Ocean College

From the Blog

178 Days

Date: 07.04.2023
Author: Caro
Position: Ijmuiden
Nautical position: 52°25,5‘ N 004°27.4‘ W
Etmal: 14037
Ship: Pelican of London

178 days, some days in which some of us have had the best or the worst time of our lives. 178 days we were in our own world, a world in which everything works and is perfect and even if the clouds crashed down, we would still be on our own planet Pelican. It was just us, Pelican and the Ocean. Some were annoyed that Pelican broke down so often but I would look at Pelican as a Trabant. When something brakes, you repair it with what you have and you have to be creative, she brakes on occasion and you wait ages in harbours, maybe not fifteen years, but fifteen days.

It all started in Amsterdam; A city rich in history. Nobody could have known what we would encounter in the following six months. Everything was new and it was close to overwhelming. Soon we moored off, entering the English Channel and we had our first spout of seasickness. Many started to establish new friendships during this time, of which some have a bond for life. I had my first daily report in the channel of old England and got very familiar with the common practice of feeding the dolphins with my stomach’s contents…now I don’t feel sick with high rising waves.

Dartmouth was our first stop, a place where everything began and also came to an end, our first and last stop. We went hiking up to the point where we could see the angry ocean crashing against the rocky cliffs. One could see the corrosion on the rocks made by the water masses over hundreds, no thousands of years. We were there again and the thorny bushes started to flower all in white, like the white horses on the waves.

The Bay of Biscay was very exhausting, the waves were constantly crashing into our hull, everything was flying around, but the stars were so bright. In Vigo we visited Santiago de Compostela before we cracked on after our second delay (with only two Stops) towards the canaries.

I remember the first rush of warm air during my watch and then more warm air the following days. From then on, the climate got warmer and our generator exhaust broke. We turned around and headed towards Lisbon where we went alongside the harbour in front of the famous red bridge which occasionally was covered in clouds.

The canaries were impressive as we sailed towards them and saw them mountains. We climbed onto the Teide and enjoyed the view onto the fluffy clouds. Soon we would be disappearing behind the horizon.

And just as we thought we could leave we were delayed again. We had to go and take bunkers in Las Palmas. And finally, finally we could sail into the vast endlessness sailing chasing the horizon. Our first transatlantic crossing was a great challenge, three weeks locked in one ship. Some rumours say that some cabins were more dry store than the actual dry store.

Laaaaaaand hoooooo! After three weeks we could see the faint colour of land on the horizon, the ship was fully in joy as we finally saw land. Standing on the top gallant we stowed the sails as the sun was setting and its rays were piercing through the pink clouds.

We sailed through the West Indies, on our way to Panama, reggae accompanying us all along. Days and our cabins were warm. Very warm. We saw coral reefs, turquoise water just as in all the stories and also white sand beaches, palm trees adorning the shores. We slept a night on union island, a small island which is heavenly beautiful. We were told not to sleep under palm trees because of the coconuts, which I can certainly say didn’t always work out. During the night a storm passed and everybody got drenched by the rain because we were not prepared for that kind of weather. And then our vacuum pump broke. And we sailed to Curaçao.

A Man, a Plan, a Canal – Panama

After we finally ended our packing ordeal, we went ashore in Panama to enter a bus and to drive to Costa Rica. We all were carrying our heavy backpacks and looked out the bus windows as we passed banana plantations and jungle. Pure Vida, yeah that’s the vibe. Costa Rica is a beautiful country with rich flora and fauna, beautiful volcanic black sand beaches and fascinating foggy mountains covered in rainforest. We started our tour with a week of surfing and Spanish lessons on the pacific coast. Then we went up into the highlands of Costa Rica, where Carlos and his coffee farm were located. Then our teachers re-joined us on the last day and let’s be honest it was very nice to see them again and we were all very happy. That’s when our expedition started and we travelled from the pacific coast to the Caribbean Atlantic coast.

Running down to Cuba way me boys to Cuba! We headed towards Cuba and it was definitely an experience. We got an insight into a country with our own eyes and could see the beautiful city of Havana.

After passing the skyline of Miami during sunset, the sun a red ball of fire, our voyage through the Bermuda Triangle started and everything went haywire once more. Generators braking, no power and once again the Pelican vibe. We managed to get to Bermuda where our generators broke down a couple of times followed by our main engine. Bermuda is the opposite of Cuba, everything is very expensive, but the people there were very polite and caring. It was nice to see when we attended the local service mentioned us and gave us a seaman’s prayer, after that we were invited for lunch at the church.

The second transatlantic voyage was an enjoyable time and we could feel the climate getting colder and colder. After about a week we could see the lush green grass hills of the Azores, as well as the high volcano Pico. It was one of our last shore leaves and the first time we stood on European ground for months. Of course, we went into the famous Peters Cafe and sat there together enjoying one of the last shore leaves together. The next day we were brought up to the volcano to circle back down, we’ll yes…we were brought up a mountain to circle back down, but that’s just the vibe. The caldera of the volcanic mountain was massive and a small lake was in its centre. White birds flew up the steep walls making it seem surreal. It was awesome and we were speeding, even our tires smoked when braking.

High were the ever rising seas in the north ocean, when the violent winds pushed us across the unsettled ocean. The ship was rolling her way through the bay of Biscay as spray was flung into our tired faces. Tight held we onto the safety lines slipping and tripping as she heeled over hauling with all our strength against the untamed forces, feeling the lines pull us dreadfully towards the rails. Squalls passed through drenching us, while the icy winds cooled us down to our bones. The moon was shining in all its glory, so dangerously enchanting, while rain drenched everything in its way and when one was Fortunate enough to see, with the back turned to the moon a moon bow captivatingly stretched in a perfect arch across the Skye. And if you looked close enough you could even see the faint taint of colour.

The first land we sighted, was called the dead man,
next rams head of Plymouth, start Portland and wight,
We sailed then by beachy, fairly and Dover
then bore straight away for the south foreland lights.

And now we are sailing from Scheveningen to Ijmuiden. This is the last leg of our voyage we will have together. The atmosphere is heavy with emotions and it is overwhelming.

Pelican is home and also family, many a friendship has developed and we will talk about our experiences, for sure now back home, but also in the far future.

I have met many strong people throughout the voyage on the ship or on land, some of them made my day, but these will probably never know. It’s the small things that make you smile sometimes. Maybe a comment, or sometimes no words are needed to show an act of kindness. We should all try to be happier and nicer; it doesn’t have to be a lot but maybe just a smile or something because who knows what’s going through the vivid mind of the other. I adore the Bermudians for their care for strangers, it is near to impossible to pass along a street without being greeted or asked how you feel.

We are very privileged, we have everything we want, food, water, safety and education. We can speak about our opinions without the concern to be tracked down just because it’s against the system. Many don’t even have the chance to carry their words into the world. I think that I am also very privileged to say this. The world seems to be sometimes full of rage and hate, but at the same time there are so many acts of kindness going on. They are overshadowed by all the bad stuff, but the glass can also be half full and not half empty and complaining isn’t particularly proactive. Do something.

The ocean is a mystery for itself. It is dangerously wild, untameable, enchanting. Some people fall for the charm of the ocean. It’s like a lover who gives you all his affection and then right out smacks you in the face whereas the soothing motion rocks you into its sleep. It is cold, chills even the strongest down to their bones and can take life but at the same time it is warm, loving and fascinating. The gentle breeze that steadily rushes across the horizon can turn into a howling wind, a merciless creature gaining the power to send every any so dauntless vessel afloat down between the pitch-black waves, to the bone chilling darkness, committing an act of treachery upon those who are dependent on her ever roaring winds. It gives and takes.

I will miss the life on board: I really enjoyed the watches we had together (past tense feels weird), sometimes we laughed, or we were quiet and froze. I remember all the stars, like an ocean of stars up high, so many of them while some came falling from heaven, tumbling to earth. How many people must have looked up at them, thinking, laughing or crying. I remember seeing the south cross and the pole star simultaneously in the sky. The sight of all the bioluminescent algae in the fathomless ocean, like the stars in the sky, or the moments when we saw moon bows stretching through the Skies. I enjoyed our shore leaves together all around the world and I enjoy the random hugs you sometimes get or give. We are a team and we work as a team, we have to be able to rely and trust on each other. The time on board can be very exhausting and it is important to support whoever may need it.

Time went flying away and our arrival in Amsterdam seemed so distant, so surreal but now it’s in front of my watertight door. The months went flying by, the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and then months turned into weeks. Very exhausting weeks with high waves and now it is today, just two days left.

I would like to emphasise a quote by Ariadni, a former Ocean College student: “Wir werden nach Hause kommen und alles wird genau so sein, wie als wir gegangen sind. Aber wir werden nie wieder so auf Pelican zurück kommen, so wie es jetzt ist.”

And damn, she is blo*dy right!

And one day we will sit in a cosy rocking chair, a warm cracking fire next to us in the fireplace while we tell the small children all the memories we have which may or may not have faded into a faint memory. Or we are somewhere on a tall ship.

I have dreamt my dream, but I always say to never stop dreaming the last chapter of this book is in the writing, is nearly written, but there are new books to follow.

Life will go on, it will be hard at times, but we have people who love us, everyone has and who knows what will happen in the future. One thing is for sure: For we may or might never all meet here again!

Goodbye Ocean College 22/23

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