In addition to short films, music projects and travel-logs, I'm happy to introduce the newest feature of the site, the "profiles" series. The two things I've been trying to focus on are adventures and community. I think these are two beautiful gifts from God and I want Hidden to really highlight them and encourage everyone to find them in our own lives.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to go sailing on my good friend Alex's boat with him and another friend, Lydia Smith. Lydia had planned on making a long drive that day, and threw out those plans to go sailing with us. Listening to her describe her love for sailing, the ocean and just life in general was inspiring. I thought I'd ask her a few questions about how she got into this passion of hers and where it might be taking her. Enjoy!
Hello Lydia! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Lydia, I’m 20 years old and originally from North Carolina. My family lived in Raleigh and in Winston-Salem, NC when I was little but now lives in Birmingham where I go to school at Samford. Hmm, fun facts… Iced coffee is my favorite thing in the world, I pretty much have a life jacket tan year-round, I used to figure skate, I love playing the guitar but I’m not very good at all, and one of my life-long goals is to write a book.
I think it was about 5 minutes after meeting you that I found out that you love sailing. How and when were you introduced to sailing and why do you love it so much?
That’s how it normally goes — it’s hard to know me without knowing that I love to sail. So my parents met at Camp Seafarer and Seagull, brother and sister sailing and seamanship camps on the coast of North Carolina. When I was little, I actually hated sailing because I was scared of jellyfish, but I guess when I started going to Seafarer for a month each summer, my fear turned into a tolerance and eventually into something that I absolutely loved. I love the freedom of sailing. I love that it can be the most peaceful thing in the world but it can also be exhilarating and even scary at times. The feeling of the wind on my face and the sound of the waves against the hull of a boat just make me feel more content than I can even begin to put into words. Being on the water just makes me feel at home and a little piece of heaven on earth.
Tell us a bit about how sailing has been a part of your life over the past few years?
I grew up going to Seafarer as a camper and then have worked on staff since the summer 2012 as a cabin counselor and sailing instructor. When I’m not at camp sailing and teaching sailing, that’s what I’m thinking about and looking forward to. In addition to spending my summers on a boat all day every day, I studied abroad in the caribbean last semester through a program called Seamester and lived onboard an 88’ traditionally rigged schooner. Before that experience, I’d only sailed small boats — no more than 21 feet with the exception of a few days on our family friends J/122 which is 40 feet. This past spring though, I learned about a whole new kind of sailing and even got the opportunity to race on an 112’ schooner in Antigua Classics Yacht Regatta.
Did community with others on a sailboat differ any from your expectations beforehand? If so, how?
Definitely. Before I went on Seamester, I expected living on the boat to be comparable to living in a cabin at cabin. In lots of ways, it was, but it was WAY harder. My favorite part of living on the boat was waking up to my best friends every day but it was also the part I hated the most. I would 100% describe myself as a people person and very very extroverted, but I learned how much I take advantage of alone time at home. I don’t think my bed was more than three feet below the bed on top of mine and there were five others that touched mine, not to mention the other 14 that were right around me. I found myself learning to step up and confront people when I was frustrated with something because there’s no way you can just ignore things and walk away when you’re so close to everybody all the time. I learned to take advantage of being awake on deck by myself in the middle of the night for anchor watch and to study by myself at a coffee shop every now and then when we went to shore, but I also learned to take advantage of the constant community I was surrounded by and found myself awake way later than I ever planned on because I didn’t want to stop talking about life with my people.
What is your favorite thing about community with others while sailing?
While actually sailing, the teamwork for sure. Sailing isn’t a joke, especially on such a big boat that literally has nothing mechanical to help you out. (It’s traditionally rigged which basically means everything is controlled by a rope which we were then responsible for controlling.) Some of the lines can be adjusted with just one person, but most of them take 2+ people to pull in. Another thing I love is the depth in which I got to know people on the boat. There’s something about sitting on bow watch at 4 am that just makes people share their lives with each other. My friend Micah and I had some of the deepest, realest conversations sailing through the night at 4 am and I don’t think that would ever happen to the same extent sitting in a coffee shop in the States.
What is the most difficult aspect?
I kind of touched on this earlier, but the people. There is absolutely no getting away from someone when you live and work together in such a confined space. I built the most incredible friendships during my time on the boat, but every single one of them were fought for. About a month in, there was a span of at least two days that was just absolutely miserable. We were all exhausted and everyone was mad at somebody else for something — some things little, some big, but we just hit a breaking point. One morning after breakfast, our teachers basically just made us all talk it out before class and after learning how to confront each other, it got a lot easier. I think I try to forget that those few days happened because of how incredible most of the semester was, but learning how to push through that was a foundational part of us working and living together as a family.
What advice would you give to someone with no experience wanting to get into sailing?
Just sign up! Most of the people on Seamester with me had never sailed before and my experience on small boats didn’t really even transfer over that much. U.S. Sailing offers "learn to sail" classes across the country and there are lots of programs like Seamester for all different ages and lengths of time. Honestly, just google “learn to sail” or “student voyages” and you’ll find lots of opportunities. It’s definitely something I think everyone should have the opportunity to get into and it’s never too late to start.
Where all have you been?
I think I've travelled 1320 nautical miles to 12 countries and over 30 islands.
o you have any goals or is this just a passion and you’re seeing where it takes you?
It’s a passion that I plan on pursuing the rest of my life, but yes, I do have specific goals as well. Eventually, I want to get my Captain’s License and work on boats somewhere. So we’ll see!
Just that I really and truly would encourage every one to try sailing at some point. My friends would laugh if they heard me say that because of course I say that, but I’m really so serious. It’s so incredible as a "just for fun" activity or as a sport, but the community of the sailing world is super cool. Like anything, having sailing in common with someone else is a fun way to connect, but it’s unique how quickly you can get to know so many people across the world through sailing. And, this is a church-y answer, but literally what better way to worship the Lord than by being out in His creation. The water, the sun, the sky, the combination of all of them are such a tangible reminder of how awesome God is.
Huge thanks to Lydia for sharing.
To follow Lydia's adventures in greater detail, check out her site here.