Marina Mozak sails on a tall ship research vessel.

Marina Mozak was among 25 students on board.
Marina Mozak was among 25 students on board.

December 2016 – Drew University student Marina Mozak bid a temporary farewell to The Forest to spend a semester at sea.

Mozak, a sophomore studying environmental science and political science, was among 25 students who studied ecosystems and sustainability in Polynesian island cultures aboard a tall ship research vessel, the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Other schools represented on the trip included the University of Virginia, Wellesley College, Vassar College and Villanova University.

The program, run by the Sea Education Association, began in August with preparatory course work in Woods Hole, Mass. From there, Mozak and her peers traveled to American Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and disembarked for a final time in Auckland, New Zealand last month. Mozak also wrote about life on a ship via the program’s blog, SEA Currents.

Mozak capped her experience by backpacking around New Zealand for a month. In an interview with, she explains what she learned along the way.

Bringing a sense of humor to the helm.
Bringing a sense of humor to the helm.

How did you first hear about the SEA program?

Through an outside scholarship that encouraged me to do their high school program. I applied over the holiday break last year so my mom could help as much as possible, and I found out [I was accepted] in February. When I finally got the call I ran down my hall, hugging people and yelling.

What did it feel like to board the ship for the first time?

I was so ready. It was like everything I had been doing for the past few years came together in the moment I crossed the gangway and became a part of the Robert C. Seamans.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned?

Codependence. I can’t run the ship all the time or exist in isolation. I had to learn to trust everyone else and to have them trust me. I learned that things have to be done a certain way for the ship to keep going, and it wasn’t always going to be the way I wanted or that made sense to me. This was a really hard lesson to learn for 25 people with type-A personalities, but it was by far the most important.

How about while traveling on land?

How to be alone. After all that codependence, I’m traveling in New Zealand alone. It’s a really interesting contrast [to go] from the world only turning because someone is always up making sure it is to [venturing into] the outside world, where things happen and I have to find a way to react. It’s a new thing that I’m still getting the hang of.

‘I sat out on the bow, belting show tunes and watching the boat move across the world.’

The following is an excerpt from “Right Now is My Morning,” a blog post that Mozak filed while aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans.

Steering, she says, is 'way harder than I thought.'
Steering, she says, is ‘way harder than I thought.’

Oct. 1: Around midnight I woke up to the Seamans motor sailing in light wind. Bex, our amazing steward, left out Rice Krispies Treats for a midnight snack, so I had great fuel of that and coffee to start out my watch. Right at 0100, Rocky, 3rd mate and my watch officer, put me on helm. My orders were to steer 175° and tell him when I was more than 10° off. It took me about a half hour to not be 10° off and I never stayed in range for more than 10 minutes. It turns out steering a 300ish-ton boat that is back heavy and floating is way harder than I thought.

After my time on the helm, I got to be bow lookout. My memory of my time as bow lookout was part of why I came to SEA and I could not have been more excited. There was bioluminescence below the boat, the Milky Way totally visible above. There were shooting stars and the entire world spread out in front of me. I could sing as loudly and badly as I wanted without anyone hearing. It’s even better than the shower. So, I sat out on the bow, belting show tunes and watching the boat move across the world.

Not everything about watch was blissfully watching the world. About half our watch was down with sea sickness and we are almost all living off of the medicine for it. We also don’t have our sea legs yet so my legs are covered in bruises from not knowing how to stand anymore.

While I’m writing this there is a Neuston net in the water that we just finished learning how to deploy. We do this by trimming the sails so that we basically drift along at 2kts, which feels like a crawl after the eight we were doing last night. I will be on watch again at 1900 until 0100 tomorrow and intend to do some coffee and sleep deprivation-fueled science in the lab during that time.