I boarded the Roseway on Thursday morning at 6:30 am with trepidation. I had signed up for the day sail from Portsmouth to Boston on a glorious hot, still, calm July day in Andover. But this morning was fogged in, rain and thundershowers were predicted and big swells were inevitable. We sign up for things, sometimes, with a romantic notion of what they will be—an AP class that will impress our parents and colleges, a summer service trip that will be fulfilling and profound, an off-campus program that will challenge and inspire. And then when we get to the class, or the airport, or the dock, our feelings sink—why did we ever think this was a good idea?
Two hours into the journey, the sea had tossed us around. Several passengers had succumbed to seasickness, and there was no way anybody was going to stay down below with the pitching and churning of the waves and wind. We clung to the benches on the wet deck, and we looked at our watches—12 more hours of this? Why did we actually choose to join this trip?
Four or five hours in, something started to change. The sun came out, which cheered us up, but it was more than that. Conversations sprung up in small groups, as we traversed the deck, sitting with different people, checking on their spirits and their level of nausea, We stared at the horizon, spotting a whale once in a while, and noticing how slowly we came onto and passed by light houses and spits of land. The Isle of Shoals rolled by, Cape Ann came and went, and we stopped talking about how long we had left on the boat. Instead, we talked about our summers, our kids, our plans, and our lives.
Our legs and stomachs began to adapt to the rolling waves and some of us were able to prepare and even eat lunch. Others napped in the sun, their bodies starting to accept the rocking as a hammock, rather than a roller coaster. The captain and crew of the Roseway chatted about sea birds, whales, other ships on the horizon, the history of the ship, and the voyage ahead for our Ocean Classroom students in September. Time slipped away and soon Boston came into view.
We needed to turn into a dark shelf of clouds and rain to make the run into Boston Harbor. The sky looked threatening and menacing, and I listened hard to the captain and his first mate discuss when to take the sails down, and at what angle to enter the harbor. I felt a little anxious about how hard this was going to be. But, the young crew was cheerful and reassuring---"We’ll get a little wet, but that’s okay. Out here we dry off quick."
We turned into the storm, and the rain came pelting down, the temperature dropped, and the waves rose up to meet us. We hunkered down, zipped up our raincoats and rode it out. Soon we broke through the worst of it as the heavy clouds and rain sheets broke up and light grey patches appeared. Miraculously, we sailed into the harbor in sunny skies, as a stunning rainbow graced the sky behind us.
I now know better why Dave Pilla loved Ocean Classroom and worked so hard to create the experience for our students. It was only one long day, but I didn’t want to leave the Roseway. I liked listening to her creaks and watching her proud red sails stand out against the blue sky. I admired her ability to ride the unquiet sea, and I had a deep sense of how much one could learn from this ship, this crew, and this ocean. Life on the Roseway will not always be easy for our students during their nine week passage, but I am grateful to Dave and to all the Ocean Classroom crews—past, present and future--who have made the experience so significant and vital for our community.
Thanks to Brooks Bicknell and Jim Cox for sharing photos and video from the day.