September 2012

The night before I headed off on my Pirate Adventure, I prepared myself by throwing a few not-quite-warm-enough jumpers into a bag, cracking open the Sailor Jerry’s and watching Pirates of the Caribbean.

“That’ll be you tomorrow!” my boyfriend said as Captain Jack swung around the mast in the midst of a storm. I laughed; partly because I was drunk, but mainly because (although, publicly, I retained the story that I was embarking on the voyage of a lifetime, and might very well never return home) I genuinely didn’t believe that a Tall Ship regatta, manned by a crew of beginners would involve too much intense physical labour.

Oh how wrong I was.

We’d spent the first couple of nights of our adventure moored up in Ireland due to stormy weather, and I’d really begun to enjoy the pirate life… the “pirate-moored-up-in-tortuga-drinking-at-the-local-tavern-every-night” life, that is. So when a crackled announcement came over the radio warning the Captain of force 8 storms on the horizon… I was nervous.

Besides a brief stint sailing around the bay that morning, and a “classroom lesson” on how to bring a ship into dock, I had absolutely no sailing experience whatsoever. Along with being washed overboard, my biggest fear was seasickness. Everyone I’d spoken to had pretty much guaranteed that, as it was my first time at sea,  I’d spend almost the whole trip battling my stomach.

So you can imagine my suprise when two thirds of the crew lay in bed throwing their guts up, leaving just me and 3 others on deck holding the fort.

The Captain stared down in disbelief at my (really bloody adorable, for the record)  panda hat and sparkly jumper ensemble, as I climbed up on deck to do my duty as one of the remaining “capable crew” members – the bewildered look in his eyes giving away his terror in the knowledge that he was going to have to count on me. After all, staggering  back to the boat on our first night after a heavy stint in at a pop-up Bulmers bar in Dublin, might have won the love of my fellow rum-swigging crew-mates, but hadn’t done much for my “reliable sailor” status. But right now, I had no choice but to step up my game…

As we headed towards a increasingly darkening sky, the heavens opened and the wind began to billow around us. Desperately trying to keep our balance, the few of us on deck scrabbled port-side as the boat dipped with the force of the waves. Just as I was wondering how on earth I was going to peel my shrinking skinny jeans from my soaking wet legs, one of the wooden stakes – holding a rope keeping the mainsail in placesnapped under the force of the gale, and the thunderous noise of over 200 metres of sail flapping in the wind deafened us.

Before I had the chance to think about what I was doing, me and two other crew members had launched ourselves at the loose rope, and straight into the path of the storm. Using every ounce of strength in our bodies to hold the sail in place while we secured another wooden stake, I thought to myself, “this is it – you’ve proved yourself as a real sailor now…” 

Little did I know, my dramatic adventures at sea had only just begun…



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