Creative Writing

All aboard: A trip on the Leeuwin

I just spent a week on the Leeuwin, a three-masted sailing ship that travels up and down the WA coast, building character in young people by teaching them about sailing, leadership, and teamwork.

I was on board with about 38 other university kids. We were divided into four groups of about 8-10 people. Each group was led by an experienced volunteer in about their early 20s. The volunteers showed an amazing level of leadership tragically lacking in many politicians and teachers. Each group would take turns doing watch, which could involve sitting on the deck for four hours at night, steering the ship or watching the horizon for danger.

On that second day, we sailed about 80 miles out past Rottnest. The island had been sheltering us from rougher waters and the effects were noticeable as we got further into the ocean. Sea sickness hit well over half of us. To get from the front of the ship to the back, you’d have to step over horizontal bodies lined up on the deck. It looked like that scene in Gone with the Wind where Vivien Leigh walks through a sea of wounded soldiers.

A typical day on the Leeuwin would start with morning exercises at 6.30. That might involve yoga or calisthenics. After that, we’d have breakfast and start ship chores: Deck scrubbing, bathroom cleaning etc.

In the afternoon, our groups would rotate to take lessons in knot tying, ropes, navigation and such.

On about the third day, lessons went out the window when the crew caught a Wahoo off the back of the boat. Everyone crowded around to get a look. The beast was over a meter weighed over 20 kilograms. Eventually, it was bled, hacked into slabs about the size of a man’s forearm and taken to the galley. It was made into a curry type thing. I think we had it for lunch the next day. It tasted pretty good.

The day after that we dropped anchor off Rottnest and spent the afternoon on pinkies.

On the last night, we had a talent show. I saw a girl reciting pi to four hundred while her friend juggled rope balls and a third man danced around their heels with his legs crossed.

I had one of the best weeks of my life on the Leeuwin and I seriously recommend everybody applying for it. My highlight was climbing the main mast. At the top is a small plaque with a message. The only people who know what it says are the people who’ve climbed up and read it.

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