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A day in the life of a Sea Shepherd chef

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

We recently launched our Ocean Dream yoga mat in support of the work of Sea Shepherd UK who fight for the rights of our ocean and work on conservation and education.

In support of our campaign, we spoke to Pawel Defkon who shared his personal experience of working as a chef as part of the Sea Shepherd crew.

Pawel joined the crew officially last year, you can read our chat below:

How did you start volunteering for Sea Shepherd, what was your interest in volunteering for them?

When I sent my application through I thought it wouldn't happen! I have always wanted to join a team that is passionate about protecting the environment and last year I was given the opportunity to join the newest vessel, the M / Y Sea Eagle in Thyboron, Denmark. I spent the whole of 5 months in the Danish port, about 3 weeks of transit, and a month in the waters of the Aeolian Islands.

With donations that SeaShepherd receive

How was joining the first SeaShepherd campaign in Iceland? Can you describe it?

SeaShepherd came to Iceland to document and show the whale slaughter and investigate the whole process, it was the first time I met the people of SeaShepherd, on almost every day off from work, I tried to support their actions. The following year, 2019, SeaShephered brought the vessel, Brigitte Bardot, to Iceland and docked in the Reykjavik port, but they left Iceland after a few days due to a government decision banning hunting this season.

What's your role onboard the ship?

My biggest responsibility on the board is to feed the entire crew. I worked with an amazing cook, Simon, who helped me. We did three meals a day and snacks. I also had to do some shopping, arrange donations, weekly plans etc.

We also had several medical training sessions with the medic because in any emergency situation on board the chefs will assist the medic.

At the time the ship was in or out of port, we left to assist the deck crew during the docking operation. I enjoyed these moments very much.

Medical training onboard

What is the best thing about your job?

I think the best thing was getting donations, it felt like I was getting gifts for my birthday every week! But on a serious note, I really like discovering food, new recipes, things I have never done before. We didn't make the same dinner for three months!

How do you manage to cook on board choppy waters? What are the meals like?

There is no easy way to cook on board, especially in rough seas. Everything is secured, but we can't anticipate what's happening outside the ship.

We try to be prepared for any situation where there are rough waters, we will make extra bread, meals and snacks for those days.

The team were amazing and very helpful, so when I was super seasick then some other guys were making food for the crew. During this time, we usually made light meals, sandwiches and a lot of bananas. But some people prefer to eat junk food like chips or cookies!

What does a 'normal' day look like for you?

We started each day with breakfast. After breakfast we have a meeting with the entire crew, we discuss all plans for the day. Then I made some bread, lunch and snacks for the next hour.

After lunch I would take a break, sometimes I just relaxed, other times I learned something about the ship, or did some yoga or meditations. There are lots of different activities or jobs. Then at 3:00 PM, I would return to the kitchen to serve some snacks and prepare dinner. We would eat at 6:00 PM. Then we would have free time.

Of course, when there is a campaign we are taking part in the day can vary and there's much more to do.

What do you love most about your work for Sea Shepherd?

The great respect from every crew member, I felt good and safe all the time.

They always say "safety first" in every meeting, no matter what you do, it keeps the good feelings.

What do you wish people knew about the oceans?

The oceans are our greatest supporters of life, if we destroy this entire ecosystem we cannot survive without them. It's not just about whales, it's about all the living creatures in the waters!

What moments stand out to you working onboard the Sea Shepherd ships? Has there been anything that you'll never forget?

The amazing people, I love you all!

The best moment was crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. It was a stunning view, Africa on the right, Europe on the left, clear sky, flat sea and thousands of animals. Whales, dolphins, birds were everywhere!

What's it like being out at sea, have there been any moments that have been scary due to weather or the uncertainty of the oceans?

One night during the transit to Sicily there was another day of rough sea, the anchor was hitting the bow. I thought it wasn't safe. Then I had a nightmare the same night that we were sinking because of the anchor, luckily it was just a nightmare. They told me the next day that the anchor was better secured. Phew ...

What's it like onboard the newest ship M/Y Sea Eagle?

I cannot compare this ship to the others because this was the first one for me. I can say that it was quite cosy in the port. It would be nice to have more space in the kitchen, but it's not so bad! I would describe it as a cosy mess, with nice beds in the cabins. However, in heavy seas, this ship moved a lot, which is very uncomfortable, especially for the stomach and mind.

All photos credit Tara Lambourne (SeaShepherd)

For more information about SeaShepherd click here.

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