I Love What I Do

AJ Meerwald

boat gear
To say that I love what I do as a schooner captain is a gross over-simplification

schooner at anchor
The Schooner A.J. Meerwald at anchor

I do not dwell on the pleasure that I get from being a schooner captain. Operating the vessel required too much of my attention. Holding course, checking sail trim, monitoring traffic, keeping an eye on passengers, listening to radio traffic, weather…and the mental scan repeats.

At the time, it does not feel like work. It is both what is required to satisfy my ongoing concerns and what is required by the definition of good seamanship.

The crew is alert and professional. Their interactions with me are crisp and specific. They work the boat like seasoned mariners, even those that are novices. Their involvement with the passengers is cordial, inviting, and entertaining.

We are all working independently together to create a lasting memory for every client. And undeniably, we are shaping recollections for ourselves.

underway with passengers
Underway with passengers on board the schooner A.J. Meerwald

It is not until we have returned to the dock that we collectively release a breath of accrued tension from the 2 hours underway. For a few moments between sails, we are no longer captain and crew. We are friends and peers (age differences notwithstanding). We laugh. We rest. We eat. We discuss our individual pleasures in our tasks and we recognize the tired smiles that we wear.

There are stories of how our lives have reached this intersection. Some heads nod in familiarity. Some eyes widen as unacquainted histories unfold. However in the end, we are all the crew of a proud and historic schooner.

In quiet moments before the next and last underway, I sit and reflect. I think about the route that I have traveled to arrive at this point in time and space. I briefly wish I had started earlier but really, I am quite content with who, what, and where I am. I recognize signs of physical weariness. But mentally and emotionally, I am already back at the helm. And now, it is time for my body to follow.

Captain Rob
A tired Captain Rob before the last sail.

With some logistical complexities, we complete our last cruise of the day. It was a lovely, pleasant sail. We only set the foresail. It was a good sail nonetheless with live music on deck. One more docking. One last thank you and farewell to guests. One quick look at another golden sunset…and it is time to head out of the marina and anchor for the night.

As I am shuttled back to shore (I have left the mate in command), I took a look back on the Meerwald as the rays of sunlight melt up her rigging. I smile. It was a good day. I don’t know if my smile is visible in the dimming twilight. I feel such gratitude to the captains who trained me so diligently, to the crews that have welcomed me so earnestly, and to my family that has allowed me to fly so freely. The next morning…and even after a short night of sleep…I am told that the excitement in my voice is still quite perceptible.

Sunset after the last cruise
Sunset after the last cruise.

I love what I do. It makes me whole. I feel a peaceful coexistence with Nature while yet acknowledging my subordinate place within it. This is a dream. I am living my dream and it is not lost on me that I may well be in the minority. I cherish EVERY moment. It is my dream…and it comforts and soothes me always. While most can discern my pride, joy, and deep satisfaction, I acknowledge that many do not comprehend. I get that my ability to adequately convey how I feel about THIS experience is limited or at least misaligned with the empathies of some of my listeners. It frustrates me but I am secure in my place.

It is an oversimplification but I love what I do.

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Capt. Rob Chichester

View posts by Capt. Rob Chichester
Capt. Rob is an engineer and owner & operator of Chesapeake Flotillas offering charters, instruction, and vessel relocation. A USCG Licensed Master, Capt. Rob has planned and executed flotilla cruises all over the Chesapeake Bay, Europe, and the Caribbean. Rob holds a 200-Ton Master's license with Auxiliary Sail and Assistance Towing endorsements. He also is certified by the American Sailing Association to teach Basic Keelboat Sailing, Basic Coastal Cruising, and Bareboat Chartering. A self-proclaimed sailor & poet, he operates a 41-foot sloop Bay Poet based out of Rock Hall, MD. Rob has also trained and served as captain of tall ships including the state tall ship of New Jersey, the Schooner A.J. Meerwald.
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