Great Expectations

Submitted by Isabella Infante from Bristol

In the summer of 2010, my Texan parents bought a “summer project” in downtown Bristol. With all their time being taken up planting a few seeds or looking though paint swatches, my sister and I were enrolled into the Herreshoff sailing program. We were told we would learn new skills for four of the five weeks we were in Rhode Island. We were also told we would have to make our own lunches, walk ½ a mile there and back and wake up at nine… and I thought summer break meant I was out of school?

They hoped we would learn how to sail, then would teach them. I, on the other hand, craved the freedom of unscheduled time, the escape from the scorn from my supervisors, and adventure that was only as grand as the imagination and risks I was willing to take. So to have these treasures stolen from me, was nothing but a crime! None the less, out to the sea I was sent!

On my first day, I rolled out of bed at the last minute knowing that in doing so, my mom would have already made my lunch for me. (At least one responsibility I had gotten out of!) I hurriedly grabbed the lunch on the kitchen table along with the bag I packed the night before with my swimsuit, sunscreen, towel and a deck of playing cards and ran out the door before my mother could give me any last moment “warning words of wisdom.”

On the first day, I was paired with two other girls, both who were two or three years older, and was appointed to a 12 1/2 named SWALLOW. Just as I thought I was going to have to sit on some old boat with a self-absorbed adolescent the three of us were shuttled out, without supervision, a radio or any briefing with the exception of a reminder to “treat the boat like our grandmothers” and “tiller towards trouble.” Luckily the other two girls had had some prior experience sailing at the camp and knew their way around a 12 ½.

For the first half of the sail I sat back and carefully observed their every move. Whenever I was introduced to something new, my first step was to watch without making any interruptions to the natural order of things. Then once I began feeling comfortable and I felt like I knew a thing or two, I would bombard anyone I could with questions. However, before I got to the second stage, one of the girls – who I had deduced was using a stick to drive the boat turned to face me. “Would you be okay skippering; I want to go sit on the bow. Just give us a shout if you need anything, ya?”

“Sure,” I didn’t see why not. There didn’t seem to be any consequences if I messed up, and from what I could tell it was fairly simple. All I had to-do was point the funny looking stick exactly where I didn’t want to go. Sure, I have learned there is so much more to sailing than then simple maneuvers of the tiller, but in that moment it was enough. I soon sank back into the side of the wooden boat, cradling me as I freely guided it through Bristol Harbor on no more knowledge than instinct. The simplicity of this newfound freedom with the backdrop of Bristol’s beauty was not at all what I had expected.

My original expectations of Herreshoff were wrong, so were the stereotypes of my peers in Houston. Even the hopes my parents held of them learning to sail from us were wrong, seeing as that they have no marine knowledge. In our ever changing world, what we expect is hardly what is, and although I do not know what is to come of my future, I guarantee that I will the lessons and memories that Herreshoff has given me will propel me into great adventures.

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