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Mindful : December 2013
December 2013 mindful 39 education Sea school was a deeply formative experience for Philippe Inacio-Goetsch. He didn’t just lea rn how to sail a boat; he lea rned how to build one. In fact, he spent last winter rebuilding the school’s first boat, the Dorothea, which had originally been constructed by students. Those earlier students had helped choose the very timbers, har vested from local forests, for the build, a nd par ticipated in all other phases of creating a seaworthy vessel. Inacio- Goetsch, who is now a n instructor, also enlisted the help of current students to rebuild the Dorothea in a shop beside Halifa x ha rbour. The biggest thing you learn at sea school, says Inacio-Goetsch, is that when there’s no escape, you can find freedom and space. Students see how they can be awa re of that space no matter what’s happen- ing—periods of intense weather, tension on the boat, or just plain boredom. “Things get real,” he says. “Things fall apart, tempers flare, and the students realize that they can have a good experience of it. They’re in control of what’s going on.” There are daily routines on board that help students develop their awareness. To get the blood flowing, everyone takes a morning dip. Rain or shine, cold or not, everyone has to get into the water for a few minutes. Each day begins and ends with “outwa rd turn,” where students silently look out at the horizon. It’s a practice desig ned to help everyone stop and shift their focus from the cramped, damp interior of the boat to the limitless sea and sky be- yond the hull. Before beginning or ending any group activity on board, such as preparing food, everyone bows. Sailing is often done in silence, so everyone can, as Inacio-Goetsch puts it, “tune in to what’s going on.” Throughout the day, students take turns at all of the nautical roles: taking the wheel and command- ing the boat, working the ropes and sails, and row- ing. Each day, the goal is to travel a predetermined route and find a cove or an island in order to lay anchor for the night in a protected area. Once that’s done, everyone prepares dinner. After cleanup, everyone arranges their sleeping bags side by side on top of the makeshift bedframe made by placing the oars between the bow and stern. The day ends with “candle talk”—an impromptu lantern made out of the top of a plastic soda bottle and a tall candle is passed from person to person. Whoever has the light takes a turn speaking. It’s a chance to debrief about what people a re feel- ing and thinking, says Inacio-Goetsch. “ Everything gets talked about—what happened during the day, including a nything tense or difficult; how to work better as a crew; or even how to change the world. It depends on the chemistry of who’s on the boat.” At night, the students rotate on 45-minute shifts of night watch, keeping the well-being of sleeping crewmates in mind and watching for sudden changes in the weather. At daybreak, it all begins again. Above: Philippe Inacio-Goetsch is both a boatbuilder and a sea school instructor. “Things fall apart, tempers flare, and the students realize they can have a good experience of it,” he says of the trips, which can range from 5 to 21 days. Left: Claire Fraser, 18, weathered her first five-day sea school voyage in June, struggling with sweltering summer heat, pouring rain, mosquitoes, and living in close quarters with nine other teenagers. She plans to go on more trips and is considering becoming an instructor. Crane Stookey grew up in New York City and worked as a n architect for eight years in Boston a nd Sa n Francisco. He always loved sailing, so after taking a break from his profession—and working on oceangoing ships for four years—he decided in the early 1990s to change course and open a sailing school in Nova Scotia. Though some of the tech- niques used at the sea school a re inspired by Out- ward Bound, they have been adapted to fit Stookey’s goal: helping students learn responsibility a nd creat- ing a community in microcosm. →