For each of my past semesters here at USC, I have taken 4 core courses and one 2 unit elective to fill out my schedule to 18 units. In the past they have ranged from the mandatory Freshman Engineering Academy to Introduction to Information Security to Introduction to Adobe Photoshop. This semester I followed the common recommendation of many upper and underclassmen to take NAUT301A: Seamanship and Navigation.
That class is colloquially known on campus as Introduction to Sailing. The course consists of 6 weeks of lectures, where you learn the parts of a sailboat, the physics of sailing, and all that is necessary for navigating at sea. The lectures are each taught by incredibly experienced captains, who have traveled countless hours on the boats in which the students will soon be voyaging on. After the 6 weeks and a quiz on the content, students are given the opportunity to sign up for a dockside demo and an overnight voyage. For me, I chose my dockside demo to be two weeks before my voyage, giving me a chance to check out the boat before heading to Catalina on it.
For our demo, I traveled with my friend to San Pedro and met the director of the program, Capt. Harding, who explained the history of the boats we would be sailing as well as the important things to remember. While the lesson was fun and informative, we couldn’t wait to get on our voyage.
Our trip began on Friday morning at around the same place as our demo; we boarded the boat with our duffle bags and set sail around noon. With about 20 other students we got right to action, raising our sails, charting our course and even steering the ship. For me there were two incredible parts of the journey, the first being what I witnessed on the way to Catalina. As we sailed, we could see some rumblings in the water about 20 yards away and quickly discovered that some dolphins were swimming in the distance. We were all intrigued clearly, when suddenly the pod of dolphins disappeared. Just as quickly as they disappeared, they reappeared right next to our boat, swimming with us and jumping in and out of the water for the next 10 minutes.
The second memory consisted of climbing up the mast, about 50 feet into the air. For a majority of the way up, we were not hooked into anything, which we tried not to think of until we got the chance to clip our harnesses into the safety line towards the top. At the peak we could see for miles out into the ocean, as well as the rest of ship below us and the feeling was near indescribable.
Overall I had an amazing time on the journey, and an incredible time in the class. I have the opportunity to continue in the sailing program and possibly continue to get credit towards official Coast Guard accreditation, and may have to take the next class as soon as next semester. If you ever have two units left in your schedule I absolutely recommend the course!