During the cruise at Dar Młodzieży i recollected the hours spent at SGH with Łukasz – we laughed that SGH was an economic university and that there was a sailer on its coat of arms. So the voyage was fated to us.
THE TEST OF CHARACTER
We brace the yards, i.e. we move large sails to the other side of the sailing ship and back. I have no idea that it will be the hardest rope pulling I have ever experienced in my sailing life.
‘Haul on all braces at once!’ It's good that I already know what braces are. We had to learn about 120 names of ropes serving our mast.
Everyone on board, lined up by several ropes, crowded. We pull. For now, it goes easily, but with every moment we feel more and more stress on the ropes and even more in the hands. The muscles harden, the hands begin to numb. I think to myself: "Cool, it will be over soon and we will return to standby (rest in readiness)". We pull but we can see no end. The boatswain’s screams do not quiet down, ‘Be faster with these braces.’
This is a test of endurance. The muscles in the arms are burning, the skin rubs off the hands, but no one falls off. Each pair of hands on the rope denotes additional strength for the crew. I don't think about anything anymore. I focus only on keeping it up for a while and another moment. Brylant (Boatswain) professionally screams his head off. It is a precisely calculated boost of the crew’s morale. At first it bothered me. Now, however, the voice of the boatswain is like the voice of a mentor who makes sure that the frigate moves forward safely.
CHRISTENING ON THE EQUATOR
We are sitting on an orlop, excited and at the same time joyously stressed out before the sea christening - a ritual taking place when crossing the equator. I paint the patterns on my body to fit into the atmosphere of the ceremony. Suddenly, two black devils with horns and whips in their hands come and scream. ‘Away on board!’ - they shout.
I was beaten with a whip twice which caused a little pain felt along the back. A colleague, who had incurred the guys’ displeasure several times before, got hit much harder.
We're all going. Without shirts, we set up according to watch schedules at the stern of Dar Młodzieży. The sun comes out from behind the clouds, tanning our skin. Suddenly, devils jump out, shouting and whipping the poor. They make us kneel and take precise blows with whistling whips. We are kneeling, while Neptune, Proserpine and nymphs, wearing skimpy costumes of painted ropes and other strange things, enter the stern. Our beloved ‘gentle’ boatswain, whom everyone here knew under the name of Brylant, dressed up as Neptune.
DISCO UNDER THE STARS AT THE INDIAN OCEAN
A disco in the middle of the ocean under the Masts of Dar Młodzieży is one of the experiences I will talk about for the rest of my life. The emptiness of the night and the vastness of the ocean up to the dark horizon and in the middle of this emptiness, there is the White Frigate, rocked by the fun of young sailors. It is the only such event in the world to the accompaniment of ocean waves crashing on the sides. The music spreads over the deck, the sails and flows into the endless silence of the great water. So far from home I feel as if I came across a different planet or lived in different times.
A NIGHT THAT DOES NOT REPEAT
We are sitting with the boys in the bow, Dar goes under full sail. Pushed by the southern wind, it bravely cuts through the night sea waves. The lights on the deck are off. It is completely dark. You can only see the great white sails lit by the moonlight, the moonlight that is not seen in the Northern Hemisphere. Here it is bigger and sometimes it hides behind a cloud, showing a sky full of stars. A friend plays the ukulele performing the song: Knockin' On Heaven’s Door.
The climate of the moment is not to be rendered by any description. There is the dark ocean around surrounded by distant stars. Even the Milky Way, Mars and Venus can be clearly seen. A warm southern wind blows my hair, and the scent of the humming ocean fills my nostrils. We sit on warm deck boards, based on mooring capstans. The lights of the mysterious Reunion Island to which we inevitably approach can be already seen on the horizon. When one looks at the starry sky, one’s mind begins to perceive the world differently. Small matters, which I think about every day, stop counting. The moment counts here and now. The ocean, the stars and a swinging frigate deck. The mind is clear and calm. We are on Earth, on the same planet as at home, but in a completely different reality.