Running Off to Sea

I have written before about how I will be participating in an Experiential Learning aboard the U.S. Brig Niagara, a replica of a War 1812 square rigged brig which fought at the battle of Lake Erie. This week I had my pre-departure meeting.

At the meeting I met the students I will be sailing with for the first time, I met a representative from the Niagara League and we received our instructions. At one point the representative from the Niagara opened it up for questions saying “running off to sea is something I doubt you have a lot of experience with.”

U.S. Brig Niagara under sail on Lake Erie.
U.S. Brig Niagara under sail on Lake Erie.

Well he was right, I have never spent three weeks aboard a ship, let alone one completely powered by wind. Looking over the packing list, I realized I did not have the first clue of what I was doing. A lot of it made sense to me, for instance, they say wool is better than cotton on a ship as it will keep you warm even when it is wet. Other things however, I don’t necessarily understand. The recommended packing list included a knife, “no longer than 5″ long.” Is that something I will need? I haven’t the first clue.

To be perfectly honest I walked away from the meeting a little stressed out. Was I an idiot to think this was a good idea? Professor Binnington who is in charge of the EL however said something that made me feel better. He said that none of us will know what we are doing for the first few weeks. We will be told to do things and we will do it without knowing why. If we are told to pull on a rope, we will do it, but we won’t understand why we have to do it and how it helps the ship to operate.

According to Binnington, by the last week we will begin to understand what is going on and it will begin to make sense to us. I really hope he is right.

Looking over the schedule though I am excited. We will be traveling the lake, I will get to give tours of the ship and learn more about the Great Lakes and the War of 1812, as well as the Battle of Lake Erie. I am trying to look at it as something that, for good or for bad, I will never forget. It’s an adventure, and as my Dad pointed out when I was wavering in whether or not to do it “when will you ever get another chance to do something like this?”