THAT’S ALL FOR NOW, FOLKS! Online editor-in-chief reflects on sailing’s life lessons

Adam Ketchum 
Senior Zoë Bowlus, online editor-in-chief, will attend UC Santa Barbara.

This is the third of four farewells from Octagon seniors.  

I’ve always worn flowers in my hair.

I have a drawer full of different clips to match almost anything in my closet, which is full of dresses, skirts and flats.

I’ve always done Octagon.

Senior year, what I affectionately dubbed “Online Time” became my world. As online editor-in-chief,  I’ve spent many hours at all times of the day (and night!) writing, editing and posting stories, struggling with basic coding and Photoshop, and leading an enthusiastic group of young reporters. 

I’ve always sailed. Some people know this, but it’s a side of me I’ve kept rather hidden.

Vito Dumas, an Argentinian who sailed around the world by himself in the 1940s,  said, “It’s out there at sea that you are really yourself.”

On the water, I’ve gained what I like to call “grit.” 

It all started at St. George Sailing, a small camp in Tenants Harbor, Maine, and it didn’t start well. 

 My parents like to tell this story. (I’ve historically avoided it.) 

 A little concerned about 9-year-old me braving the Atlantic Ocean in a boat, my parents waited around after dropping me off.

Soon they were greeted by shrieks.

“I. Can’t. Do. It!” 

I wasn’t even in a boat yet. It was the swim test. 

Now, I knew how to swim. That had never been a problem for me before. 

However, for some reason (maybe it was the chilly water, the new surroundings and the scary, tall teenaged boys in charge), I shut down, and an instructor had to hop in the frigid water to help me out. 

Luckily, my less-than-satisfactory swim-test completion wasn’t held against me, and I was allowed to stay. 

But this was only the beginning of the grit development.  

I once overzealously pulled my sail in so tight that I lost control of my small nine-foot dinghy and capsized. 

Or how about the time I T-boned a dock at full speed, reddening my face and eliciting choice words from onlookers?

(“Swearing like a sailor” isn’t an expression for nothing, you know.)

 I was once a timid and hesitant sailor, afraid of waves and more interested in telling the instructors stories and studying the tides. 

However, I’ve grown into a more tenacious seafarer as I’ve come to relish the thrilling moments: sailing in high winds and open ocean and cruising by bobbing seals.

I received my final paper-plate award in six years and became a junior instructor the next. 

The grit-accumulation has only continued. 

I’ve learned to drive (and doggedly tried to dock) a motorboat. I’ve trudged through mussel shells and mud to rescue sailors who’d run aground at low tide.

This summer, I will be a senior instructor in my ninth year, and I will take my sailing skills and the confidence, strength, determination and grit I’ve gained from navigating the ocean to UC Santa Barbara. 

Now, to find matching flowers for my athletic shorts and T-shirts…

—By Zoë Bowlus

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