This week is Week 12 in the semester which is just crazy to believe, the fall has really flown by! The past couple weeks I’ve definitely been dragging my feet a bit and feeling pretty burned out with the constant stream of work and outside activities that have been the norm since September. This past Friday and Saturday I got a really wonderful break from it all though and felt really rejuvenated as I had my nautical science class (NAUT 301) sailing voyage! One of the many perks of attending a university so close to the California coast is the opportunity to take unique courses like this one where we learn about the basics of nautical science, seafaring vocabulary, and the fundamentals of sailing. Being from the dry deserts of Arizona, these topics were all very foreign to me and was an experience I have never had the chance to try before, so having a class that sets up an actual sailing trip to experience this firsthand was something I couldn’t pass up. Here are some of the highlights from my voyage to Catalina Island!

Learning to Navigate and Get my Bearings at Sea

Besides just having the experience of being out on the water, this voyage is meant to be educational so we were always learning something during that time. Listening in on how to work a compass and use landmarks nearby to gauge our relative latitudinal and longitudinal location at sea was really fascinating and is something I have never looked into much before this. It felt really satisfying to be able to work the various navigational tools and know that if I were ever without a GPS on a boat, I could (hopefully) find my way home! 

Climbing the Masts and Rigging

Probably my favorite thing about this trip was getting to go up the climbing nets along the sides of the main mast, climbing to around 25-30 ft up. I love a good climb (although for the first 20 feet or so we weren’t harnessed in), not to mention it was a great view once you’re up there. I even got to help furl the sails for the night we spent anchored outside Catalina, standing on just a thick cable trying to keep my balance as we folded these massive, heavy sails (I was harnessed in though)!

Petting the Dogs On Board

Okay so this was a bit unique to this ship, but we had not one but TWO dogs aboard our vessel that belonged to the Maritime Institute crew that sailed for us. It just made the already incredible experience that much sweeter to be able to pet some puppies and watch the water stream by. I mean, what situation isn’t made better with cute dogs?

Seeing Two Huge Pods of Dolphins

We were lucky enough to see two rather large pods of dolphins during our voyage with some of the dolphins getting only a few feet from the sides of our ship to swim along with us! I think I saw more dolphins in those two days than I have seen in all my life before this, they just get coming and jumping out of the water. It truly was unbelievable to see in person and we all were glued to the side of the ship to watch in awe.

Sleeping on Deck

We had the option to sleep either in the bunks below deck or find a spot to layout our sleeping bags on deck. Due to the low temperatures, most students opted for the cozy bunks inside, but I had prepared and brought and obscene about of warm sweaters and layers so I decided to brave the cold to sleep out in the ocean air under the wide open night sky. I bundled up real tight in my super warm sleeping bag (my beanie was the MVP of this trip, I didn’t take it off once for those two days) and settled in for honestly one of the best nights of sleep I’ve had in a while. The warmth of my sleeping bag against the chilly outside air combined with the gentle rocking of the boat lulled me right to sleep and I woke up feeling so refreshed. Not to mention, waking up to a light morning sky all around you with the sound of lapping waves was so picturesque, it was definitely a main character moment for me! 🙂

Meeting New Friends From All Across USC

Since NAUT 301 is a general USC 2-unit course open to all of USC, it attracts a wide variety of students from across different majors. I don’t think there were any repeats of majors (or even really similar majors) among the 28 students aboard which led to some very interesting conversations on topics from neuroscience to animation to mechanical engineering. Everyone genuinely got along so well and seemed to just be enjoying this exciting, unique experience we all got to be a part of together (and enjoying the yummy food too!). USC is so full of fascinating people and it was such a joy to just sit and talk or  stare out at the foggy horizon line with some new friends.

If this doesn’t convince you of how cool of a class NAUT 301 is, I don’t know what will. It’s a week after my sailing voyage and I’m still riding the high from it, I came back feeling so revitalized and energized for my daily activities again. This experience will be something I remember for years to come and definitely is one of the highlights of my time here at USC.

Gianna Beck

Gianna Beck

MAJOR: Computer Science (Games) YEAR: Class of 2023 HOMETOWN: Phoenix, Arizona PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @gianna__b I'm involved with computer science research investigating affective gesturing in robots in the Interaction Lab along with being a Freshman Engineering Academy Coach. Outside of Viterbi, I'm a part of Greek Life, SC Climbing, the Student Alumni Society leadership board, and I am a volunteer at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.