The Maiden Factor Blog

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Ship, Shipmate, Self

A blog by Leg Crew Hadley Neale

Position 15.00’430″N  75.07’177″W
Compass Course 117′
Wind Speed 14.0
Boat Speed 7.2

I was so excited to come into Panama, I spent the majority of the trip south from San Diego reading about the history of the Canal and how the locks work. I had wanted to travel through the Canal since a professor in college talked about traveling through it. Ask any of the girls and they’ll say I have been peppering them with canal facts since day two! Even still with that excitement coming in from being offshore is bittersweet. 

Hadley laughs laying on top of the sail whilst reading a book on her phone

All photographs in this blog: ©THE MAIDEN FACTOR/AMALIA INFANTE

I could easily say sailing offshore is my happy place, but it’s more complicated than that. It’s not the romantic idea that armchair sailors get in their heads by reading Patrick O’Brian or Joseph Conrad. Sailing is so much more and so simpler than that. Roles at sea become defined and the pecking order established. Ship, Shipmate, Self and no deviation from that. Your first objective is to make sure the ship is provided for. She is clean, maintained and ready for anything. Your shipmates are happy and healthy and ready for anything. You are taking care of yourself and ready for anything.  Onboard we’ve established daily chores to ensure these needs (especially the ship’s needs), it also helps set a routine. Some chores are simple and some are annoying and depending on conditions some are seemingly impossible, but you get them done somehow. Lunch is made and clean up, bilges are emptied, the boat cleaned, wake-ups done, dinner made and cleaned up from. It can be mundane and it can be hectic, all in all, it’s comforting. 

The world dwindles down to the boat and the sea. All your waking hours and some not quite awake go to the boat and the voyage. The moments of idleness, as everything and everyone onboard is happy, can lead some sailors to boredom – but I relish them. The pressures from land melt away. Instagram is never going to see the 2am snacks after weeks without a freshwater shower. The topics of conversation shift from aliens to food to books to dreams. It is at the same time inane and inspiring. The crew becomes close not only because we depend on each other, but through shared experience. We wake each other up, we cook for each other, we tell awful jokes in the middle of the night. We learn preferences and support each other when we’re just not feeling it.

I am still so stoked from the canal, every last minute of it from 3am when we got up to 1730 when our pilot departed was amazing. Watching the lock doors open and close and working with the line handlers onshore. Squeezing into the locks with huge container ships, and interrogating Adrian the pilot about the size of the locks and why he’s becoming a pilot was a highlight of the trip. But I honestly wasn’t ready for the nearly three weeks sail from San Diego to end. That or it’s the week-long beat to windward post canal that is making me nostalgic.