Geronimo is a voyage of self-discovery. Student crew members discover the joys and challenges of life aboard a 69-foot cutter as they sail along one leg of a tour that in 2017-18 will take the boat along the eastern coast of the U.S., from Rhode Island to the Bahamas and back. As they live, learn and explore together, classmates discover what it truly means to be a crew.
We had a pre-dawn departure from our anchorage in hopes of arriving to a turtle-tagging creek near Water Cay at high tide. The wind was calm, so we steamed the entire 11 nautical miles and arrived just after breakfast. The student crew were happy to enjoy and extra hour of sleep with the time change. Over the course of the morning we had a team studying for their exam and a team tagging turtles. On the first wave, T.J. caught both turtles. On the second trip, Lily C. jumped one to start things off in my boat. Celia showed tenacity in pursuit and swam after a turtle for at least 5-10 minutes before capturing it. Lilly R. persisted and swam after one, retrieving it a few feet below the water. Katherine continued her reign as the master of jumping turtles and captured the last one. Meanwhile, Lekha and Mr. Brown were able to catch three lobsters.
Back on board for lunch and the final exam. After the exam everyone jumped in the water to mark the occasion. The balance of the afternoon was spent relaxing, swimming and paddle boarding. Lily C. was the first one to get hoisted aloft, followed by Celeste and Bridgit and most everyone else. I was able to find two more lobsters and on my way back saw the largest Spotted Eagle Ray that I have ever seen, similar in size to the one that the students saw at the reef at Pelican Cay Land & Sea Park. Lekha and Ms. Flanagan are making dinner - chicken and lobster burritos, along with apple and pumpkin pie!
Tomorrow we will head into the marina at Treasure Cay for our final full day together.
On Friday morning Celia sailed us off the anchor and then we moved into a round of "Chase the Buoy," where the student crew take turns retrieving a small buoy tossed overboard completely under sail. They all successfully performed this with Katherine and Lily C. earning the fastest times. We continued to an anchorage further north and spent the afternoon relaxing, swimming and making a short trip to Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay.
This morning Lily C. sailed us off the anchor and we then commenced our final exam review in the form of Marine Science Jeopardy. T.J., Lekha, Pickles and Katherine did a noon sight of the sun to determine our latitude. After lunch we went into Hope Town to see the lighthouse and explore town. Back on board the student crew had been hitting the books in preparation for their final exam.
Our first stop in Little Harbour was a cave. The first cave was more of an overhang, but the second cave had lots of interesting caverns and even a population of bats. Next we walked out to an abandoned lighthouse that was built in the late 1800's and watched the waves crash on to the rocky shore. Back into the small settlement we had a look at the art gallery and foundry, and stopped for some food and cold drinks.
Back on board Lekha was the JWO sailing us out of the Lynyard Cay anchorage - and she did a great job short tacking us through a narrow channel (16 tacks in total). She handed the watch over to Lilly R. who sailed us up through Tilloo Bank and on to our anchorage at Tilloo Cay. A team effort (Celia, T.J. and Lilly R.) put together dinner of ravioli, hamburgers and salad.
On the south end of Abacos is a small bay called the Bight of Old Robinson. Bridgit sailed us down to a more accessible anchorage, just a few miles away. Our first stop was a huge sandbar and a shallow creek where we searched for turtles without any luck. Celeste managed to get buried in the sand and Lekha ventured out with Mr. Brown and Ms. Flanagan to look for lobster. We managed to get two really large ones that eventually became part of dinner. After noon sights (determining latitude by measuring the angle of the sun), we ventured off into a creek which had several blue holes. We found two and snorkeled over top of them. We also tried to tag a few turtles, but the glare from the sun low on the horizon made it too difficult. Back on board Celeste brought us back to Lynyard Cay to a more protected anchorage for the night and led the charge with Katherine to make spaghetti tacos with salad and lobster on the side.
Lilly R. made breakfast this morning of sausage, bagels, hash browns and pineapple. We are off to explore Little Harbour in a few minutes and plan to sail north to Tiloo Cay for the evening.
For the first time since we arrived to the Bahamas a few weeks ago - we were able to push out beyond the lee of the islands and the barrier reef that fringes the Abacos and be back in deep blue water. T.J. started off our day with crepes for breakfast, and then was the JWO sailing us off the anchor and on to Man-O-War Channel back into the deep ocean water. We sailed south on the outside of the reef toward the southern end of the Abaco chain. In the early afternoon we had a celestial navigation class where the students took a noon sight of the sun to determine our latitude. For a first try they all did a good job.
Katherine took over as JWO and sailed us down to the cut through the reef at North Bar Channel and then sailed us up to the anchor at an idyllic sandy island with palm trees. In honor of Lekha's birthday we headed out to snorkel on one of the best accessible reefs in the Bahamas just off Sandy Cay in the Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park - and it didn't disappoint. We saw a nurse shark, a huge spotted eagle ray, amazing stands of healthy elkhorn coral, more fish species than you could count, a hawksbill turtle, a loggerhead turtle and I even spotted a reef shark. Back on board and we hauled back the anchor to sail down to a more protected anchorage at Lynyard Cay. Since dinner was running a little late from our full day - we decided to bring out Lekha's birthday cake on our short sail. We anchored up just about 20 minutes ago and dinner is just about on the table. T.J. made an elaborate chicken wing spread with rice and broccoli.
Venus was showing brightly in the eastern sky when we woke up before dawn to get underway. Lily C. was at the helm as we slid out the the entrance channel on the early morning high tide. We anchored just south of Treasure Cay and went back to sleep for an hour or so. Celia went big for breakfast and teamed up with Ms. Flanagan to make apple pie tartlets. I could have had about ten of them, but settled for three. Morning class was an introduction to celestial navigation where all of the students practiced using a sextant in preparation for a noon sight. A quick lunch and we were off to Hill's Creek for an afternoon of turtle tagging. In my boat, Katherine went 2-2 jumping the first two turtles, then Lekha jumped the next one - each on the first try. Celia, Lilly R. and Mr. Brown caught turtles from the other boat.
Back on board we bent on the mainsail with Celeste cranking up the entire sail by herself . Lily C. was JWO and sailed us off the anchor perfectly and on toward our anchorage. Pickle helped haul up the jib and T.J. led the charge in setting the staysail for the first time on our trip. As the sun was setting, Celia took over the watch and did an excellent job navigating and sailing us up to our anchorage near Scotland Cay just after 2000.
On Friday morning Lilly R. was the JWO and sailed us over toward Water Cay on our way to Treasure Cay. We stopped for a few hours, had a class on mangrove ecosystems in the mangroves and then set out in search of sea turtles. In what is called a creek in the Bahamas, but really is just a narrow, sometimes winding path through the mangroves, we found a population of Green Sea Turtles that was probably close to 75 or more. Only our inflatable Thunderchief could pass into the creek, so we rotated through. Ms. Flanagan caught the first turtle, I caught the second and Lekha and T.J. teamed up to catch the third. The were mostly healthy, but we did find two small fibropapillomas (small tumors) on two of the three.
Back on board, Lekha sailed us off the anchor under jib alone and brought us to the entrance to Treasure Cay. Pickle (aka Bridgit) was at the helm as we came alongside the dock. We spent the next hour or so preparing Geronimo for the possibility of tropical storm force winds or higher. Lily C. put together a dinner of mashed potatoes, cole slaw and ribs.
Yesterday morning Katherine sailed us off the anchor and then up to the anchor just a few miles away. Most of the crew went over to snorkel on a sunken barge that was teeming with tropical fish. T.J. sailed us off the anchor under jib alone while avoiding some squalls and navigating us through a narrow passage over a sand bank. He brought us up to the anchor off of Marsh Harbour, where we intended to stay to ride out a frontal passage. The student crew spent some time ashore in town followed by some phone time, then back on board for pizza made by the Mates and Lilly R. By the time dinner was over the cold front had passed.
It was a beautiful morning, a very slight chill in the air (but probably still in the 70's) and a nice sailing breeze out of the NNW. Celeste did an excellent job sailing us off the anchor and on our way to our next stop. She short-tacked around Point Set Rock and then handed over the watch to Bridgit (who now has asked to be called Pickle). Near Fish Cays we crossed paths with an SG family that was heading the other direction. Pickle did a fine job sailing us up to the anchor off of Fish Cays. The rest of the afternoon was spent in class on tropical coral reefs and study hall. Katherine, Lekha and Celia joined the Mates and me on a short snorkel trip in the late afternoon. Mac and Cheese (with and without fresh-caught lobster) along with vegetables for dinner, courtesy of Pickle (aka Bridgit).
There is an area of low pressure in the western Caribbean right now that has the potential to turn into a tropical low and impact the Bahamas. So, we have decided to backtrack a little and move toward a well-protected and safe dock at Treasure Cay. Our plan is to arrive tomorrow and we will likely spend a few days as we wait and see what happens with the weather. This is the same marina where we are planning on ending the trip, so it is not ideal - but it is the safest place for us to wait out this weather.
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