The precarious bunks suddenly gained a lot of appeal when 6.30am came around, and we were all woken by the formidable roar of the generator starting, which signalled our morning shower. We reluctantly climbed into togs and then traipsed around the seemingly-Antarctic deck for ten odd minutes, before doing warm-up exercises which did very little to ward away our shivers. We then anxiously leapt off the side of the ship and plunged into the icy abyss below, which was warmer than on deck but still freezing.
Rafting, at first, was an exercise in exasperation for our team. We thought it would be a fun and stress-free experience as we launched the bright yellow, 10-person rafts off the side of the ship and into the crystal clear water – we figured that this was not the case when we realised we had been quickly overtaken by the three other schools and were coming in last place. By now, we were turning in circles, bickering and whinging at each other because we could not establish a rhythm, and we were the raft that was closest to the ship, while the three others had already reached the shore. We finally landed at Sullivan's Bay somewhat later with some vague semblance of a rowing tempo. Thankfully, this expedition served as a lesson in numerous ways. Our second raft voyage to Kawau Island was far more successful; there was no arguing, only solid teamwork, and in the race back to the ship, the Strathallan team came second. The only debacle was almost leaving two of our team members on shore.
When we weren't rafting or swimming, we were doing the obvious – sailing the ship. Each day, the different schools were given a different part of the ship to sail. We quickly learnt the importance of hauling away and easing as a team to combine our strength, and we were soon masters at flaking and coiling line, bracing yards and making fast (all of which meant nothing to us before we came onboard). With each sail station there was a matching cleaning station – vegetable peeling on deck in the glowing morning sun was one of the more pleasant tasks, as was serving in the galley for a day and getting the first go at the food. The least enjoyable undertaking was undoubtedly cleaning the heads (toilets), as a few of us discovered.
The remainder of our time was largely spent playing games and competing in team-building activities and challenges; these ranged from a deck-sized game of minesweeper to the ambiguous 'Toejam Pictionary' in the aft-cabin. And no matter what we were doing, we were making friends the entire time and enjoying every second of our journey. We, the Strathallan team of ten, learned about ourselves and each other as people, and made countless friends we've kept in frequent contact with to this day, weeks after our voyage. We gained invaluable sailing knowledge and many of us acquired a love of the sea, which has prompted desires to return on longer voyages. We pushed ourselves to achieve things we never thought we could do, and broke down physical, mental and emotional barriers, and, most importantly, we had a remarkable adventure which we'll all undoubtedly remember for the rest of our lives.