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.
After breakfast, we set sail and departed Little San Salvador. Grace C. brought us to the south end of Eleuthera, then passed off to Cheka who sailed us up to Powell Point before handing over to Ben who navigated us through Davis Channel. Caroline had the last stretch sailing us up to the anchor in a nice calm, sandy bottom area in the lee of some high bluffs. It was a full day of sailing. Swimming and spear fishing rounded out the day. Ben and Matt were able to land a few good sized lionfish. Plan is to depart pre-dawn for Current Cut.
From Staniel Cay, Grace C. sailed us off the anchor on most of the way to Black Point - the next settlement south in the Exumas. She passed off the watch to Cheka and she sailed us up to the anchor and we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at anchor, with a little time to take a walk through town.
At sunset, Lizzy took us out through Dotham Cut and on our way toward Cat Island. It was a beautiful moonless night and we had a nice sail across Exuma Sound. It was a multi-JWO effort: Caroline weathered a squall as JWO, Ben and Matt tacked us up into the Bight of Cat Island , and Alex sailed us up to the anchor just off Pigeon Creek on Cat Island.
Mid-morning we headed into Pigeon Creek, one of our long-term sea turtle study sites, and commenced our research. We had eight recaptures and eight new captures by the end of the day. Grace H. headed up the organization and recording of all of the data. On the way back to Geronimo, Ben was able to spear a lobster on a coral head. After a long day, most called it an early night.
Dallas started off the day in the early morning as the JWO sailing us off the anchor. She sailed us halfway to Staniel Cay before passing off to Alex who tacked us up to an anchorage just south of Big Major's Spot, west of Staniel Cay. After class and lunch (Caroline made mac and cheese from scratch), we departed for Thunderball Grotto at slack water. It has been 3 or 4 years since I was last here, but there has really been an increase in tourism. Instead of just a few boats lining up to snorkel this amazing underwater-accessed cave, there were more like a dozen or more. It was hectic, but still worth it. On our way back we made friends with some folks on a large float plane, that needed a ride to check out Thunderball Grotto. We dropped most of the crew off to sit on the plane's pontoons while I took them up there. The crew lived it up on board the plane and even got to jump off the wing! Next we stopped at the pig beach at Big Major's Spot. Yes, they swam out to us looking for food. Our next stop was Staniel Cay where we enjoyed time in town, nurse sharks under the dock, phones and a nice dinner out at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
Warderick Wells, the hub of Exuma Land & Sea Park, is one of my favorite places in The Bahamas. We started the day off with Marine Science class, followed by a snorkel near the mooring field off park HQ. Off to shore, we climbed the highest point on the island Boo Boo Hill (only about 65 feet), then back across the island to a shallow beach. We dropped off the students for a brief cross-island walk where they found Capture Beach. Here we had another drift snorkel and relaxed on the beach before returning to Geronimo. Grace C. made chicken curry that was quite good for dinner, followed by an outstanding Valentine's Cake by Ms. Finkel.
Having arrived in the evening, we woke up at anchor to see Highborne Cay and the Exumas beautiful landscape of turquoise water and sandy islands. With less than two weeks left in our trip we commenced the JWO (Junior Watch Officer) phase of our trip. Each student rotates through the responsibility of running a watch. Among other things, they are responsible for sailing us on an off the anchor, sail maneuvers, navigation and managing the crew.
Ben was the first JWO, and did a fine job sailing us off the anchor, gybing around on our way southbound. Cheka took the watch about halfway through and sailed us up to the anchor off of Norman’s Cay. We stopped here to snorkel on the wreck of a DC-3 airplane – it was an interesting stop, with lots of Sergeant Major fish, conditioned to be fed, looking for food that we didn’t have. Back on board, Caroline set the main and sailed us off the anchor on our way to Shroud Cay. She passed off the watch to Grace H. at the halfway point – just as we sailed into Exuma Land & Sea Park. Grace tacked Geronimo up to the lee of the island and all the way up to anchor.
Next, we prepared for our last adventure of the day. We loaded up both of our small boats and made the trip into the north creek on Shroud Cay, through a winding creek that bisects the island and ends up at a magical place called Camp Driftwood. A soft-sand beach, a sand bar and a deep blue creek to swim in. It was hard to convince the crew that we needed to leave. We arrived back on board at sunset and Grace H. commenced dinner of chicken quesadillas, assisted by Ben and Matt who grilled up chicken. After dinner, Alex came through on his promise to make brownies to round off the day.
We made the trip across to the Exumas in good time. The breeze was SE at 18-20 knots for most of the day. C-Watch (Ben, Grace H., Cheka and Ms. Juber) short tacked us through Fleeming Channel. Just outside of Yellow Banks, A-Watch (Dallas, Matt, Lizzy and me) took over and we navigated our way through the coral heads and south toward the Exumas. At 1600 B-Watch (Caroline, Alex, Grace C. and Ms. Finkel) took the watch and tacked our way closer to Highborne Cay. C-Watch took the last hour and sailed us up to the anchor in the lee of the island. We had all-hands dinner at anchor, and Dallas made everyone cookies for dessert as the crew moved into quiet study hall.
A much-welcomed late wake up started off the morning. Lizzy was the cook Saturday and made muffins for breakfast that were a hit. The morning was spent catching up on schoolwork and in Marine Science class. After a lunch of chicken caesar salad wraps, we went ashore to explore the tiny Current Settlement. We stopped in at the local variety store for some snacks, wandered to the park, waded around an offshore sandbar and then capped off our trip with a drift snorkel through Current Cut. Back on board we enjoyed a pleasant starry evening on board.
This morning we woke up at 0630 to get underway for the Exumas. B-Watch is on watch right now, and they just gybed over to a port tack and we are sailing at a 7-8 knots on a beam reach bound for Fleeming Channel.
Early Friday morning we moved Geronimo to Pelican Cay Land and Sea Park, for a snorkel on one of the best accessible reefs in The Bahamas. It did not disappoint - really healthy coral, sponges, hundreds of fish - and even a hawksbill turtle, a green sea turtle and some sort of shark (the crew is still debating the species).
By 1000 we were underway out of North Bar Channel and sailing south on a close reach toward North Eleuthera, a good place to stop on our way to the Exumas. We were back in exposed waters, but the crew felt fine and we cruised along at 7-8 knots through the deep blue ocean waters of the Northeast Providence Channel. Ben put together grilled cheese, tomato soup and kale salad for dinner, and we arrived to our peaceful anchorage off of Current Settlement at about 2030.
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