Ocean College

OceanCollege Blog

Water is precious when you’re at sea

When crossing the Atlantic our student Lisa realized what a precious resource water can be – especially when there is no land in sight.

Before going on this sailing trip I would have never imagined that surrounded by water the raw material we have the least of would be water. We all need water to survive, and normally when we are in the need we just go to the next sink, open the tap and we have endless water.

Here on board it’s a bit different. Instead of a pipe that provides everybody with water we get our drinking water through a Water-maker that runs from 7 o’clock in the morning until 20:30 o’clock in the evening and produces about 120 litres per hour. It takes the water from the Ocean and brings it in a drinkable form. Every 15 minutes someone of the working watch needs to climb down the steep stairs into the Engine-Room to check if there are any leaks and the Water pressure isn’t too high or low. When the sun is shining and we are travelling on Engine it gets so hot down there, that you can’t touch anything without feeling like your hands are getting burned. So it got one of the most annoying tasks during the watch (Luckily I’m in the night watch now so I don’t have to deal with it anymore).

Having a limited source of water is new for most of us and we all needed to change our behaviour. Unfortunately we have managed to spend all of the available water until the last drop a few times now and every time it happens we realise how irresponsible we have been. Not even putting up a three-days plan for showering worked and after we managed to empty the tank during the crossing of the Atlantic, we are only allowed to shower with salt water on deck. After Martin (captain) told us, that there was no water many of us got scared.

What about drinking water?

Do we have water for the kitchen?

Or cleaning the ship?

Or washing our laundry?

Now we are trying to find out how so much water was used and what we can do about it. Probably the problem lies by washing our hands for too long and filling nearly the entire sink for doing the dishes. But I think that there is also a positive aspect to it, that we all learn to be aware of this valuable liquid and all work together to find a solution.

You can find this article also at Deutsche Welle!

Plastic everywhere in Panama (by Lisa)

Plastic is a topic we have often encountered on our trip so far, for example through our microplastic project and also real life experiences like finding a fridge swimming in the ocean. But after the last two days of 2017, we all have seen how much we damage our surrounding with all the waste we produce.

We were travelling through the San Blas Islands and on the 31st of December we went to one of the small island where we slept on the beach and celebrated New Year’s Eve. As we arrived with the Dinghy you could already see pieces of plastic laying around. I was in the group that left the ship at last so the others had plenty of time to explore the Island and one of them showed me a small clearing with the ground full of glass.

Before the dinner we collected the waste we could find. We started with a little distance from our camp and slowly came back. Using a tarp we originally had with us to build tents we carried bottles, wrappings, lost shoes, light bulbs, etc. from the beach and the bushes beside it to a fire we had built to burn it.

I had even found pieces of a printer! After about an hour we had already collected about 50kg but honestly, I couldn’t really see a change.



The day before we had visited the inhabitants of another island. They showed us around and as we walked we saw mountains of trash lying in every corner that wasn’t in use. In front of houses, on the sides of paths and nobody seemed to care or even notice. Many of us started to take a closer look and pulled out big beautiful mussels that were hidden in the depths of these mountains. I’m not sure if they just ignore it, but I saw a little girl playing with a Barbie doll, that had only the torso and arms left and probably was also found there.

Today here in Panama we made a spontaneous Safari Tour with the Dinghy through a near river and on the reeds we also encountered lots and lots of trash. It was really sad to find things like bicycles in a really impressing scenery like this one.

Later I talked about it with the owner of a restaurant, and he felt the same. He said, that most of the garbage came from the ocean and had been washed to the islands and land. But I think, that the fault lies also with the inhabitants, not only from Panama but every single one of us not looking after our environment.

Author: Lisa. Lisa is a very talented writer and one of our students taking part in the current voyage of Ocean College.