Lessons Learned on The Ocean Part II

By Joe Ribbins ’18

Growing up on a small Caribbean island is not something a lot of people get to do. Another thing that a lot of people don’t get to do is sail over 9,000 nautical miles, to 12 different ports, on 3 continents, and while sailing, crossing the equator and the Atlantic.

This is only half of the adventure. I have experienced so much of this world; I have ridden a camel in the Sahara Desert, surfed with sharks in Fernando de Noronha, met a man in Senegal that said he could talk to waves, gone skinny dipping in the Suriname River and watched a half-naked man jump around on a stage with kids watching in Valencia Spain (I almost got dragged up myself). I lost my wallet in Porto Portugal, met an old friend and Lakefield alumni in Barcelona, and gave an ocean conservation talk in Funchal, Madeira. I also missed my sister getting engaged, was in the middle of the ocean for Christmas, and in the jungle for the new year. In Senegal, I met a man that lived inside of an artillery gun, at sea we have been in waves bigger than the boat we are on and have sailed past schools of tuna feeding. We saw an unknown shark that was the size of a car in the water, then gone swimming not long after in the same place. And as always, had many sleepless nights and long days.

Doing all of this, you get to learn so much about the different cultures in the world and around the Atlantic, I have had the privilege to experience all of it. I slept in a Senegalese family’s home (shout out to Wahab), got to meet and spoke to school kids in Funchal, Madeira, got lost in a fish market in Palma de Mallorca, and got my face shaved by a man in a small village in the Suriname rainforest. I explored the market in Marrakesh, Morocco, and was taught how to make a surfboard in the backwoods of Fernando de Noronha, Brazil. The ability to explore these cultures is not something you can take for granted, it is all a new experience and I will never get tired of it. Of course, boat life is getting hard, exams are here and the late-night watches are full of sail maneuvers but the short sleeps and the long days are worth it. When you are in a country you have never been to, doing something you will never do again, it is a feeling you won’t forget.

Hello, my name is Joe Ribbins, from the Class of 2018 at Lakefield College School, and this is my second blog (read my first here). These are just some of the things that have happened in the past couple of months. I am a student on Class Afloat and we are about to finish our first semester. In just four months I have learned so much about myself.

I learned that I can’t hide from my teachers on a 70m long boat, I learned that you should always make sure you pull on the right rope, I learned that when the officer on watch is scared of the weather that is coming—you should be terrified, also I learned that lice can travel faster than anything you have ever seen. I learned that you don’t need more than one minute to shower, if you open your mind when you meet people you are more likely to like them, and if you don’t like someone then you don’t need to try. I have seen good friends break up and new friends come together. I have been half way around that world and if there is one thing that I learned it is this, travelling to new places is amazing, but nothing beats the time it takes to get there, and the people you met while doing so.

On my road to getting to this moment, where I am sitting at the back of the boat, fishing lines in the water watching the birds try and catch some fish, and flying fish jumping everywhere, I can say that every hard moment in my life has been worth it to this point. Traveling to Canada for school, was worth it. Not seeing my friends and family, was worth it. And not sleeping as much is worth it. after all, what would I been doing if I was back home?

Photo from instagram.com/classafloat
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Lakefield College School is a private, coeducational boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12, located in Lakefield, Ontario, Canada.

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