Ocean College

Am Strand wird gegessen

Who is the teacher and who is the student?

Date: 03.02.2019
Author: Johannes
Position: Red Frogs Marina, Isla Bastimentos, Panamá

Monday, January 14th:
All Ocean College students meet in the garden of the Language School Academia Tica. Niki introduces me as the teacher for history and physics who just arrived from Germany during the weekend. I will spend the next weeks together with the students, while all other teachers enjoy their well deserved vacations.

Plenty of my first conversations with the students are based on stories that they experienced on the Pelican of London, our ship: „Johannes, have you ever been on the Pelican?“, „Johannes, have you ever been sailing?“, „Johannes, have you ever met the other teachers before?“ are some of the questions that I get.

Yes, I‘ve met the other teachers during a planning weekend in Berlin and yes, we‘ve all met the crew and explored the ship on a preparation weekend in Bristol. And no, I haven‘t been sailing actively, five days in the Caribbean San Blas islands motoring around do not count.

While I‘m getting to know all students, they already tell me excitedly about all the details of ship routine, sailing commands and other important stories that happened during the first leg of our journey.

Friday, January 31st:
All students and teachers are sitting in the bus, everybody is looking forward to arrive in Puerto Limón to board the Pelican again. For me this is a special day, as I haven‘t been sailing on the Pelican before:

All students had their special moment of embarking the Pelican for the first time in Dublin, more than three months ago, now I am also joining them as a member of permanent crew. In our first crew meeting, our Captain Ben asks me to join the White Watch to get some basic sailing knowledge.

This means that for the first days until Monday, when school starts again, I‘ll be a watch member from 12 to 4 pm and from 0 to 4 am. When we finally leave Puerto Limón in the evening, I‘m both really excited and a little anxious how I will survive the pitching and rolling of the ship.

During the day, I had a lot of time to set up all my stuff in the Foc‘s‘le, where I‘ll be sleeping. Unfortunately, the Foc‘s‘le is the part of the ship that shows the strongest movement whenever there are any waves.

After dinner I‘m heading to bed to get some sleep before I‘m having my first watch. It’s been a long day and I have to get up again soon.

Saturday, February 1st:
Having slept only for one or two hours, as the movement of the ship kept me awake, I am meeting my watch colleagues at the wheel house to muster at a quarter to midnight. I‘m feeling a little dizzy but happy to be outside in the fresh but warm breeze.

As our students have more than three months of sailing experience, I follow their orders and explanations: „Bracing Stations port side: ease out“, means that I have to loosen the rope and give slack. Quickly I get introduced to some knots which I need to practice and know in order to lay the brace line, that means to fasten the rope that changes the angular orientation of the sail towards the wind.

I learn that if we want to take away a sail, we start with loosening the sheet, and then haul away the clue lines, then leech lines and finally the bunt lines. I‘m really amazed how my watch works together as a team, even if it is a new constellation for them, too: Marcel, Tabea, Lauryn, Niklas and Penelope know their tasks already almost by heart when Second Mate Anousch gives instructions.

They also help and support each other, especially when two members of their watch and their teacher are busy emptying their stomach.

After intense four hours I fall into bed and sleep like a baby. Waking up at 10 am in the morning, I see that we‘re just arriving at the Red Frogs Marina, where we will stop to get provisions for our leg to Cuba.This place turned out to be an astonishing paradise of rainforest and beaches, so we are happy to stay here till Monday.

Sitting together with Anousch in the evening, she asks me whether it is okay when the students are teaching me different things in sailing. I tell her that I‘m really happy about it and I’m looking forward to learn more. In my opinion, the role of the teacher to be an expert, who knows how things have to be done, is no longer appropriate for the world we live in.

Therefore, I‘m really happy to learn from all crew members, as it was formulated initially on this journey: We are all crew, we are all here to learn.

Sunday, February 2nd:
Sunday is funday, therefore we enjoy a deep clean of our home, the Pelican.
Again it‘s me, who needs to learn how things are done: „Red cloth for general cleaning, blue for the loo.“ After doing the deep clean of the ship, we spend some time at a beautiful beach waiting for our lunch, which was today at a pizza place.

There is a long table set up to fit all 30 students and 4 teachers. While we‘re waiting Tati says to Niki: „Niki, it’s really funny: you just look like a proud father who observes his 30 children and is happy to see them calmly and well behaved awaiting their food.“

Yes, proudness is also a feeling that I share when I see how the group interacts with each other. In the evening, I‘m preparing my lessons in my hammock on the weather deck. Tomorrow we‘ll explore the history of Cuba and the Cold War in more detail, before we are heading out to Carribean Sea to sail towards our next stop there.

In this moment, I‘m struck by the beauty of this journey: We can learn from one another, inspired by the countries and history that is all around us. Ah, and I need to talk to our deck hand Pete to prepare the next physics lessons about forces and how we can effortlessly move weights with some ropes and blocks. That‘s going to be really cool!