Over the years we have answered thousands of questions. Here are the answers to some of the most common ones.
Students join us from all levels of the university system and from a wide variety of majors. Our crews are co-ed and are comprised of pre-matriculate students all the way up through juniors and seniors. Typically, crews in the past have been in the 17-23 age group. While most of our students come from the United States, we often have representatives from Europe, Canada, South America and even Asia on the crew.
Safety is paramount and comes first in everything that we do. Our voyages are adventurous, so there is an element of risk in some of the activities that we do. However, when you are aware of the risk, you can better control it and, in many cases, use it in your favor as many learn best when they are slightly outside of their comfort zone. Risk management is a key part of operating our programs and at Sea|mester we do this in many specific ways.
All Caribbean Voyages start and end at the island of Tortola (Beef Island - airport code EIS) in the British Virgin Islands. Flights to and from our Global Voyages are program dependent and thus a little more complicated. Please visit the Flight Information pages specific to the voyage that interests you for specific detail.
General flight booking information can be found on the Student Travel pages of the website.
The answer is up to you, as each person on the crew takes a turn as head chef to plan and cook the meals for an entire day with the help of another person acting as sous-chef. We all work to stay within a budget, with both students and staff responsible for stocking the vessels. We endeavor to accommodate everyone aboard, while providing what any alumni will tell you, was a great dining adventure.
We are learning from everything we do aboard but you can expect an average of 10 to 12 hours a week to be dedicated to "lecture" time for the courses we teach on the 80+ day programs and 6-8 hours a week during 40-day voyages. Our 20-day voyages are focused solely on Basic Seamanship and thus require about 3-4 hours a week of formal meeting time with the rest of the learning being done underway.
No previous experience is necessary to join a Sea|mester Voyage. The experience of sailing across major oceans, scuba diving world renowned reef systems and discovering destinations like the British Virgin Islands, the Galapagos, Tahiti, Australia and Thailand is as accessible to beginners as it is to the most seasoned sailor or diver!
Students who join us on all but the 20-day voyages can expect to earn the PADI Open Water certification and those on a Caribbean voyage may well achieve their PADI Advanced Open Water certification as well. On the longer voyages, we may also have the ability to do a number of PADI Specialty courses. On our 80+ day voyages, depending on the interest onboard, we have also been able to offer the PADI Rescue Diver course. If you are currently a certified Rescue Diver, are at least 18 yrs of age and are ready to take the next step, you may work towards the PADI Divemaster certification.
Please note that while scuba diving during our Caribbean Voyages is guaranteed, our Global Voyages will vary in terms of the extent of scuba diving possible. If you are looking for a program that carries a strong scuba component, then a Caribbean Voyage should be your clear choice.
A lot of this has to do with you as a person... your interests, likes and goals. Caribbean Voyages include far more coastal and near coastal sailing. As a result, we are likely to visit a wider range of islands than we would during a Global Voyage. Additionally, scuba diving during our Caribbean Voyages is guaranteed, so if you are looking for a program that carries a strong scuba component, then a Caribbean Voyage should be your clear choice.
In contrast, our Global Voyages offer the opportunity to cross major oceans and see parts of the world that few get to visit. If you are a keen sailor and/or are interested in building on your skills in this area, then no other program will allow you to log as many sea miles at the helm. While we try to incorporate as much scuba into these programs as we can, weather, local regulations and time restraints can often be preclusive to achieving a wide range of certifications.
Occasionally, students select to join Sea|mester for two voyages, thus completing a whole academic year with us. Whether enrolling for a Caribbean and Global voyage or staying aboard S/Y Argo for two consecutive Global Voyages, each experience will be unique due to the diversity of geographical locations, academic courses and, naturally, the team with whom you will be exploring.
While we guard the privacy of our alumni, 95% of them volunteer to act as references for new, interested students. Upon request, we will be happy to pass along names of past shipmates who are of a similar age and have participated in the same voyage that you are considering. Please contact us to request references.
During the course of all our voyages, students will work towards certifications while taking the Basic Seamanship course. Students will be trained and tested in both the IYT International Crew and IYT Navigation Master certification levels. Achieving the levels of IYT Radio Operator, IYT International Watchkeeper and IYT Master of Yachts 200 Ton Offshore Theory is possible, depending upon the voyage length as well as the academic course selection that a student has made.
The weather varies according to the destination you choose, so check the FAQs specific to the program that interests you for more detailed information. We routinely monitor the weather and stay in touch with the yachts.
In spite of the higher cost, Sea|mester uses the finest vessels available. We do not charter our vessels, both S/Y Argo and S/Y Ocean Star are owned and operated by Sea|mester. Safety, quality and "trainability" come first in our choice of yachts and equipment.
For more information on our yachts, please visit the Vessels section of the website.
Sea|mester provides almost all equipment necessary for our activities. This includes all scuba diving equipment (except for wetsuits, if needed). We will send a clothing list of general items to bring and information on spending money needed for shore side purchases. For those selecting a Global Program, the largest expense is likely to be a set of good quality foul weather gear. We do require that all participants join DAN (the Divers Alert Network) for their membership benefits. Those enrolling in certain scuba courses are required to purchase the necessary PADI books and materials for their use after the program (est. $35 per book).
The easy answer is that there is no typical day. During the first week to ten days of the voyage, the schedule is driven by getting everyone feeling comfortable with the basic concepts of sailing and vessel operation. The schedule also includes completing the first couple of lectures in each academic course. Once this introductory section is complete, the goal is to allow the students to begin to take the responsibility of scheduling the course contact time around the vessel itineraries and pre-scheduled group activities. From this point on, each following week's schedule is written during a group meeting that allows everyone to be invested in the outcome.
Some weeks involve more passage-making while others may revolve around a shore-based service project, scuba diving, hiking, touring, or shore leave. Please refer to the blog entries on our website, which were written by the students aboard to chronicle their experience in past Sea|mester programs.
No, but if you choose to bring your laptop with a wireless card, there is a high likelihood that you'll get a signal in many of the ports and harbors. Additionally, internet cafes ashore are becoming more and more widespread and economical in all the places we visit, so your next best option is to have a remote email service such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo.
The best way to keep in touch with home is to use local phones with locally purchased phone cards. The rate for calls overseas will vary by island and can range from just a few cents per minute to $2.00 or $3.00 per minute. While some international calling cards will work to call outside the Caribbean, most will not. The alternative to buying local phone cards is to make calls charged to a credit card, which tends to cost around $4.00 per minute.
Smoking is prohibited aboard any of our vessels, including yachts, dinghies, kayaks and windsurfers. Smoking is also prohibited in any vehicle that is owned or leased by Sea-mester. Smoking is allowed on regular shore leave although no shore leave for that specific reason will be granted by the staff if it should conflict with other program activities such as meal times, classes, group activities or designated study times.
There is a fair chance that at some point in the program you may become seasick. Most students who are prone to motion sickness feel it in the first days of the voyage or on the first longer passage. In all but a very few cases, students get their "sea legs" and never experience it again.
If you are concerned about motion sickness, there are a number of over the counter and prescription medications available in addition to natural remedies noted for reducing or eliminating sea sickness. While we do not endorse any one product, feel free to call our office for a personal recommendation from one of our staff members.
We do not discourage family members from visiting the program, but the time spent together would be very minimal. Due to our weather and activity-based schedule, it is very hard to predict just where the boats will be at any given time.