School at sea (SAS) trip – december 2017 – Tenerife – Cape Verde – Dominica
23-12-2017: This is the report from the ship’s doctor Olga (Olly) – (this is her second time sailing for School at Sea)
I could almost just copy paste the things I wrote about my experience with SAS last year on the trip from Bermuda to the Azores. About the routine of school, sailing and kitchen shifts. About the way the days blend into each other when living aboard. How nice it is to live outdoors; to feel the wind through my hair, the sun on my skin and the motion of the ship gliding almost dancing over the waves. About the great company of the teachers, the crew and the kids. Being part of an always fascinating social experiment on this ship which has become our home, our tiny world in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of this Atlantic Ocean with water, water and more water surrounding us. Our small world that is exactly one ship big. But besides this all, there is so much more to share.
After last year’s adventure, I was asked to join in again this time, but on the part from Tenerife to Cape Verde and then across the ocean to Dominica. I’m thankful and happy that I did as again this is such a special and a once in a lifetime experience. The perks of this part of the trip are with dot the tropical weather, new interesting destinations, still totally fresh, bubbly enthousiastic kids at the start of their adventure and another big improvement is that we are now sailing a different tallship, the Thalassa, with a bit more comfort, more space and an absolute gorgeous display of sails.
I know a lot of people wonder what on earth I’m occupied with if all these kids stay healthy. Some reading, some guitar playing, joining in on the daily activities, a first aid course.. I can truely say, I haven’t been bored at all. Time is an interesting thing. On board it’s easy to lose track of the days of the week. Days are usually identified by it being “nutella and chocolate sprinkle day” (which is Wednesdays and has been initiated after an overuse of these products and it’s scarcity on board), “Toasty Friday” or it being your laundry day. The days at sea have a steady routine; 08.00 breakfast, 08.30 school, 11.00 fruit, 13.00 warm lunch, 16.00 snack, 18.00 end of school + sunset, 19.00 bread dinner. Besides this there are the schedules for the (sailing)watches and kitchen duty. However, this daily flow is often interrupted by something interesting and unexpected..
We have been lucky with a couple of extraordinary wildlife sitings. We have seen dolphins and also a huge shark that swam along the boat for a while, which is pretty unusual. One day a Minky whale played around the boat for about an hour, which got everyone super excited. It was hilarious to see everyone running from the right to the left side of the boat and back again to follow this beautiful creature. As icing on the cake this whale jumped out of the water twice to splash back on the water surface. All just in front of our eyes. Wow!
Check the video on Minke’s Facebookpage:
Also this year we have seen amazing clear stary nights with ample shooting stars. We have seen the full moon slinking to a thin half circle lying down like the Cheshire cat’s smile (!). I’ve also seen the fluorescent ages again. This year no sea spirits guiding our ship, but swirling currents being lit up behind the boat, leaving behind a whole new kinda galaxy. An absolute gorgeous experience again!
We have been sailing very smoothly but because of the swell there have been some bigger unexpected waves every now and then. It’s hilarious how everyone is already totally used to this. It’s just like one of the first scenes out of the “Mary Poppins”-movie, where everyone stands in place and corrects or saves all the falling or moving objects because the daily cannon is fired off again, without blinking an eye.
Sam, our captain and Jelle, our cook have been preoccupied with fishing. As the start was rather unsuccessful, it was hilarious that our first fish to be caught was a tiny cute reef fish that for some reason found a new home underneath a bright orange plastic container that we tried to pick up for we thought it was an important lost boi. After this a couple of big fish have been caught. Our catches of the day have been: the Bonito (similar to the tuna) and a few Maui maui’s, who have the most beautiful bright blue and yellow colours which keep on changing into different shades during the process of being caught and killed until it (sadly) loses all its bright shiny colours when dead. Some of the kids are quite skilled by now to prepare the freshly caught fish after which the kitchen mob of the day will prepare a delicious meal out of it. It also served as part of the biology lessons and projects so fortunately we get a lot out of it.
As mentioned, I’m lucky once again with a nice group of people on board here. I share a daily special coffee moment with Lucy, my roomy, who is a real cool French crewmember. I often climb into the mast with Bonne, one of the teachers, for the most amazing sunrise and sunset experiences. The teachers and I do some daily physical exercise and in the evening we usually play some cards. On sundays I share the kitchen shifts with Eva and Hanna, two of the other teachers and Jelle, which is always hard work, good fun and delicious results!
This ship has multiple nice spots to sit and relaxe. At the front of the ship there is the “gypnett” in which it’s lovely to sit or lay down, just above the waves, right next to our figure head; a mermaid lady who’s presenting the bow of our ship and is guiding us on this journey. Another great place is in the mast. The Thalassa has 3 masts of which one with Ra sails, so plenty of places to climb into, to escape the sometimes chaotic life on deck or to simply enjoy the outstreched view. You will find an interesting setting for a painting at the back of the ship where at one point there hung a huge bunch of bananas which ripened along the way, next to some pineapples, a pare of gym rings for some pull up workout beside a huge ham. Being a vegy I found it a bit morbid to see this leg of a pig swinging around with the motion of the ship, but after a while you tend to forget it’s even there.
“To all passengers of the Thalassa, the swimming pool at the mid deck had been opened. Please attend with bathers at once. School has been prosponed. Captain’s orders.” The blow up kids swimming pool was a present for Sam’s birthday and turned out to be a successful fun pool party for sure.
Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet payed us a visit here and with Christmas ahead of us, there even is a fake Christmas tree on board. Eva and I decided to make a starfish peak to give this tree, which feels totally out of place here, a more oceanic and Caribbean vibe. We’ve given the bright little creature eyes, dreadlocks and a Xmas hat and named him Rasta-Stary.
I can only but imagine what it must have been like back in the day when Columbus set sail this way to explore the world. In 1493 he sighted some land in the Caribbean on a Sunday (domingo) and he called the island Dominica. Now, 16 days after leaving Cape Verde, the end of our ocean crossing of ca. 2300 nautical miles is nearby, we are all looking forward to arrive on this Caribbean island and explore this foreign land, which will be lots of fun I’m sure!
I wish everyone a lovely warm Xmas from tropical Dominica.
Lots of love, Olly