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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Home Again

It is hard to believe that after four months, 120 days, 6200 nautical miles at sea, I am home again. I will ignore for the moment that it is a fleeting twenty four hours as my next port of call is my other home: Charleston. Instead of looking ahead, however, I want to reflect for a moment on the experiences of the last four months.

We had an incredibly successful semester of sailing and education. I had not taught literature and English since college. Not only was it thrilling to be teaching literature again, but I successfully developed the classroom (or deckspace?) atmosphere I dreamed of.

More impressive though were our students and our itinerary. I have already written oodles about the itinerary, but I have written little about the students. Each of our eighteen students has made an indelible impression on my life. This was the first four month program in years that started and ended with the same number of students. Every student passed my class. We had very few discipline issues. These are the paper reasons our students were incredible.

Paper reasons say very little. We went through the wringer on this trip. We had two crew members depart, we added two new crew members at various points, one only ten days before the end of the trip. We were delayed in Trinidad for over a week-removing most of the Central America stops from our list of experiences. We had a students who had lost (or did lose on the trip) people incredibly close to them. We had students with medical issues. We had eighteen teenagers living practically on top of each other. I witnessed them being offered drugs and alcohol. We traded Gloucester for NYC on the itinerary only to miss out on both stops. On our longest passage (11 days), the first five were marked with something different going wrong each day, two days we moved less than 30 miles towards Honduras, and the last two days were filled with swells up to twenty-five feet high and sighting five waterspouts. We did not catch a single fish. We had engine trouble. That trouble caused us to lose two port stops and our boat. We moved aboard the Spirit of Massachusetts and had to learn a whole new ship.

Through all of the crazy experiences that will give them sea stories to share for life, our students were amazing. And, as seems to always be the case, I did not tell them that nearly enough!

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