Bus2Antarctica: El Capitan

Andrew Evans visits the bridge of the National Geographic Sea Lion, and catches up with the ship’s captain, David Sinclair.

ElCapitan.JPGEvery bus has a bus driver just like every ship has its captain–whether you’re carrying 60 passengers across the country or across the sea, someone has to be in charge and steer the thing in the right direction. On Lindblad’s National Geographic Sea Lion, that person is Captain David Sinclair.

On a sunny afternoon out at sea, I got to spend an afternoon up on the bridge with the Captain. He was relaxed and convivial and was happy to show me around his workplace with all of its tools, charts, and monitors. We were so far out to sea that he even felt safe enough to let me take the wheel for about three seconds.

So, just how do you grow up to be a sea captain? Hard work. Captain Sinclair started out as a deck hand with Lindblad and after 11 years of “sea time,” worked his way up to the bridge.

He works a lot. Besides the routine administration of 27 crew and eight staff, his responsibilities include two watches a day up on the bridge, from 4:00-8:00 a.m. and from 4:00-8:00 p.m. He doesn’t get much sleep but also doesn’t rely on coffee to do his job.

“Coffee will ruin you for sleeping,” he counsels, recommending lots of tea and mid-day naps instead.

AndrewDrivestheSealion.jpgSo, what’s the hardest part of being a sea captain? “Being away for so long,” he says. Captain Sinclair spends six weeks at sea, then goes home to Georgia for a six-week break, then back again. Still, he “loves to travel,” both to the destinations his work takes him as well as the exotic trips he makes during his off time.

What’s his favorite Lindblad destination? Alaska. Captain Sinclair says he could go back again and again. He also loves that the itinerary is so flexible and open: “If something better comes along, we go after it.”

After an afternoon on the bridge, I discovered that the Captain and I have a lot in common. For one, we are practically the same age. We also both love to travel and have built our lives around it. Best of all, the Captain makes destination-specific playlists just like I do when I travel. I told him about my superb Bus2Antarctica playlist and in turn, he shared with me his “Panama” playlist for this expedition.

Turns out, his playlist is actually the original set of songs played by the U.S. military in 1989 when they surrounded the Vatican Embassy in Panama City and blared loud rock music nonstop for a whole month in an attempt to get Noriega to surrender.

And, as it happens, the Bus2Antarctica and Panama playlists have a song in common: Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen.

Follow Andrew’s Twitter feed here @Bus2Antarctica, bookmark all of his blog posts here, see videos here, and get the full story on the project here. Photos by Andrew Evans.


  1. Dave
    July 12, 2010, 2:43 pm

    Inspiring story – I love reading about people who do not so typical jobs such as this. David is obviously a very hard working person (a shift from 4am to 8am!!) and it is great to see that he is being credited a little for the difficult job he has to do. Dave from exercise bike.

  2. Fan palm tree
    July 18, 2010, 6:58 pm

    This captain deserves a lot of credit. He is a hard working and honest person. Great post and photos!

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