One of the coolest classes at USC is Naut 001A: Deepwater Cruising, an introductory sailing class. I heard about this class freshmen year, and I’ve been eagerly waiting till my senior year when I had enough room in my schedule to take it. Deepwater Cruising is offered through the Nautical Science program; the intro class I am currently taking covers the basics of sailing (how to identify the different parts of a sailboat, navigational rules, charting, etc.), but the advanced classes really give you full exposure to sailing. In those classes, students not only learn to sail, but learn important skills, like how to rescue someone who has fallen overboard. There are many excursions, including several overnight sails on boats of various sizes and field trips to a boat yard, sail loft, fiberglass boat factory, and life raft inspection station.

For the first few lectures of my sailing class we learned the basics of sailing, but it wasn’t until our trip to Catalina Island that we really got to test out our knowledge of sailing. I signed up for the trip with a few engineering friends as well as an Italian exchange student who I had never met before. Our crew got along great and we had an amazing 2 days out at sea together.

The morning of our trip we all got up for an early group bonding meal at our favorite breakfast spot, Jacks n Joe. We then drove to San Pedro where we met up with our professor and captain to prepare for our voyage. We spent the morning charting our course to Catalina Island the old fashioned way with a map, compass, parallel rules, and binoculars. After a brief crash course on the Artemis (our boat), we headed out to sea! It took us about 4 or 5 hours to sail to Catalina before we reached Avalon Harbor. The weather wasn’t ideal during our trip, so we all were freezing when we reached the island. After docking, we all headed into town to find a warm meal. We spent the night exploring Avalon–and even embarrassed ourselves singing karaoke.

The next morning we got up early and set off to sail down the coast of Catalina before heading back across the channel to San Pedro. The weather again was cold and dreary, but we all enjoyed watching the wildlife from our boat. In addition to the hundreds of seals and dolphins we spotted, we managed to catch a glimpse of a gray whale.

Our trip to Catalina was one of the coolest memories I’ve had here at USC. I don’t know of too many schools that own a fleet of boats to let students (even an engineer like me!) learn to sail. I’m so glad I signed up for Deepwater Cruising, and I would definitely recommend it to other students!