I spent three months on Modoc in the fall of 2022 and the experience exceeded my expectations in ways large and small. It’s not the easiest or most comfortable place to live and work, though it’s fine for me, but this is part of the experience and any negative is completely overshadowed by the excellent feeling of hanging with people I really considered my tribe. Though we came from different countries and could not have been more different individually. What stands out for me about the experience is the patience and care Pete and Josh took to teach us all new skills as soon as we boarded. If something needs welding, they teach you to weld and give you the job and off you go. And there are a lot of jobs on a classic vessel like Modoc that challenge you to step up and help. I love this kind of thing – maybe now is a good time to confess that I think it’s awesome to start the day at the crack of dawn with a twenty minute HIIT workout before a swim in a glorious Costa Rican Bay. The other high point and an experience completely unique to Modoc, is joining park rangers patrolling marine protected areas from illegal fishing. The whole experience brings home how complex marine conservation can be getting into the nitty gritty of how policies affect each community differently. I could not have been more impressed by the park rangers’ determination as well as common sense and compassion for the fisherman they spoke to and sometimes had to fine. I hope to remain friends after living and working with some of them multiple times.
There’s a term in French – se dèbrouiller – that loosely translates as coping, or managing, or handling any given situation. It’s a concept that perfectly sums up my experience volunteering on M/Y Modoc. It’s more than just ‘getting by’. It encompasses problem-solving and getting shit done with what you’ve got – resourcefulness… And you could not describe Capt. Pete and Josh and the rest of the crew (whether they showed up with those skills or learned them on board) any better.
That resourcefulness is necessary. Keeping an older ship like the Modoc in running order isn’t easy or simple. There are always repairs or improvements to be made. It’s hard work, as satisfying and fulfilling as helping the park rangers and Coast Guard patrol the oceans.
I showed up with no expectations. Instead I found there were expectations of me – become part of a crew, impart the skills I had (not many) and learn skills I didn’t (too many to list), and contribute what I could to the projects we undertook. What I got in return is real appreciation for the work and effort I put in, and a sense of having made some kind of difference. Plus the opportunity to snorkel and scuba, tour wildlife refuges and meet local conservation heroes, swap stories, make friends, pilot boats, eat loads of food, party, grind metal, mix concrete… Anyway. I’m getting off track. I’ll be going back if they’ll have me.
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