Lets put the kettle on …

So here we are

– the first week of training. 14 strangers meet on a clipper 68. We sleep, sail, cook and get to know each other on a 21m long sailboat. Different backgrounds live, and aspirations, awkwardly smiling at each other.

We have 3 of the racing skippers training us – a great occasion to check them out for a week and understand what kind of people decided to take us around the world.

Day one we don’t even leave the port- we speak about the parts of the boat and how things work. We are divided into groups (watches) and get extra jobs, from checking technical things to cooking for the crew, to maintaining a logbook. It’s loads of information and new vocabulary, not only for a new field … but also in English.

The next days we sail, it takes ages to go through hoisting a sail and taking it back down, there are tons of things to remember and coordinate and to do „right“.

Loading the winch, how many turns again? Thumbs away from the winch – the back runner – VMT – TMV – vang, main and the topper. Yankees and staysail sheets, halyard (which one goes where?), rigging lines … I realize this is hard labour. Am I ever going to get this?

Sometimes I simply have trouble understanding the accents, British, Irish, American, Swedish, French, other times it’s the vocabulary of all the things that I can’t remember or I just have a phonetical idea and I have no clue what’s going on …

I find myself doing things without understanding why I am doing them. What I notice though is that I move into the situation instead of withdrawing from it, asking questions, making myself available – I want to get this!

Still, I am frustrated because I seem to be the weakest person on earth on a winch or sweating a sail. I start questioning my physical abilities. Will I be able to contribute and do my part? I realize it’s important for me not to let my crewmates down.

My brains slowly start dripping out of my ear. I feel weird, insecure, slow and overwhelmed. Realizing that I usually know what I am doing. In the past year, every new skill that I acquired was in the context of my job. I knew how to approach the topics. I now had the insight that a lot of my confidence was based on years of experience and practice in my job. Here, on the boat I felt like I was 19 again, selling ice cream for the first time. As one of my crewmates jokingly said: “what a kick in the butt for the ego…”

But lets put the kettle on…

Midweek we have a feedback session with the skipper – and I have a small meltdown sharing my insecurities. It’s being picked up very professionally and I get more training on techniques… and it works. The week turns around for me. Things start falling into place, repetition helps and I get the knots, names and am better at the winch.

We get along, laugh a lot and I enjoy the dynamics with my teammates. Teamwork becomes even more interesting with such a diverse team. A funny one for us non-English speakers was when one English crew member gave the commands for hoisting the sail, in such a polite manner! Would you mind, could you… How different that would sound in German as the language is more direct and straight forward. To me, it sounded rather like a proposition than a command. We made sure to tell him not to be offended when a German was going to be in charge, cause that will sound a lot different! 🙂

It was interesting to experience the Team developing its own dynamic. It can be quite rough on a sailboat, loud winds, quite a lot of screaming, apart from the fact that everybody was only sort of knowing what they were doing. So, I suppose thanks to our English team members, we developed our own little ritual which was, whenever there was the smallest window for a break someone said: “lets put the kettle on”… for a cup of tea. It somehow reset everybody’s minds and centred the group’s attention. A way of calming down and relaxing from all the madness. A wonderful ritual that we can already call our own and that I quickly learned to love.

So how do I reflect on what I have learned?

Here is how I process and progress!

Step 1 Unconsciously Incompetent

I didn’t know what I don’t know.

I am learning to sail a Clipper race sailboat. I had some assumptions about how some of the operations would work, but in reality, I did not know how to do many things.

Step 2 Consciously Incompetent

I know what I don’t know.

It becomes apparent that there is more to this than meets the eye. I have a list of things I have been told to do, but haven’t experienced the nuances.

I notice that we are all vulnerable and supportive of each other. Giving a team something new to learn in a short time, really bonds. In my next 2 levels of training and a lot of practice, I expect us to move to level 3.

Despite the ups and downs and more or less dramatic breakdowns I had that week, I’ve already touched on so many experiences that I wished to have and that I talked about in my first entry. I met new people, I learned new skills, emerged myself in a Team… And even though it scared the life out of me and maybe even because of that, I know that this is what I must do.

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