Lessons Learned on The Ocean

Alumnus Joe Ribbins ’18 is spending his year with Class Afloat exploring the world and enjoying new experiences while aboard a tall ship.

Class Afloat tall ship

Submitted by Joe Ribbins Class of 2018

Waking up to a beautiful sunrise over a calm ocean, seeing the stars over the open sea with no light pollution, and having to eat soup when the boat is rolling over 10 ft swells are just some things I have had to get used to when living at sea. My name is Joe Ribbins, or as my school friends call me—Ribz.  Thanks to Lakefield, I am now sailing on a 70 meter (200+ ft) tall ship to 23 different ports in 20 countries and will cross the equator and the Atlantic Ocean twice.

The first five ports have been some of the best experiences that I have ever had. Of course, I miss home (Cayman Islands) and Lakefield. I miss Matthews House—the house I lived in for two years (where I was a Student Head of House last year)—but when you are unfurling a sail on the bowsprit and you look down to see a pod of dolphins swimming with the boat, or when you are on the top of mast and you can see the island of Ibiza on the horizon, it is moments like these that make you so thankful and happy to have incredible opportunities such as this.

It was not easy to get used to, there were points when I thought that I wouldn’t be able to last for nine months—the one-minute showers, sleeping in a bed that I can barely fit in, 10 days in a row of just classes, waking up at ridiculous times to go on watch, not having any privacy, and not being able to eat as much as possible. All your habits must change as soon as you move to live on a boat with 59 other students.

Joe Ribbins and some of Class Afloat classmates
Joe Ribbins ’18 and some of his Class Afloat classmates

Although there may be things to complain about, in the time that I have been on this boat I have been to five ports and three countries, seen countless dolphins and whales, experienced almost every sunset possible, lost a lot of sleep, met and then started living with 78 new people all in the same day, seen some of the most beautiful sea cliffs, and swam and walked along some jaw-dropping beaches. I have gone over a week without any contact with the outside world, I have learned about what more than 90 different ropes can do, have climbed to 40 meters in the air, aged my hands 50 years by pulling on ropes and used muscles I didn’t know I had.  I have seen bioluminescence-covered dolphins, I have seen star-filled nights where you can truly understand how small we are, and more shooting stars in one night than most see in a lifetime. I have seen the sun set over Ibiza and the sun rise over the strait of Gibraltar. I have been tying down a sail only to look down and see the front of our ship surrounded by dolphins that are just playing with the waves, a hammerhead shark or a sea turtle. I have been able to see a fellow Lakefield alumnus and have met friends for life. I have learned how to play the ukulele and taught people how to play rugby. This boat has truly opened my eyes to what I am able to do and achieve when I have the time to do so.

Lakefield was the best thing that has ever happened to me, it might sound cliché to say but it is true. My time at The Grove gave me some of the best opportunities possible, from captaining sports teams, to running the CAIS Senior Leadership Conference and even being Head of House to 26 boys. These leadership roles, and learning how to think critically, have given me the ability to thrive on this boat.

Lakefield will always have a place in my heart and I cannot wait to go back to visit when I am done with my travelling, to see the place that helped me to grow. This will be the story of a lifetime and I thank Lakefield for giving me this opportunity.

Joe "Ribz" Ribbins
Joe “Ribz” Ribbins ’18

Photos by Rachel Arthur and Marilyn Tourangeau.