Frequently Asked Questions for R/V Song of the Whale (SOTW) voyages and research projects

Is Song of the Whale a normal cruising yacht…?

How much do participants and volunteers join in with the crew and activities on board? 

Will the boat stop somewhere at night?

Are bathrooms on SOTW the same as on land?

What sort of food can I expect on board?

Can I bring my own alcohol?

Can I smoke?

Is there wi-fi on board?

What requirements are there for participants to join the team?

Planning your trip and Organisational Responsibilities

Insurance

Medical matters

Booking and Cancellation

What is and is not provided?

 
 
Is Song of the Whale a normal cruising yacht…?

R/V Song of the Whale is a commercially coded working vessel (UK MCA Category 0) or ‘Research ship’, rather than a more conventional cruising yacht, as it may first appear. The vessel is fully equipped for comfort, but don’t expect luxury. It is dry and warm below, there are proper bunks and spacious heads compartments with hot water and showers. We have a selection of reference and fiction books, charging points and comfortable working and relaxing areas, as well as a fully equipped galley (kitchen).
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How much do participants and volunteers join in with the crew and activities on board?  

The SOTW team’s aim is to involve the whole crew (including participants and volunteers) and encourage participation in all facets of operating this working vessel. Thus you will find yourself taking turns to cook and wash up after meals, steer the boat, handle sails and help with other activities on deck, such deploying equipment. Every-one assists with data collection tasks, which could range from observations and data logging, to monitoring the hydrophones, taking photographs, counting plastics from manta trawls and various other tasks.  No prior experience is needed for any of these activities, you will be working alongside our full time team members who will provide training and guidance in all activities. However, for long offshore voyages, some experience of living on board a vessel may be useful.
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Will the boat stop somewhere at night?

Probably not ! When on survey and on passage, we generally operate 24 hours a day, that is we do not generally stop and anchor or moor up at night, we carry on normal operations, on a watch rota, taking turns to run the vessel (and data collection protocols).

The vessel is capable of spending extended periods of time offshore ( a month or more);  legs of voyages and survey tracks may vary in length, but expect to spend at least a week to ten days offshore at a time, and potentially longer for ocean passages.
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Are bathrooms on SOTW the same as on land?

SOTW has two bathrooms (which are called heads on a boat), fitted with marine toilets (which work very smoothly, and are ‘flushed’ by a hand pump), and hot and cold running water in the basins and showers. Although SOTW is fitted with a water-maker, and is thus able to be self-sufficient in terms of water supply when offshore for extended periods, water for showering is somewhat limited, so but normally we try to limit showers to every other day or so – we aim to minimise our environmental foot print as far as possible.
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What sort of food can I expect on board?

SOTW is a vegetarian ship (for animal welfare, environmental and food hygiene/storage reasons) and good food is a big part of life on board. We all take turns to cook meals. The vessel is well stocked in terms of fresh, dried, frozen and tinned provisions. Generally, breakfast is eaten as and when you like, lunch may be organised communally or self-service, but an evening meal is prepared and eaten together each day. Snacks and hot and cold drinks are freely available, and everyone is free to bake cakes, bread, cookies etc if they enjoy doing so.
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Can I bring my own alcohol?

Song of the Whale is run as a ‘dry ship’ when at sea and often at anchorages when there is a real possibility of having to ‘up anchor’ and move off. This is at the Skippers discretion. In port reasonable amounts of alcohol can be consumed but excessive alcohol consumption that leads to situations putting people at risk, or where the harmony of life on board is disturbed and others are made uncomfortable will not be tolerated.
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Can I smoke?

Smoking and e-cigarettes “vaping” are not permitted on SOTW.
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Is there wi-fi on board?

No, not when we are offshore; Communications are facilitated via a satellite terminal (phone and data) while offshore.  Everyone on board can utilise the boat’s email address to receive and send emails daily.  For urgent situations, you /anyone who needs to contact you can call the boat via satellite phone while at sea and urgent contact can also be made via the SOTW shore team as they have additional means of contacting the boat.
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What requirements are there for participants to join the team?

Previous experience and sailing qualifications are not a pre-requisite for joining the SOTW team for a voyage. We aim to speak to all potential participants to confirm that you have a full appreciation of what to expect etc. You will also be asked to complete a short confidential medical questionnaire to ascertain that you are fit to participate in a trip, before we can confirm a booking.  For research projects, intern spaces are usually very limited, and so we request that you can demonstrate appropriate academic (or other) enthusiasm for conservation research and share with us how you feel your participation will benefit the project as well as your future work.

You should be able and willing to be living in fairly close quarters with the rest of the team, and cope with the demands of living on a vessel, offshore in potentially challenging conditions. We require that you are capable of climbing a 10m vertical ladder, to ensure that you can access the vessel in harbours as well as climb onto the observation platform.  A flexible, friendly approach, a desire to muck in and ability to retain a sense of humour in uncomfortable conditions is also helpful.

Previous blogs from participants on a recent trip are available here and give a taste of life on board
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Planning your trip and Organisational Responsibilities

Although we can provide some logistical support, we are not a travel agent. We can give advice with travel plans, but all arrangements, bookings, visas etc, are your responsibility. As schedules can change depending on weather etc it is best to double check dates prior to confirming travel and if possible book flexible tickets in case of last minute changes in timetable.

You must ensure that you bring a valid Passport and necessary visas.
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Insurance

MCR Ltd insures SOTW fully against total loss, fire and collision damage and third party liability.

You will need to have your own personal travel and accident insurance (for offshore sailing). For the quote, you will have to explain where you are going – offshore sailing is covered by some specialist sailing insurance – a few examples on line, are Dogtag insurance, and TopSail insurance. The vessel has professional crew running it – so although you are participating in the sailing etc it would be a leisure activity (as technically you are a passenger).
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Medical matters

At least one member of the crew on SOTW holds qualifications in emergency first aid and medical care aboard ship. The vessel carries a medical kit as required by class rules.
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Booking and Cancellation

For all long tours (multi-day trips) a confirmation fee of 25% of the total price must be made when the booking is made and full payment is required no later than 60 days before departure of the tour.

 

Participants wishing to cancel their booking must notify MCR in writing immediately. The following cancellation charges will apply (calculated per person), counting from the date a notification is received:

  • 25% of trip price if cancelled formally more than 90 days prior departure.
  • 50% of trip price if cancelled formally 89-60 days prior departure.
  • 100% of trip price if cancelled formally within 60 days prior departure.

 

We also accept no responsibility for missed flights or their consequences and strongly recommend that international return flights are fully flexible to allow for missed connections due to bad weather, mechanical breakdown and for any other reason whatsoever.
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What is and is not provided

Included:

  • Accommodation on board in a heated cabin
  • Provisions (meals, snacks and beverages)
  • All port fees and local taxes
  • Sailing Foul Weather Gear
  • Use of life jackets (PFD’s) and harness
  • Responsible use of email

Not included:

  • Personal Accident Insurance
  • The cost for any trips or special activities when in port
  • Airport transfers
  • Alcohol

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