As if this first year of “principaling” wasn’t enough, I went with two of our grade 8 classes on their SALTS trip last week. Every year, our grade 8 students spend a week on a tall ship through SALTS (Sailing and Life Training Society).

What an adventure! Orcas off the stern, rope swings and swimming from the mast, bald eagles everywhere, sailing on a 30-degree pitch…I could go on and on. My anticipation was a week-long trip sailing the seas, reading a great book, and spending quality time with students and colleagues.

Turns out sleep is a privilege, rest is for the weary, and night watch isn’t as exciting as it seems.

The “Best Side” of Everyone

Each night we were required to wake up for night watch. Waking a sleeping teen on a school morning is hard enough let alone waking them at 3:00 am to watch the anchor and stand in the freezing cold.

Mornings often started at 5:00 am as the chef prepared an early breakfast right next to our beds. Exhaustion set in early for all the students, as sleep became a privilege.

If we weren’t waking at some unholy hour of the night, we were pulling ropes, lowering dories, climbing the shrouds, watching for logs or boats…there was never a dull moment on a tall ship. Combined with all the chores: scraping dishes, washing the deck, polishing the brass, and cleaning the head (that’s sailing slang for toilet) and the exhaustion of no sleep, you start to see the “best” side of everyone on board.

Tired, Sore, Yet At Peace

Yet strangely, amidst all the chaos and work, I found an overwhelming peace. God’s voice seems a little louder in the dead quiet of the night. There were constant reminders of His provision as we harvest fresh prawns from the sea.

And I heard His still, small whisper as the wind rushed against the sails. I found that rest and exhaustion can live in harmony. Tired from the work, my body sore from the thin foam mattresses and four-foot beds and yet, completely rested in this tranquil place.

God knows exactly what we need when we need it. I was reminded to look for the simple joys even in my exhaustion.

I learned to listen. I learned to dig deep. I learned that vulnerability is okay.

And I learned that earplugs are essential when sleeping alongside Grant Vanderhoek.