“Anja, Anja, it’s 0600 and it’s time to get up.” Ugh, it was one of those mornings when the wake up seemed to come way too soon. I stumbled into breakfast still half asleep and already counting down until our watch would be over.
“Oh hey there JWO.” I looked around confused trying to slowly piece together what the watch officer was saying to me. JWO. Junior Watch Officer. I was racking my brain, what does this mean? Coffee. Definitely coffee.
Walking onto deck I prepared myself for what I could only anticipate would be the longest most stressful watch so far as I was entirely responsible along with the guidance of a part-time amnesic watch officer who seemed to “forget” answers at the most inconvenient times. As I mustered my watch on the quarter deck I quickly realized my shipmates were not waiting for me to bark orders and tell them what to do, they were waiting to help me. The first words spoken were, “Anja, whatcha need?” It quickly dawned on me that I was not in this alone. I had an amazing knowledgeable trustworthy group ready to help me shine as the JWO. And that is exactly what they did. Instead of passing by painfully slow and stressful as I had anticipated, the watch flew by with more things being packed into a morning than I thought possible. Sail handling, squalls, science stations, updates, sail plans, shooting the sun, and all the hourly needs of the ship seemed to magically happen with an unimaginable ease.
To say I learned a lot in my first watch as Junior Watch Officer would be like saying the 35 knot winds we were hitting were just a little gusty. I learned how to brief the captain, how to maneuver the ship to the right point of sail with the wind at the correct point off our bow, how to shoot Local Apparent Noon, how to call a sail set, and so so so much more. Yet all these details and the vast amount of ship knowledge I gained all seem inconsequential to the real lesson I learned as JWO.
With supportive dedicated shipmates at your back, anything is accomplishable. Sails can be set, squalls can be faced head on, and a first time mariner who still can’t walk the deck without tripping can keep the boat sailing happily to Honolulu.