by Jesse Maupin

The Lady Washington sailed into my life during a critically important transitional period, and by exposing me to a series of people and events, she ultimately set me on a new course, one that would take me further than I ever imagined.

In September of 2005, I was working as a dishwasher and prep-cook at a restaurant in my small western Washington hometown with no real plans for the future. I had finished high school, but had no aspirations to continue my education anytime soon. I knew that if I stayed where I was, I would fall back into the same habits that had gotten me into trouble in the past. In short, I needed to get out.

It just so happened that in less than a month, the Lady Washington was going to be in town and they had an empty bunk that I might fill. Before the Two Weeks Before the Mast training program was finished I knew that I wanted to come back and make this my life. And so I did. Shortly after the end of my two-week training period, she set her sails for San Francisco Bay, and, after hopping a train down the coast, I was on the dock to catch her mooring lines upon arrival, this time as a long-term topman and deck hand.

The camaraderie that people feel when they’re living, working, eating, and breathing in the same space for an extended period of time is an indescribable experience, and one that I hope every person has the opportunity to enjoy in their lifetime. At eighteen, I had found IT. I had found life, love, and happiness all conveniently located within an 18th century sailing vessel!

I consider living on board the Lady to be my first year of college (more intimate than any dormitory). I learned and later mastered incredibly valuable skills that contributed to my personal growth and self-confidence. As an educator, I learned how to communicate with young people in an effective, informative manner that captured their attention and kept them focused. As a deck hand, I learned how to take orders from a commanding officer, but more importantly, how to work as an integral part of a team and to put the needs of the crew before my own. I also learned lessons in accounting and inventory while working as the ship’s storekeeper, and in woodworking, sail repair, and manual craftsmanship through working as bosun’s mate.

The greatest impression that I took away from my time on the Lady Washington was the realization that I am capable of more than I gave myself credit for. If there is something I want, I must strive to achieve it. If my will is strong and my conviction deep, there is no height to which I cannot climb.

I took this lesson to heart when at the coaxing of a beautiful co-deckhand turned girlfriend, I started attending The Evergreen State College in the fall of 2006, where I was interested in studying the history and economics of maritime trade in the Pacific Northwest. This soon gave way to the much larger, budding interest in biology and chemistry, and so at the end of four years time I graduated with a bachelor’s of arts and science in biochemistry.
My nine months aboard the Lady Washington served as the driving force for my success in college and undoubtedly provided me with the discipline and perseverance to carry through with the most difficult of work. I can remember many a rainy night sitting by the window while studying and thinking to myself, “Well, at least I’m warm, dry, and not puking my innards out over the side!” And somehow I would find the resolve to turn back to my textbook and carry on.

Five and a half years after my first night aboard the Lady Washington, I find myself doing what I love and still benefiting from the many lessons ingrained on me so thoroughly on the deck of my Lady Love. In the fall, I will begin my first year of medical school at the University of Washington and I can honestly say that I would not be in this position if not for the life-changing events that transpired aboard an 18th century tall ship—the Lady Washington.