This year’s Ocean College 6-month voyage is our fourth, and for the first time while the students spent three weeks inland in Costa Rica we arranged a 10-day science voyage with our partners Academia Tica. The - normally desk-bound – Seas Your Future Marketing & Communications Coordinator, Yasmin (known as Min) Deter joined the voyage. These are her memories.
Wow I made it onto the plane! Since around three weeks ago, when the world began to shut down again, I didn’t really believe I would still be allowed to go. Yesterday, we had the news that two of the ocean scientists actually have covid which was minutes before receiving my PCR, fit to fly test, which really did not give me much confidence… But here I am, with a negative PCR, arriving in Costa Rica on New Year’s Eve ready for a 10-day science voyage ahead. Go Yasmin!
Before boarding the Pelican, the SYF team made an executive decision for myself and the scientists arriving on the same day as me to quarantine for a couple of days, at Academia Tica (image of my accommodation to the right), to ensure no covid was brought onto the ship...
Three scientists are arriving at around midnight tonight, at the airport, so I will see them properly in the morning. I really enjoyed having a slightly different New Year’s Eve and I cannot stop grinning at the fact I am in Costa Rica.
2022 here I come!
I woke up at 4am a little bit delirious and confused, 1000hrs British time, which would most probably be the reasoning for this. I tried to get back to sleep but my body had not yet adjusted. I walked into the sitting room/kitchen of the Academia Tica accommodation and I found two scientists on the sofa, they had arrived safely! Unfortunately, their luggage didn’t quite make it onto their flight but they were still just as excited as I was and also as awake as I was.
After the third scientist, who had arrived the previous night, woke up we decided to venture to the local supermarket to collect some supplies etc. The walk to the supermarket was a rather beautiful one, it was around 0830hrs, 28 degrees Celsius and in the distance, we could see mountains. Absolutely stunning!
Not long after we arrived back from the supermarket the fourth and final scientist arrived at our accommodation. The rest of the day was spent getting to know each other, telling each other stories of previous experiences on the Pelican and preparing to board the ship the following day.
Today was the day…The day we were allowed to join the ship, yippee!
At around 1600hrs, we arrived in Golfito. A familiar face whizzed past, it was medic/bosun’s mate Marc ready as ever to get us all covid tested and board us onto the ship with help from medic Rosie. It was lovely boarding Pelican because most of the permanent crew were familiar faces which made me feel safe and welcome in their home.
We had a little time to settle in and eat something, then at around 2000hrs training began. Due to our arrival to Peli being slightly later than had maybe been expected, the only training undertaken was the mandatory safety training to be able to get the voyage crew through to the next day in case of an emergency.
It feels so strange yet incredible to be back. Even though it was only six months ago it does feel like a lot longer, yet everything is quite obviously and clearly still the same, the smell of sea salt, the bunks, the regulations the… wait… one thing is not the same… luckily for us one thing did change, WE HAVE FANS ONBOARD THANK GOODNESS!
It was a scorching 28 degrees this morning! Completing a voyage in Costa Rica in comparison to the UK is such a different experience. I didn’t have to run under the shelter to sit outside to avoid the rain, I could just stroll to sit anywhere (as long as it wasn’t in the way of any operations on deck). Great weather for the voyage crew to begin meant happy excited youngsters ready to 'seas' their futures. Cookie Kester baked a delicious coconut and raisin loaf for everyone on board, which was very much enjoyed for breakfast, toasted with just a little bit of butter on top, delicious!
After breakfast, training continued. We were split into our watches, Fore, Main and Mizzen (I’m in Main this voyage) to rotate the watches between different training. The three rotations of training consisted of learning how to helm and what to do on watch, a tour of the ship and rules of Pelican, and how to brace and ease the sails. The voyage crew were encouraged to drink plenty of water and a trend even began of the crew putting their water bottles in Kester’s fridge.
After a sweaty day of training the voyage crew were hosed down by the permanent crew, quite literally hosed down with the hoses on board. At 1700 hrs Pelican left Golfito and watches began shortly after that. It has been a beautiful evening tonight, I have never seen the sky so clear the stars were shinning so brightly and we were even able to see bioluminescence! This concluded an exciting first day on board with lots of the voyage crew eager for what was to come.
My 3rd day on board was my galley duty day which I was actually quite excited for. I am the cook of the house at home and I love it!
I was woken up in a startling manner this morning by a torch directly in my eyes and a slamming door. I mean it did wake me up at least but I was mainly worried about the other two in my cabin.
I walked up to the mess and entered ‘galley mode’ which, to me, is a mode of work, cleaning, washing up and preparing. Due to it being first thing in the morning there was not much to wash up which was pleasant and Kester had again baked his delicious coconut and raisin loaf.
After breakfast, everyone was called to the well deck for the daily morning meeting hosted by Captain Ben and First Mate Tamsin. In the meeting, we were told that today we would be allowed to do some climbing which was very exciting to me. Occasionally I find myself with a slight fear of heights but I love challenging myself and that always beats any of the fear I may have. The rest of the morning was spent in the galley slicing vegetables and preparing both lunch and supper.
In the afternoon, I had a few hours free which allowed me to catch up with the scientists which was ideal because today most of the scientists’ projects had begun, such as cetacean surveys spotting sperm whales, dolphins, flying fish, turtles and DEVIL RAYS! Two of the scientists hadn’t yet received their bags, so for hats, they used pillow cases to protect them from the sun, how very creative of them.
At around 1630hrs Pelican anchored off the coast of Puntarenas in Bahía de Tambor. As soon as the anchor had been lowered it was announced that the voyage crew were allowed to jump in and go for a swim which put a huge grin on a lot of faces.
My day began at 0400hrs with an anchor watch. I really believe that these watch times have made it easy to not feel jetlagged!
Today we had our first Happy Hour of the voyage. For those of you that don’t know happy hour is not an alcohol buy one get one free hour but an hour where everyone on the ship cleans the ship.
Soon after Happy Hour we arrived near Puntarenas to switch the bosuns. The rest of the day was spent rotating watches, and relaxing in the sun. A few of the voyage crew sat on fo’c’sle playing music. The scientists were able to collect some plankton from the red tide close to Puntarenas which was really interesting to look at through the microscope and a HUMPBACK WHALE was spotted in the distance.
I cannot believe that I had the opportunity to see dolphins swimming with bioluminescence this morning on watch at 0000hrs! It honestly felt to me like I was in a Disney or fairy tale film or simply just still snoozing. The best way to describe it is as a sparkling glowing green trail following the elegant motion of the dolphins every movement. It was absolutely extraordinary and something that I feel so lucky to have seen. Something we did discuss though was what on earth would a sailor in previous times had made from that? Maybe a mermaid? Hmm that would be interesting to find out.
The plan for today was to allow the scientists to go whale watching for a couple of hours using the RIB before coming into anchorage near Papagayo. I was made honorary scientist which meant I was allowed to ride with them on their humpback search to take loads of pretty pictures and videos for the socials.
During our whale search we spotted a couple of humpback whales and plenty of dolphins and turtles which we were very pleased with. I have never spotted a humpback whale in the flesh and it was a little scary to me how you only really see their fins arise from the darkness of the water in a slow sneaky manner. I had also never seen a turtle swimming in the sea (photo taken by cook Kester not me!), I did not realise that they swam so close to the surface flapping their flippers above the surface. One of the scientists, Frank, was on a mission to take a photo of a humpback whale fluke which unfortunately he didn’t manage to get today which meant the quest was not yet completed.
Today was the first day of the voyage that we were able to actually go sailing rather than use the engine! The sails were hoisted and we were off…
This caused a lot of excitement from both the voyage crew and the permanent crew which was really great to see. At times like this it is clear to see how passionate the permanent crew are about their jobs which shows how lucky we, at Seas Your Future, are to have them.
The day ended with everyone being granted shore leave while we were docked near a hotel which it turns out that Tom Cruise is staying at! Some of us decided to spend our evening shore leave on the beach as we were very keen to have a swim in the sea. This was an excellent choice over spending a large amount of money in the fancy looking bar because there happened to be bioluminescence present in the water again, can you believe it! The bioluminescence acted in the exact same way as it did for the dolphins but this time for us, leaving this vertigo green, glowing, sparkling, magical trail behind us as we swam. I was so ecstatic to have had this rare experience, I have never in my entire life heard of anyone else that has had the opportunity to swim in bioluminescence.
This day has for sure been one of the biggest highlights of my voyage purely because of how it ended by swimming in bioluminescence.
It was really great to hoist the sails again today, especially because there was a very decent amount of wind.However, the sea was a bit too choppy to launch the RIB so the cetacean watches were completed from the poop deck.
At the moment, some of the voyage crew are currently conducting a salsa dance class on deck showing the scientists how to get their groove on. They really and truly do know how to boogie.
Today was the penultimate full day of the voyage which meant full speed ahead to Puntarenas.
After lunch cook Kester announced a suspicious looking bread whale to the port of the ship (which was actually perfectly timed as the cetacean watching scientists spotted a real humpback whale at the same time)!
Whilst I was on watch, in the afternoon, I was looking out to sea and a tear came to my eye. Nothing sad or anything like that for it was a tear of joy because I realised how happy I was to be on board the ship and suddenly was overwhelmed with emotions of happiness and appreciation for my life.
It was the final day of the voyage (sad face), today. I cannot believe how much my time on Pelican in Costa Rica has flown by. I certainly did not feel ready to return home to freezing cold England after having the privilege to spend the start of 2022 in the sunshine.
Although the scientists and I (honorary scientist) had been out on the RIB almost every day, another humpback whale had not been spotted. This called for a whale dance from the scientists to summon the whales and it worked! Not one, not two but THREE humpback whales were spotted today showing off their flukes as they swam. We were so lucky to have the eagle-eyed Connor driving the RIB because he was the one to spot a blow. Frank Garita (photographer of photo of fluke) was very overjoyed that he had completed his quest by taking an absolutely phenomenal photo of the fluke and said that on a scale of 1-10 of happiness he was at 10!
The evening consisted of sea shanties led by a pirate that looked very similar to First Mate Tamsin, how bazar? Shanties always bring lots of joy and happiness to the ship and the Costa Rica Summer Camp voyage crew really got involved.
The permanent crew on board have been so welcoming and supportive. They work extremely hard on the Pelican and are sensational at their jobs. I think for me the best thing about them is how passionate they clearly are about what they do, it really does inspire the youngsters and make the ship almost like a home from home as they really are like a family.
I had such an amazing time on board Pelican and I am so thankful for every aspect of this experience. I now have a new favourite animal, devil rays, because they look so silly jumping and flipping out of the water.