UM Student Sails 3,000 Nautical Miles to Find Academic Success and Adventure at Sea

Third-Year Biology/Marine Biology Student Beau Marsh Participates in Semester-Long Voyage

On April 7 – as students on the University of Miami Coral Gables campus hurried to their classes – Beau Marsh watched the sun rise over Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands.

Marsh, a third-year student at the University of Miami (UM) with a double major in Biology from the UM College of Arts & Sciences, and Marine Biology from the UM Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, is participating in SEA Semester, a full-credit undergraduate study-abroad program organized by the Sea Education Association. It combines a rigorous academic and research curriculum with a six-week voyage aboard the Robert C. Seamans, a 134-foot sailing school vessel.

student on a sailboatThe Seamans set sail from Papeete, Tahiti, in mid-March. It will travel approximately 3,000 nautical miles before crossing the Equator and arriving at its final destination – Hilo, Hawaii – the first week in May.

“Waking up after a satisfying two-hour night’s sleep was met with delight after realizing we had arrived at Nuku Hiva,” Marsh wrote in his April 7 posting on the SEA website blog. “Just laying anchor in the small, secluded bay was overwhelming in that it felt like sailing into a movie screen. Our peaceful bay was engulfed with the jagged mountains of the volcanic islands. The bases of the mountains were dense with green plant life, which was especially dazzling after several days of nothing but blue skies and even bluer seas.”

Before setting sail, students in the program completed a six-week shore training session. They studied oceanography, nautical science, and marine policy – and started work on their individualized research projects. Participants will present their results when the group arrives in Hawaii.

During the voyage, Marsh is involved in all aspects of operating the ship, including sail changes, daily maintenance, and preparing meals for the entire ship company. He also submits weather observations to a national database, and is learning to chart the course of the ship using celestial navigation.  

In Nuku Hiva, Marsh and his colleagues spent the day hiking through farmlands, jungles – with “vast webs of vines, trickling creeks, and pieces of ancient stone trails” – and rocky cliffs leading to the Cascade Ahuii waterfall.

They also had a chance to connect with the few inhabitants of the island, many members of the same family, who gave the students grapefruits, limes and coconuts as they returned to their ship at the end of the day.

April 17, 2014