Classes aboard a sailing vessel are very different to what any of us students have experienced before. From our textbooks running away from us with every wave, to mere curtains separating all the classrooms and no internet, it is an exciting and extremely new experience.
During this journey from Valencia to Madeira, we have had some crazy weather which I’m told is not common for this area. We switched between having no wind to going through squalls, therefore we did not have the sails up for most of this journey. This causes a lack of stability for the boat and we are constantly being rocked back and forth. We had hoped that after nearly two months in, we would’ve had our sea legs, but that is not the case. The constant motion can also be a bit of a challenge in classes when your notebook is sliding across the table if you leave it for more than a few seconds.
In this photo, you can see Austin using the whiteboard to teach his physics class. This class takes place in the bar classroom and has only 6 students.
Another difference we have all acutely noticed is the lack of walled classrooms. The only division between classes is a thin grey curtain stretched across the mess/ We have separated it into three rooms: the forward, mast and bar classrooms. I have all three of my classes in the mast classroom, which means that I have two other classes going on either side of me. I can be learning chemistry while at the same time hearing all about communism in global history.
One benefit of having small classes is that your teacher accessible at nearly all times and you can always ask for help. I often go to study hall to get homework done or just to ask a few questions. This is very necessary because in the middle of the ocean there is no Google to turn to when you don’t know an answer. It also helps to bond with other students because I will often go to someone who has previously studied the subject i’m struggling with. Also due to the lack of internet, the only way for us to pass on assignments is through a usb key. This can be a long process for everyone to get the needed material if there is a large class. I am lucky that all of my classes have a max of 6 people.
While classes are in progress, the only place to study is on the snack benches. In the photo to the right, Talia is standing up for Grayson and Aiga to have access to the bench. The photo on the left shows the chaos of the snack bags.
This morning a flying fish jumped onto the deck of the boat and died before anyone could toss it back in the water. The marine biology class took full advantage of this and organized a dissection. They gathered on the aft table outside and learned about how to preform a dissection in a very hands on class. At one point a little bird who was exhausted from flying so far made nest in Tristan’s hair and stayed there for 10 minutes while he was dissecting. He was lucky it was shower day for the boys after the bird pooped on his head.
Something that we noticed within the first week of sailing, is that people have stopped caring what they look like. Greasy hair and sweat pants in a regular uniform for most people. At my old school it is a common thing for people to spend at least a half an hour getting themselves ready, but here, with 1 minute showers every other day, it is impossible and impractical to look your best just for going to classes. I have been asked more than once if I showered on boys day because my hair is so greasy.
Sometimes I will just look out the porthole in my classroom and I’ll see the beautiful blue ocean waves and nothing else all around us and I’m just amazed. It makes it super difficult to concentrate on class when I have that kind of view. Despite all the struggles of trying to have normal classes in the middle of the ocean, it is an amazing experience and I can't imagine having to go back to traditional school after 9 months of this.
Written by: Class Afloat student, Julia Swedenklef