Snapshots of St. George's
It’s been two years since Geronimo first sailed out of Goat Island on a 15,000 nautical mile journey across the Atlantic, throughout Europe, back to the Caribbean and up the East Coast to Newport. On Saturday, May 13, friends and family gathered on the docks at Fort Adams to welcome the boat and the final crew of the landmark trip back home. Close to 140 members of the St. George's community, from students and professional crew to faculty, staff and alums, participated in one of the legs of the trip — and it was a transformative experience for many. “Once the journey began I felt fearless,” said Julia Ludwig ’18, who took part in the spring trip in 2016, then again in the second transatlantic leg west from the Canary Islands to Grenada. “I was so happy that I made the decision to go. It was an experience of a lifetime and made me feel as though I could — and still can — do anything.”
Julia said the night watches were some of her most cherished experiences. “During this time we would all either have long conversations about our lives back home, gaze at the stars discussing constellations or play games and laugh so hard that it made the time go by in seconds,” she said. “I will never forget those long nights that I spent in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, whether they were calm, cold or rainy. They were some of the most amazing moments of the entire trip.”
Fourth-formers Colin and Oscar MacGillivray have been dingy sailing and racing for about nine years here on Aquidneck Island and are members of the SG sailing team and a summer sailing team, but their trip on the second transatlantic leg on Geronimo was clearly an adventure of a lifetime. Both of their fondest memories involved swimming, which they only got to do twice. The first time was about halfway through the trip, when the boat was in the dead center of the Atlantic and the crew had a day with very little wind, recalled Colin.
“We were all so excited to finally jump in the water we had seen all around us for 10 days,” he said. “I jumped off close to the bow and it felt amazing to be completely submerged in salt water again. … There was close to three miles of water beneath us and it was a little overwhelming to imagine. I jumped in four times.”
Oscar says he’ll never forget the first night they arrived in Grenada. Everyone onboard was extremely excited, he said, and the mood overall was very high. “After dropping the sails and anchoring after 20 days at sea, our first priority was to go swimming,” he said. “I just remember going down to the bunkroom and getting our bathing suits and it had just hit me that we crossed an ocean! We all started freaking out and hugging …”
The next priority was eating.
“After [our swim], we had the best dinner I think we had that entire trip,” said Oscar, recalling a mahi curry made with a prize fish the crew had caught a couple days before. “I remember just staring at Grenada and anticipating going on land. But that night was probably the best moment on the trip for me.”
Overall, Captain Mike Dawson said this two-year journey marked many milestones for the Geronimo program. Most of all, it helped the school reach its longtime goal of giving the opportunity to sail and study aboard the boat to more students. Fourteen student crews were able to participate and well over 100 students sailed on at least one leg of the voyage, according to Captain Dawson. In the 40-year history of the program, Geronimo had sailed across the Atlantic twice (in 1987 and in 2000) — to Spain and Portugal in the summer and then back to this side of the Atlantic that same fall. “However, she never passed into the Mediterranean and only spent about two months in mainland Europe,” he noted.
In planning the recent transatlantic trip, Mike and Head of School Eric Peterson had several goals in mind: “The route was chosen based on weather and the time of year,” Mike said. “On that route, the ports were chosen to maximize the cultural and historical exposure to our students. When in port, our focus became immersing ourselves in the culture of the countries we visited, making genuine connections with locals, learning about the history and exploring the natural world.”
Among the many highlights of the epic journey, Mike said the energy of the crew closing in on Grenada and traveling throughout Greece stand out in his mind. “Four of our student crews were really able to dive deep into the culture there, meet lots of interesting people and experience the history as we traveled around the country,” he said.
But when it comes to “epic,” sailing out of the Strait of Gibraltar “off the wind making 10-plus knots, with Europe to our north and Africa to the south,” also was high on his list. “It was a surreal moment,” he said.