise is the pinnacle of Mariner bonding and an amazging time.
I went on my first long cruise the summer after my freshman year and I can honestly say it was one of the most profound weeks of my life. I had never been to a sleep away camp before, but long cruise wasn't your average camp. On this cruise approximately 5 adults and 25 sailing-able kids take the 104 foot tall ship "The Spirit of Dana Point" to the Channel Islands and Catalina over the course of ten days. All the physical labor is done by kids, the ocean is choppy and unpredictable, and all the meals are cooked in the galley. Its the real thing.
Now, I dont even have to say that 25 teenagers on a couple hundred square feet of boat can get a little dicey sometimes, and the trip wasn't always pleasant, but that was what made it real. People got in fights, and the work was hard, but we all saw each others true colors with no parents or time away from one another, it was just 25 kids and a boat. One of the most revealing experiences were night watches. Throughout the night, kids would wake up in shifts an hour at a time so that there were always 2 kids up on deck awake at all hours of the night. During these hour longs shifts, you were all alone freezing and exhausted with the responsibility of an 104 foot tall ship in your hands and only one other peron to keep you company in what was usually a dreadfully boring experience. During my night watches on my long cruises, I had some of the most life changing talks of my life. I had never truly and fully exposed myself to another person who I didn't even have that much in common with, and I could tell they hadn't either, but thats exactly what happened. The sense of closeness and security on that cruise that I experienced is impossible to describe and almost impossible to completely recreate.
From hauling up 500 pound anchors to sharing body heat with other guys in the middle of the pacific ocean at 3:45AM, I grew more as a person over that 10 days then any other week of my life. What I originally believed would be a vaction, really turned out to be the soul searching experience of a lifetime. Unfamiliar people, in an unfamilar situation, discussing unfamiliar feelings, that left me with memories and life lessons that will last a lifetime.
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