Monica Catalano ’02: Setting sail

It seems like a dream. Like it never happened. As if I made it up. There are so many stories to tell and so many experiences remembered, I find it hard to locate a place to begin. I remember getting anxious as graduation from my masters program was fast approaching and I still hadn’t secured a job. Most of my classmates were in final negotiations for great jobs that seemed to fit them perfectly. I, on the other hand, was lost. Yet somehow in May of 2008, not long after graduation, I found myself on a plane headed to Tahiti to meet up with the staff of Argo, a 112 foot sailing schooner that was traveling around the world.

Monica Catalano, photo for Entry 1Argo is one of two schooners owned by a company called Seamester, a college semester at sea program offering students advanced sail training and courses in marine science, scuba diving, leadership development, and the trip of a lifetime! I signed on for two semesters and would be traveling from Tahiti, French Polynesia to Phuket, Thailand, a distance of just over 8,000 nautical miles. My job? Teaching beginner and advanced scuba diving courses (thank goodness I became a certified instructor after college!), instructing a leadership development course, food provisioning and menu planning, and basically anything else that was asked of me.

One of the greatest things about working on Argo was that we all worked together. Now when I say we, I mean everyone on board, students and staff alike. This wasn’t a cruise. There were no midnight buffets, gourmet chefs, or poolside drink services. The crew were involved with every aspect of running the boat, keeping her clean, navigating our course, cooking the meals, and leading the daily activities. I found myself side by side with the students as we scrubbed the deck, raised the sails, and washed the dishes. Our days at sea were scheduled down to the minute, and I came to appreciate the routine. Yet there really was nothing routine about it. Although we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time every day, each week we found ourselves in a unique and drastically different destination like Vanuatu, Borneo, or Singapore.

Monica Catalano, profile pictureIt was one of the most challenging times in my life because I pushed myself beyond my personal limits almost daily, there was very little personal space and time, and I literally worked 24 hours a day 7 days a week, sometimes finding myself awake at odd hours of the night steering the boat to our next destination. But at the same time it was also one of the most rewarding experiences I could have ever asked for. I visited places I never dreamed I would, I pushed myself to new limits, and I made life-long friends. I can only hope that I touched the lives of the students I worked with as much as they have touched mine. In my upcoming blogs I look forward to sharing a glimpse of my life at sea!

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