eXXpedition North Pacific crew member Michelle Byle shares what it’s like joining an eXXpedition journey as a non-sailor:
“Not having had any prior sailing experience, I genuinely had no idea what I was getting myself into joining an expedition from Oahu to Vancouver. This experience has been both exciting and nerve wracking, to say the least. The first 24 hours have been full of learning new skills and first experiences, and even a live TV interview with a local staion in Honolulu to share my utter lack of experience and delirious excitement.
There’s really nothing that can prepare you for three weeks on the high seas, so I just did my best to ask for advice ahead of time and pack in the leanest, smartest way possible. I basically prepped like I was going backpacking, which so far has served me well. Upon arriving at Sea Dragon and seeing my bunk and small storage area for the first time, I was glad I had left most of my non-essentials behind. Though on my first night I did find myself sleeping with a few extra items in bed with me. On a related note, laptops and water bottles should be designed to be a bit more cuddly.
Fortunately we had great weather coming out of Kewalo Basin Harbor, so the journey started out smoothly with the sun shining and seas relatively calm. My body, mind, and most importantly stomach, felt strong. I can’t quite describe the feeling of setting sail for the first time and seeing the land slip away, knowing you won’t be seeing any form of it again for three weeks. I took a million photos attempting to commemorate the beginning of this epic journey, and perhaps to also remind myself later in the sail that land, does indeed, still exist. The grand scale of the ocean is just impossible to wrap ones head around.
Early on in the voyage it was all-hands-on-deck to learn the ropes, literally. The incredible crew taught us how to hoist the sails, we soon caught the wind, and were able to really get cruising. This is a genuinely exhilarating experience. Also a physically confusing one. For the past 24 hours we’ve been living at a pretty strong angle as we zip through the waves. Life is tilted at about 45 degrees as I type this, which is a bit disorienting, especially when below deck. Between the hard lean of the boat, and immediately following a group dinner, my stomach decided it wasn’t quite ready for the sea life yet. That was the lowest point of the first day for me, but relatively speaking, it was nothing.
Very soon after I was literally at the helm, steering the boat. It turns out when you take the helm, it actually helps settle your stomach a bit, as you have a horizon on which to focus. There’s a feeling of great power and strength that comes with learning a new skill like this, actually commanding where this boat is going. It was pretty wild to go from the lowest to the highest point of my day in just a few short moments, but I suspect the next several weeks are going to be full of similar emotional swings.
I was fortunate to have sunset watch last night and dawn watch this morning. My body is learning the rhythm of the sun. My mind is learning to be in the moment. And I have to say, I love it all. I know this is just the beginning of a very long journey, but despite the bizarre physical experience, it’s pretty fantastic. So far I’ve learned how to steer a boat through a squall, check the engine, write a log, check the bilges, hoist a sail, and cook on a 45-degree angle. And it’s just day one. I’m excited about what’s yet to come.”
The North Pacific Crew will be sending us daily updates from Sea Dragon, which will be posted here on the eXXpedition website. You will also be able to see updates from the crew and ground team throughout North Pacific on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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