Our story starts in the dismal days of last January, 2015. Around this time of year, vessel ops students begin the eager planning of their summer internships. I knew that I wanted to work on a sailboat, having worked with the tall ship Lettie G. Howard the following summer, and, that I wanted to work a decent distance away from the familiarity of the New York Harbor. I emailed Greg Nissen, a family friend who works with boats in Greenport, Long Island. It was through Greg's support and connections that Elise Arndtsen, a vessel ops junior, and I met Captain Pat Mundus.
This past summer, Elise and I worked with Pat's company: East End Charters on the 57-foot motor yacht Surprise. We worked under Captain Leah Sweet and Erik Sammuels. The summer brought with it the adventures of chartering—sailing, navigating, engine work, cooking, cleaning, and fancy-drink serving. Crewing a charter sailor was as unlike my previous experiences as anything I had ever done. I learned the "glory of yachting": we scrubbed, fixed, and checked the engine only to pull on clean polos and khaki shorts when our charters arrived. We worked our hardest to show whoever came on board the full capabilities of something we loved. We watched sunrises, counted gulls on the horizon, and planned beach picnics.
However, I never would have imagined that our summer episodes would meander towards me flying to Acklins Island to meet Pat and Surprise this past February.
When we pulled up anchor off the coast of an island in the south of the Bahamas, I was on my way to doing something I had never done before. For all the time I had spent on boats, I had never left one harbor and not returned to that same harbor. I had never sailed in turquoise waters. I had never sailed in the open ocean. I had never sailed with no land on any horizon. I had never sailed through the night.
Our voyage consisted of many more firsts even then I had predicted. The up, down, forward, backward of the waves left me seasick, my levelheadedness chained to my consumption of saltines. As my eyes clung to the meeting of the water and sky, avidly watching in all directions, two glistening dolphins jumped to above the surface. My queasiness subsided. I rushed to tell the rest of the crew. That night, as I stood watch with Roxy Darling, I was transfixed by the complete sky of shinning stars. We kept a careful watch of our GPS and I counted as the nautical miles between us and land decreased. It was then that, almost a day after our departure, we saw the loom of land's white light. I cannot adequately describe the exhilaration and awe I felt. We had been in nothing and were now approaching something. This first night was a mark of the thrill and fascination with which I would devour experiences over the next week and a half.