November 2, 2012 | by Robin Beth Schaer
Illustration by Madzia Bryll, a fellow member of the crew.
At first, I couldn’t sleep on the ship. At night, bunked beneath the waterline, I put my hand against the wooden hull and imagined dark water on the other side pressing back. I lay awake holding my breath, picturing the route I would swim through a maze of cabins and hatches if the ship went down. In port, Bounty had looked tremendous: one hundred and eighty feet long, three masts stretching a hundred feet into the sky, and a thousand square yards of canvas sails. But underway, with ocean spreading toward horizon in every direction, she was small, and inside her I was even smaller.
I had lost my job and my marriage when I saw Bounty for the first time. I wanted to stowaway, cast off, and leave the ruins of my life behind—and Bounty let me. Yet I left far more than grief on land; what mattered at home—education, achievements, appearance—was irrelevant at sea. It was unsettling to abandon all that I thought defined me. I sat in the galley with the other deckhands and wondered what they understood from my face. I was uncertain of what remained.
To leave the shore required surrender; I had to give myself over to the ship and the journey, wherever it led and whatever it revealed. I fell into the rhythms of standing watch and eating meals. Soon even the ship’s deep rolls and strange music of creaking timbers became familiar. I learned lines and sails, practiced emergency drills, and studied the compass and charts; I tarred, painted, spliced, caulked, and I finally slept. I slept deeply, trusting when I closed my eyes others were awake, on watch, keeping me safe, just as I had done for them. We were profoundly dependent on each other.
Read the whole entry here