Location: Virgin Gorda 18 30.11N 64 22.29W

A young man stood looking up at us from the dock and way at the back of the boat Captain Ben called, “the foremost bowline please,” and the man slipped the 2-inch thick rope of the cleat and one of us hauled it aboard, keeping the loop out of the water.

The students were spread along the dockside edge of Argo, holding ropes and bumpers (fenders, as the English Ben said [there was also talk of the letter ‘Zed’ from Ian]), preparing for our first nautical act: Then the ropes were hauled aboard, and the fenders were in and the ship was turning slowly in the turquoise water facing out between an insurmountable field of sailboats. Ben guided the ship precisely between the boats and about 100 yards away from the tan cliffs of a nearby island we came to a stop and hoisted the mainsail.

“We’re sailing!” Simon sang. “Whats the third line?”

“Through the Bay”

“That’s the fourth line.”

You are allowed to swear if you stub your toe on a toe-stubbing cleat. “So many great places to stub your toe,” Ian said. Passing the mainmast, he affectionately patted a stainless steel rope-well attached to it and said, “This is a great place to hit your head,” sounding happy that there was at least one good spot for that. I suppose when you live on a ship every toe-stubbing, head rutting, forearm gauging piece of metal is a part of the vessel keeping us afloat, and worthy of our affection, as long as it keeps us afloat.

We’re anchored in the harbor of Virgin Gorda.

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