2021 Ocean Literacy Voyage

On 19th July 2021 we welcomed the arrival of eight home educated young people, joining us on Pegasus as crew for an Ocean Literacy week.

Laura the skipper has a keen interest in marine mammals and volunteers for British Divers Marine Life Rescue. Sally, the Ship’s Mate was the OBOE (On Board Ocean Educator), and Tamin and Elle were our third and fourth hands. Everyone was excited to set sail and looking forward a fair-weather week.

Once parents had been ushered away and initial briefings carried out, Pegasus and her crew departed, heading towards Hope Cove at midday. The crew went ashore to do some rock pooling exploration. Their finds included a hermit crab, velvet shore crab, snake lock anemones galore, a furrowed crab and many other creatures. The rockpools were full of life!

Seaweeds, barnacles and snakelocks anemones

Furrowed crab

After a talk on how seaweeds can be early indicators of environmental change and the importance of citizen science, we carried out a Big Seaweed Search – a community science partnership with the Natural History Museum and Marine Conservation Society. Being so engrossed with rock pooling, the tide was now much further out, so after some hard rowing the crew returned to Pegasus for supper.

With the sky beautifully clear, the crew looked up to the night’s sky, stargazing with mugs of hot chocolate, whilst Laura read aloud ‘The Lorax’ by Dr Suess.

The next morning the sea was mill pond calm. A morning dip was in order, followed by many bowls of cereal. The jellyfish had not surfaced yet, as they had the afternoon before. The calm sea at anchorage created the opportunity for a plankton trawl, so we set it up and passed the net along. The trawl was successful with plenty of plankton collected. The crew took great delight in discovering how much life there was in the petri dish and enjoyed chasing it around trying to capture it for a photograph on the laptop. There were Copepods galore, and to the crew’s dismay, a red fibre of microplastic. They were getting entangled in it and this was a great opportunity to talk about microplastics to see its impact first-hand.

Plankton and microplastic fibre

Plankton – a copepod

Plankton – possibly sea sparkle

Next, we headed to Salcombe, sails unfurled to catch the light breeze. Many jellyfish were spotted including; compass, moon, comb and lion’s mane. Once in Salcombe, our friends on Prolific (Ocean Youth Trust South) kindly let us raft alongside them and the crew admired their selection of flags. After dinner we carried out some plankton id and then played some games.

Wednesday saw us leave Salcombe after a very busy visit ashore.

We headed towards Burgh Island with the aim of dropping anchor there. On the way, a large pod of common dolphins joined: a truly special experience for the crew. All the sails were up and the crew were set the task of setting the topsail with three magic questions for help. They were successful, but alas there was not enough wind! As it was another sweltering day, we ate our dinner up on deck, before bedtime.

Then our last full day together, how time flies! We woke up to an easterly breeze, yippee! The crew fancied another morning dip before breakfast. After this we looked at some sea life under the microscope that we had carefully looked after from the pontoon at Salcombe. There were sea squirts, bryozoans (Sea-mat), hydroids (Kelp Fir) and common mussels. The crew were shocked to hear that sea squirts are members of the phylum Chordata, the major animal group that includes ourselves! Now it was time to catch that breeze, so we weighed anchor.

As we left our anchorage a football was spotted drifting at sea. Laura decided on a MOB (man overboard) drill to rescue the litter from the ocean. It was a success! We celebrated by hoisting the main sail with lunch underway. With full bellies and fresh easterlies, the jib and staysail were hoisted as we headed back along the coast to Plymouth. All hands were on deck for gybing and speeds reached 8.3knots, much to the crew’s delight. RFA Tidesurge (British Royal Fleet Auxiliary replenishment tanker) was identified, and an RNLI lifeboat surged past on a call out rescue as we entered Plymouth Sound. Sails were brought down in Jennycliff Bay and we returned to our berth in Plymouth Yacht Haven. All crew to the lines and fenders! We then had a delicious dinner, followed by a game of spoons and Uno.

Sea Mat – close-up

Sea Mat

Alas, the last few hours were now upon us. We enjoyed conversation over breakfast before packing up our things. It was a crew member’s birthday, so a cake was organised as a surprise before a chat and debrief of the week with certificates. There was time to set up the CrabCam and enjoy a short pontoon ramble, discovering numerous large squabbling crabs which were very entertaining to the crew. As always, this activity is a hit. One crab even managed to move the light on the camera set-up.

Now it was suddenly midday, and the parents were arriving. The crew had made lasting friendships which was lovely to see. They had grown in confidence and the feedback from the week was very positive.

Sally Fishlock, July 2021

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