One of my experiences was the first day our division got Helm and Lookout qualified and me and my friend Collard were standing at the Helm for the first time by ourselves. We saw the Captain come up to the bridge and then the XO and we knew something was about to happen. All of a sudden, XO grabs something from the bridge and throws it overboard and starts yelling “Man overboard, port side!” The wind is blowing with a slight sprinkle and we look to each other with the “Uh oh” face. The OOD yells, “Helmsman, full left rudder!” Mind you, the wheel to turn the rudder has no hydraulics. Full rudder is a command to take the rudder thirty degrees to the left which is usually a six man evolution and it was just the two of us… We arrived at twenty degrees barely hanging on for our dear lives, Collard was squatting up as hard as he could and I was draped over the wheel trying to budge it any further and it wouldn’t move a bit. Our arms started to spasm and just before we let the wheel a spinnin’, a big seamen jumped on the wheel as well as a couple others and saved our lives. We felt that in the morning, but we also rescued the man overboard in record time!
Later on during that time at sea, my division had Watch on Deck duty which is keeping the sails trimmed or setting or dousing sails to keep the ship going the correct speed without calling all hands on deck to fix the sails. At the moment, we were going 15 knots, just shy of Eagle’s max speed of 17 knots. We were having 40 knot gusts and were listing over at about 35 degrees. We were told we had to furlough the royal, which is the sail at the very top, about 150 feet above the water. I am quite afraid of heights and the conditions didn’t help the situation. I said I wouldn’t do it, there’s no way I could make it. My division was short staffed and they eventually needed me to go up in order to accomplish the task. I was not happy to say the least. On board, we are allowed to listen to music every once in a while and my division had been listening to B.o.B.’s “Don’t Let Me Fall” the past couple days while on watch so as I climbed 150 feet in the air all I could do was sing the lyrics, “What goes up, must come down, don’t let me fall.” Usually you climb on the outside so you don’t have to climb with your back to the ocean so that way if you slip or fall, you fall on the ropes and not in the ocean. Except this time, they told me I had to climb on the inside, so there I went, climbing up 150 feet at a 35 degree angle coming more and more afraid of heights as I clambered up. I made it to the top with a few slips and a couple slideshows of my life flash before my eyes, but I did it! I survived! I had never been so happy to touch those teak decks. It was an amazing feeling to know what I had just accomplished and the fears I conquered, but once is enough for me.
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