I have loved sailing ever since the day I first stepped onto a sailboat the summer I was nine. My love for sailing soon became almost an addiction. During the winter months, I would long to feel the summer breeze on my face, and to feel the sails catching the wind and the boat picking up speed. I was thrilled when I heard of a program where high school students are able to spend a month living on a boat, sailing nearly six hundred miles from St. Martin to Trinidad. Naturally, I signed up. The start of the program approached quickly, and before I knew it, I had bid my parents goodbye and arrived in St. Martin, part of the Netherlands Antilles. I was a little apprehensive and wondered what I had gotten myself into, living on a 50-foot boat with twelve other people for 32 days. However, I found that, although I lacked physical space—I shared a small cabin with two other girls and being in such a confined environment it was hard to find any time alone—the long sails provided me with ample time to think, to daydream, and to just live life slowly, a luxury very rare in our busy lives. I felt that I was able to truly live the motto so popular among sailors in the Caribbean: “Sail Fast, Live Slow, Mon.” While our boat, Arwen, was flying through the waves, I was able to sit up on deck and just enjoy the deep blue water, the lush mountains, and my inner calm.

Although the day sailing was great, it was during the night sails that I really learned a lot about myself. The darkness surrounding us—no other boats, no islands, no light save that given off by the stars and moon—was a reminder of the vastness of the world. But there was something more. I had to learn to entrust my life, and the lives of my crew, to a small piece of machinery. While at the helm, I had to rely solely on the compass to keep course, as my sense of sight was limited. People say that once one sense is taken away, the others are greatly enhanced, which definitely proved true during the night sails. Instead of checking the wind indicator at the top of the mast to see where the wind was coming from, I had to judge the wind’s direction from how it felt on my face. I felt more in tune with the rhythm of Arwen, and once again, I was able to “live slow” by looking at the stars and daydreaming, while our vessel raced through the waves. After returning from my month on Arwen, I have a brand new sailing certification, but, more importantly, I feel that I now understand just how vast the world is, and how small one boat can seem.

-Leila Crawford