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Location: Underway to St. Helena

Hello and good tidings to all of you reading from the comfort of your warm, dry homes. Rest assured that all is well and spirits are high. I am called Gabe, and I am the chief mate of Argo. I will now recount to you the events of March 5th, 2023.

Perhaps when you think about a day at Seamester, you imagine carefully planned activities ashore, academically rigorous and engaging classes, photos of sweeping vistas, and smiling faces under the sunset. You may find comfort in picturing the familiar routine of life at sea, the rotation of the watch teams, the laughing together over communal meals on the deck. This is indeed a day at Seamester, and in many ways, March 5th was no exception. After Watch Team Three executed a jibe at dawn and set our course for the final stretch to Saint Helena, Watch Team One and I spent the 8 to noon watch splicing lines, tinkering with the rig, and polishing surfaces on deck. It seemed like any other day on passage. We knew not what was to come.

The calm and happy Seamester of your imagination is but one side of a coin. We must never get complacent about the other side. We must be prepared for when that coin flips, as it did on March 5th.

I finished teaching my class at 4:00 PM. At 4:30, the fire alarm went off. By 4:35, everyone was mustered in the cockpit in their life jackets, and we determined that the alarm was only due to cooking smoke. At 4:36, just as we were about to stand down, the main reef pennant chafed through and put the weight of the leach onto the clew strop as the sail was taken aback. At 4:36 and thirty seconds, a three-foot-long mahi mahi hit one of our fishing lines. And so it began.

Fire extinguishers back down below. All hands changed from type 1 life jackets to type 5 PFDs. Centerline forward staysail. Unsecure and start the main engine. Turn head to wind. Stand by the main sheet and preventer. Centerline main sail. Take in all slack on the main topping lift. Ease the main halyard and reset the tack strop to the second reef. Take in the main halyard and secure. Take in the second reef pennant with the handy billy. Reset reef nettles. Pull in the fish. Kill the fish and start gutting and cleaning it.

These were the actions that our students threw themselves into immediately and simultaneously. As I stood precariously atop the binnacle to re-tie the clew strop, I looked down and saw lines being sweated and coiled, students jumping into action, and a deck awash in salt spray and fish blood. In the galley, the chefs carried on making dinner despite the force of the waves on our bow, despite the spatulas and pots and cutting boards flying in every direction. I saw the other Seamester. I saw the glorious Hour of Chaos.

We were ready for this, and we will always be ready. At 6:00 PM, we all sat down to dinner, and as the coin flipped back around, we watched the sunset and laughed.