Ocean Discoverability 2020 End of Season Report

Everything looked promising at the beginning of 2020 for our Ocean Discoverability (OD) trips and the other projects spinning off from it. We had 31 days planned, plus a day for the Marine Conservation Society, the first part of the season was fully booked, another residential Ocean Literacy (OL) week was in the calendar, potential On Board Ocean Educators (OBOEs) were queuing up to sail on OD days, and with other organisations looking like they were going to embrace OL, it looked like there would be more vessels for the OBOEs to sail on.

Johanna Lucretia

Johanna Lucretia

And then Covid-19 came along. Sea staff were furloughed and the boats laid up. We did hope to be able to resume once the schools returned, but it quickly became apparent that conventional residential voyages could not be done within government guidelines. However there was a possibility that the OD trips could go ahead and we canvassed the schools and groups that sail with us. There was a mixed response but enough positive ones to consider a reduced programme, perhaps our usual week in October. To comply with the guidelines as they existed until recently, this would have entailed bringing two boats back into commission. On Johanna Lucretia (if the weather allowed) we could run the marine science elements of the day outdoors, in the shade of an awning on the upper deck, and transfer to Pegasus for the sailing part of the day. That would have been an expensive work around, and once the social distancing rules became more stringent, even that option would have posed too great a threat of spreading the virus.

Engaging with Young People

But we have not been inactive. We used our experience of engaging our young people with the marine environment during the OD voyages and the 2019 OL cruise to attempt something similar online. As a Marine Conservation Society Sea Champion I gave a webinar for schools on ‘Life Beneath the Keel’ which covered the range of marine wildlife which could be found in the marina and how it all linked together in the ocean system. The recording of the presentation has been viewed 139 times to date on the MCS YouTube channel.

Drawing on the same material, but delivered in a similar way to the OD days was a live streamed event for an international maritime festival hosted by the Ocean Institute in California. No data is available on the reach of the live stream, but their recording on YouTube has been seen 43 times, and our series of blogs in the run up to the event reached over 2,000. We informed the special needs schools and groups we work with that these resources were available and have offered them similar opportunities to live stream to their classrooms. We are working with the groups which responded to tailor the best approaches for them.

Cool Seas Webinar

MCS Cool Seas Webinar

Maritime Festival

Live stream with Ocean Institute

Future impacts on historic ships

Abigail Allan, a student at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, working as an intern at National Historic Ships UK, was writing a report on climate change’s current and future impacts on historic ships, making recommendations for future action in the sector. She had heard of us and asked for our help, which we were very happy to give. We are looking forward to publication of the report on their website.

Rotary talks

In January I attended the Plympton Rotary meeting and spoke to them about ‘Ocean Literacy and Sail Training’, updating them on progress since I last spoke to them in 2010 at the end of the first season in the Bristol Channel pilot cutter, Cornubia. I concluded with an upbeat look forward. On 4 August, the eve of the tenth anniversary of the first trip, I wrestled with Zoom for a virtual talk to Saltram Rotary, ‘The Island Trust – Leading the way in Ocean Literacy & Sail Training’. But the same concluding slide shows how much we look forward to giving the young people an educational, enriching and enjoyable experience.

Final slide

What lies in store for 2021

We are optimistic that we will be able to sail in 2021, both on the longer residential voyages and the OD day trips, and we are not alone in anticipation. The Beckly Centre in Plymstock was the first to bring a group on one of these trips. Vicki Eastman, Head of Services (SEND) at Routeways Centre Limited which now runs the centre, said, “Young people have been confined to their houses or other limited spaces which has a detrimental effect to their mental health. With autism especially, young people like things to be structured and can struggle with a change in activity. By giving them the opportunity to experience new environments such as what you offer helps us to build on their resilience as well as other life skills. They are able to form relationships with different adults which they may not be exposed to otherwise. Due to COVID all these things need to be worked on again to build up the young people.”

John Hepburn, October 2020

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