I’m on a tall ship, like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean. I am wearing 5 layers of clothing and I’m still cold. I’ve thrown up 7 times in the last hour and I’m praying - no - begging for the sea to swallow me up. We are sailing through Bass Strait, one of the most dangerous bodies of water on earth.  The waves are like nothing I’ve ever seen. They stand on end, each like a mountain - unmovable and unforgiving. The boat rocks to and fro, again and again. I’ve never been so sick in my life, this is hell I’m sure of it. 

I search my thoughts for why I volunteered, in fact paid for this journey with my hard earned cash… This isn’t what I signed up for. My comfort zone has been completely and utterly demolished. 

For the rest of the day I sleep on the deck like a beached whale trying to gather what is left of myself. The sun, good ol’ vitamin D, restores me to a place unfamiliar. My body has adjusted. 

During the first 7 days of my young endeavour voyage I had accomplished more than I have in a very long time. I conquered climbing the 30m mast, I sat on the bowsprit and watched dolphins play in the waves below. I worked my body the hardest it ever has had to endure and then some. I set the main staysail with one other girl in no time. I conquered myself for the first time in my whole life. Out on the sea, burnt and bruised; nothing felt more perfect than it did right at that moment. For the first time in a long time I was just me, no past, no future, no stress, no work, no bills, no pressure. It was just me in my rawest exact self and I’ve never felt more alive. 

I thought I had been challenged, I had learned so much already; and then Command Day came. My peers elected me to be their Captain, nothing could’ve prepared me for the next 24hrs. 

It was official. I was the leader of these 21 incredible young people. We had the task of sailing out of Port Arthur, into Storm bay and up the Derwent River. Storm Bay lived up to its namesake, we sailed through 30 knot winds and 2.5 metre swells. During the night we tacked the ship three times, and three times my heart stopped. To go from being part of the crew answering orders to the person giving the orders is terrifying. I wanted nothing more to be down on deck helping everyone, carrying my weight. But I gave the orders, watched as my peers worked harder than ever with the wind and waves reeking havoc. My eyes were darting everywhere checking they were checking themselves and their safety procedures. But most of all I was praying for God to get us through this in one piece, to keep everyone safe. I have never been so proud of anyone in my entire life than of the youth crew V03/17. It was impressive to watch this incredible group of young people work in the most cohesive team I’ve ever seen. It blows my mind even now to think about it. 

As a 23 year old woman on a ship mostly filled with teenagers at the cusp of adulthood, I learnt something different than I think was intended. I had already learnt a lot about myself - my strengths, my weaknesses - and so this journey was meant something entirely different to me. I learnt that I was capable. 

Entirely capable of overcoming my mind in times when I was terrified. I am capable of sailing and commanding a tall ship. I am capable of leading a team of my peers through dangerous seas. I am capable of being a part of a team and pulling my weight as much as any young man on that ship. I am capable of navigating the old fashioned way, using bearings, the sun, the wind, the currents and the waves. I am capable of getting through that moment when I was completely out of my comfort zone. 

I am capable of everything I’ve ever wanted to do. 

This alone is the best thing that I got out of the Young Endeavour program. As a young woman I have heard countless times in my life, reasons why I can’t do the things I want to do. They were all rational and realistic and I understood so I followed the path set out for me. This adventure has taught me that it is the first of thousands of adventures that I will embark on throughout my life, because I am capable, no matter what anyone says. 

I followed my heart to the ocean and to my ancestors and I found my calling. It was right there all along, I just didn’t have the courage to pursue it. 

Before I boarded the ship in Geelong, I wanted clarity and now everything is 100 times more clear with a bit of sunburn, sea salt and rope burn. 

Thank you Young Endeavour, you have changed me into the person I always wanted to be. 

Everyday I wish I was back on that ship. The challenge now is to be that me in the real world. The best me, the person I want to be. 

Kika McCarthy