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 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.
Pancakes made an appearance at breakfast, courtesy of Brady. Maisie sailed us off the anchor and on the way to Manjack Cay under a very light breeze which made starting the main engine unfortunately necessary., Sea turtle class on the way, then the breeze filled in and Will sailed us into the anchorage at Manjack Cay. In the afternoon we set out to recapture some previously re-tagged turtles in the creek. Ideal conditions for tagging turtles includes: clear sky, no wind, sandy bottom and high tide. We had three out of four, but the clouds proved to be too much. In the end, Ryan was able to capture a turtle, as was Hank. From here we pushed on to Treasure Cay, arriving in the early evening to an anchorage where a pork tenderloin, rice, beans and cole slaw feast waited for us, courtesy of Brady and Ms. Flanagan.
Early this morning we came into Treasure Cay on the high tide. After Ben's homemade cinnamon buns we did a thorough deck wash and the crew has spent most of the day on schoolwork with a brief afternoon break at the pool.
Hank sailed us up to the anchor yesterday, just before sunset. The wind started to diminish and we slowed down - so decided to anchor a little short of our intended destination. Maisie put together a large spread for a burrito dinner - it was a hit.
This morning we needed to sail a short distance over to Allan's - Pensacola Cay. Ethan fueled us up with savory crepes for breakfast. Ben did a fine job sailing us off the anchor and on our way, before handing off to Miles who also did a fine job sailing us up to the anchor at the cay. After lunch, we loaded up and departed for the island - splitting our time on the soft sand and amazing turquoise water of the oceanside beach and tagging turtles at the head of the bay. We captured three green sea turtles. Miles jumped one after missing his first few attempts the other day. Brady and Maisie had a few near misses. Ben swam after one, and then Miles swam after another. The turtles were healthy, and we measured and tagged them before returning them to the sea. If jumping and swimming turtles seems like an inadequate explanation, it really is. You can get a sense of what this means by watching Geronimo program founder and long-time Captain Stevie Connett, along with our collaborators from the University of Florida, jumping, swimming and tagging turtles like pros here. Hank, Ryan, Ethan and Will were not able to land any turtles, but had an amazing encounter with two dolphins while in our 14' inflatable Thunderchief. Back on board we had a swim call, and I am now late for Ethan's dinner that includes brussel sprouts, pasta, shrimp and a fresh-caught lobster.
Tuesday started with Ryan making breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, including an expertly dissected pineapple. Will was our first Junior Watch Officer (JWO), or the watch leader, and he sailed us off the anchor on most of the way toward Great Sale Cay, before passing off the watch to port watch Maisie led the watch sailing us up in the lee of Great Sale Cay and up to our anchorage, completely under sail. Soon after we departed to explore the northwest bight. We saw a few green sea turtles, and were able to capture two (Ethan had the first, Will the second), then measure and tag them before releasing. The Geronimo program at St. George’s School has been involved with a long-term population study of green sea turtles in cooperation with the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida. Swim call, study hall, Ryan’s dinner of chicken tikka masala, Ms. Flanagan’s cookies and a movie rounded out a peaceful night at anchor.
This morning Ryan did a fine job sailing us off the anchor as JWO, with the crew fueled by Maisie’s banana muffins. After lunch, Ryan passed off to Hank and the starboard watch. We are enjoying a nice sail – with the intended destination at the moment being Allan’s – Pensacola Cay. Class on global weather patterns in a few minutes. Looks like we might arrive before dinner.
Since departing Charleston we have had great weather for an ocean passage. Light winds on Friday, into Saturday forced us to motor-sail as we pushed our way south toward the Gulf Stream. We crossed the near 85° F water in the early morning hours, pushing against a 2 knot current, at times, setting us north. Then the sailing breeze filled in out of the west, veering around to the northwest and we were making good progress.
Having left the green coastal waters that we had sailed in all trip, we had our first sight of the amazing deep blue color of the ocean after sunrise. During our peaceful night watches we were treated to dolphins, bioluminescence and amazing stars. The student crew practiced celestial navigation, each performing a noon sight to determine our latitude. The wind came around to the east Saturday evening, signaling our arrival to the trade winds.
Some of the many warblers and song birds that have hitched a ride on board have been making themselves at home for the last day or so. We find them on the chart table, landing on us, in the galley and hopping around bunks. I even saw one curiously looking at the tuna that we just landed. During class this afternoon, we made it back on soundings and onto Little Bahama Bank – and the water transitioned to a turquoise color. We had an all-hands dinner on deck just before sunset. Likely anchored up in the next few hours off of Grand Cay.
Earlier this afternoon, Geronimo departed Charleston for the Bahamas. The crew will have to sail nearly 400 nm to reach the Bahamas Banks. Capt. Dawson reported comfortable conditions and that they were motor-sailing in a light westerly breeze. The students will get to experience crossing the gulf stream on this passage and subsequently sailing into the light blue waters surrounding the islands. The current weather forecast suggest that they should have a pleasant passage over.
Our last fifty miles or so into Charleston were quite fast, with the wind and seas building out of the ESE. Our entrance into the harbor was exciting, and the crew did a great job executing several gybes and striking sail. We anchored up on Monday evening not far from Fort Sumter.
Tuesday morning we went alongside the dock at the city marina. We spent the balance of the day at the library, exploring town – followed by showers and phones. This morning we struck the jib in preparation for tropical storm conditions. We then commenced the tradition of the Charleston scavenger hunt. Hank, Miles, Ben and Ethan beat out Maisie, Will, Ryan and Brady – the highlight was landing stationary from the mayor’s office. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the library, followed by provisioning and then dinner out, in honor of Ryan’s birthday tomorrow.
A light NE’ly pushed us down the coast last night with a long-period swell from distant Tropical Storm Leslie, 1000 nautical miles away, gently rocking us. By mid-morning, the clouds cleared out and the wind backed a little more to the NNE. A post-lunch knot tying seminar gave way to napping and studying. We landed a small tuna, saw a small hammerhead shark and just rounded Diamond Shoals. We are now officially south of Cape Hatteras. The wind is forecast to diminish but, for now, we are sailing along at 6 knots wing-on-wing.
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