All Aboard the Tole Mour!

“Am I prepared for this?” This was the question that kept me restless the night before we left to California for our 10-day offshore sailing voyage in the Pacific Ocean.

C Watch
C Watch

After nearly eleven hours of traveling, we arrived to Long Beach where we were welcomed aboard the Tole Mour–a 156 foot, three-masted square topsail schooner. To truly immerse ourselves in this sailing experience, we gave up all of our electronics. At first, this major disconnection to the outside world was hard to get used to but after the first 24 hours, I began to get accustomed to not being constantly connected. There were definitely instances where I wanted to use my phone, but I also appreciated the value of living in the moment and taking in the experience.

Combatting both homesickness and seasickness was quite difficult, especially with no land in sight, but aboard the Tole Mour, I had the opportunity to get a glimpse of what the life of a sailor could be like. Hauling in lines to strike sails while singing sea chanteys, steering the ship at the helm, and being on bow watch were a few of the many jobs I had aboard. I found bow watch to be my favorite duty as it gave me the opportunity to admire the vast ocean’s beauty. Occasionally, we would even see dolphins jumping beside our boat!

One night after my evening watch, I reflected upon my watch experience in my journal:

As miles of salty blue water surround us, I peer out to the straight line of the horizon. Currently, it is the only thing that is not rocking, and therefore, is the only aid to my seasickness.

The glimmering navy blue swells of the Pacific that I admired during the day are nearly unrecognizable as my night watch began. The water that was so calm only two hours prior has now become quite choppy. The darkness brought about by the evening makes the ocean look black and foreboding. Visibility is quite limited as my watch members and I depend on the mere glimmer of red lights on the boat.

helm
At the helm of the Tole Mour

My evenings at the bow also gave me a lot of time to reflect and appreciate those who have navigated and traveled the same seas hundreds of years prior. Although technology has rapidly modernized the way we sail and navigate, the techniques used to combat the unpredictability of the ocean have not. While at the helm, the captain explained that if navigational technology fails in a modern vessel, a sea captain must have an alternate strategy to continue on. To my surprise, one navigational technique that is still used by sailors is the same as what ocean explorers of times past used: Celestial Navigation.

Life at sea definitely took a lot of adapting to. Showering was extremely limited due to the necessity of preserving water and balance was so difficult to obtain as your body constantly battles the rocking of the boat. Numerous bruises all over my body validated that even up until the last day, I still did not get my sea legs.

Luckily, our hard work aboard the Tole Mour was compensated with many astonishing experiences. Not only did we get the opportunity to explore the world’s largest Sea Cave at Santa Barbara Island, we also had the chance to go snorkeling twice! The first time we went snorkeling, we had the chance to swim with curious sea lions. One sea lion swam only two feet below me! During my second snorkeling adventure, I had the chance to admire the diverse marine species off the shore of Catalina Island!

snorkeling
All geared up for snorkeling off Catalina Island!

To wrap up our trip, we had the chance to swing off of the Tole Mour on a rope swing and had an eventful evening “Swizzle” which included a fun talent show and dance party! The memories that were made aboard the Tole Mour are surely unforgettable. I am so excited to return to California on October 4th to explore San Francisco and make even more memories!

Fair Winds and Smooth Sailing,

Michelle

Author: williamsmystic

A one semester interdisciplinary ocean and coastal studies program integrating marine science, maritime history, environmental policy, and literature of the sea.

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