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.
Today began with crepes prepared by Courtney and Libby. After which we had a class discussing weather, weather forecasting and voyage planning. The dynamic duo of Courtney and Libby were back at it afterwards, this time to present on mangrove ecosystems, an environment we’ve routinely seen throughout our voyage. To round out the morning we had a line challenge on deck which had port watch competing against starboard watch to identify the most lines and parts of the boat. Congratulations to Maya, Clay, Mary K. and Caroline for coming out with the win.
The afternoon was spent doing school work and swimming off the boat. Before dinner all hands worked to prepare Geronimo for the passage to the Dominican Republic. We hope to be underway at 6 am tomorrow to catch the most favorable wind conditions for our trip south.
Through careful planning by the students during our approach to Turks and Caicos, we arrived at Caicos Bank just as the sun was rising and the tide in our favor. The entirety of our passage once outside the reefs of North Elethuera to Caicos Banks was completed under sail.
Most of today was spent exploring Providenciales. We began at the Northeastern end of the island where we boarded a boat to visit Little Water Cay. This island is a protected nature reserve and home to over 5,000 Turks and Caicos rock iguanas. Students stretched their legs on the island's trails and enjoyed the peace the preserve provided, except for when startled by a passing iguana. Next we drove to Grace Bay to enjoy its famous beach and have a taste of tourist life.
After dinner this evening, Clay and Mary K. gave their presentation on coral reefs. The information we learned from them will be put to use tomorrow when we snorkel on Smith’s Reef on the north side of the island.
The wind for the next 24hrs is forecast to be from the east around 20kts making less than ideal conditions for the south easterly passage to the Dominican Republic, our next port of call. The plan is to remain at anchor here until the conditions moderate, making for a more pleasant transit.
Now underway for nearly 48 hours we are just over a hundred nautical miles away from the western islands of Turks and Caicos. The first 24 hours at sea were spent sailing mostly upwind making for bouncy conditions aboard Geronimo. Just past dinner last night, the winds diminished and we found ourselves bobbing along at 2kts. As expected, the wind has now filled in from an easterly direction. At the moment we are coasting along at 7kts on a beam reach pointed at the islands.
The crew is settling into life at sea and its routines. The students are also becoming more confident with their navigation and sailing skills. This morning, B watch, composed of Caroline, Clay and Ismail, were quizzed by their mate Ms. Hadley as to the location and purpose of all the lines aboard Geronimo. Tonight Mary K. and Mary L., members of A watch, will have the task of cooking dinner. With the increased motion of the vessel normal activities are just a little bit more challenging.
In a few moments we will all gather together on deck to have a short class. Courtney will give a navigation report where she’ll share the exciting news of the day. We are minutes away from crossing the Tropic of Cancer making it official that we are sailing in the tropics.
A quick update to say Geronimo is now underway for Turks and Caicos! This will be the students’ first overnight sailing experience. I expect that the voyage will take just over three days.
After a class on sea turtles and a discussion about the data we collect and how it’s used, we boarded our two small boats to look for and tag turtles. Maya was the first student to catch a turtle, swimming with it until it surfaced and she was able to grab it. Back aboard our whaler the students measured and documented the animals before releasing them back into the water. It’s always impactful to work so closely with these animals.
This evening aboard Geronimo, we participated in a nautical tradition of “Sunday at Sea.” Before dinner everyone jumped into the water to “shower” and afterwards put on a little nicer clothes than our normal shipboard attire. Libby prepared chicken pot pie that was so good it had people licking the pan. Now, rather than the typical evening study hall everyone is gathered in the main salon watching a movie.
Tomorrow we will head ashore to Harbour Island and Dunmore town. This will be our first true excursion on shore. After nearly a week on board I know the students are looking forward to stretching their legs and exploring.
The island of Eleuthera is in our sights. Early this morning we departed from Lynyard Cay to cross the Northeast Providence Channel for North Eleuthera. Caroline steered Geronimo through Little Harbour Cut out into the Atlantic Ocean leaving the Abacos behind us. For the first time this trip the crew got a taste of ocean swells. Courtney particularly enjoyed the increased motion on board as we rolled side to side with the waves. With over 8 hours of sailing thus far today everyone has now acclimated and is enjoying the motion and pleasant sailing conditions.
Yesterday we had the opportunity to snorkel within the Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park. At Coral Garden reef students saw coral, schools of fish, rays and one very friendly hawksbill turtle. Soon students will make presentations on the ecosystems we visit along the trip. Mark K. and Clay will be presenting on coral reefs.
Once in Eleuthera the plan is to travel to Harbour Island where we intend to spend a few days. There, the students will have an opportunity to explore the town and the island’s beaches. I also hope to begin the sea turtle tagging portion of our voyage. The Geronimo program has tagged and documented turtles in the North Eleuthera area for many years and the data the current students will collect will be a valuable addition to this long term study.
The spring Geronimo students joined the vessel on Monday in Treasure Cay, on Great Abaco Island. Courtney cast off the dock lines Tuesday morning officially starting our journey. After a quick stop at the fuel dock we left the harbor and anchored just past the channel. Here, we devoted the remainder of the morning to discussing shipboard safety and procedures. After lunch, all hands helped to set the mainsail before we hauled back the anchor and began our sail for Marsh Harbour. Given that Marsh Harbour was to windward of us, we were afforded the opportunity to practice tacking Geronimo. The students did a great job handling the boat and sails. I was impressed by how willing they were to jump in to help and try something new. Mary K. was on the helm for our arrival to Marsh Harbour and Clay let fall the anchor. As soon as the deck was cleaned up Mary L. had dinner waiting for the crew down below.
This morning we had our first official marine science class where the students learned to take bearings with a compass and then how to use them on a chart to find our position. By the end of class it had begun to rain causing most students to take advantage of this downtime to start on their school work from St. George’s. With the rain gone we boarded Liquid Hoss, our Boston Whaler for a snorkeling excursion. Now underway again, starboard watch made up of Courtney, Mary L., Ismail and Libby are sailing Geronimo with the jib to this evening’s anchorage. Once there we will enjoy Clay’s Grandmother’s Jambalaya recipe for dinner!
Sunday morning we loaded into Liquid Hoss, our whaler, and made the short trip to the reef around Sandy Cay. Located within the Pelican Cay Land and Sea park, this reef is especially impressive. The coral is healthy and usually there are many fish and large marine animals to see. This scene is encouraging considering that so many coral reefs around the world are experiencing bleaching and damage. Afterwards, we traveled across the channel to one of Pelican Cays’ islands to enjoy some time on the beach. Here we used the the paddle board and tossed a football around in the surf.
After a late lunch we sailed off the anchor for Little Harbour, our southern most destination of the trip. It was a brief and pleasant sail and we were anchored by 4:30. This allowed time for a swim off of Geronimo before dinner.
This morning we utilized the high tide to bring Liquid Hoss into a creek to explore a mangrove ecosystem. Matt, Cam and Luke tried to catch a lobster for dinner but the crustacean backed deep into a crevasse and got away. In the afternoon we went ashore for a hike to an abandoned lighthouse and afterwards a cave. Before returning to Geronimo we had a tour of an artist’s foundry. In operation since the 50s, the artists here work with bronze and copper to make renditions of different marine life.
Now, as the sun is setting, we are on the move again. For the first time this trip, we are headed north, back to Treasure Cay. We have divided into three watches to sail through the night. This is a special experience, to operate the boat in darkness with just a few of your fellow shipmates on watch with you.
We could not ask for better weather than we’ve had for the past two days. The winds have been light but we’ve been able to sail a few legs of our trip. Yesterday we moved from Foot Cay to nearby Fowl Cay to snorkel. This area is a protected marine park and has a significant amount of elk horn coral. Students paired up to explore the area and in little over an hour saw rays, grouper, snapper, and trigger fish. Some students thought they may have even seen a nurse shark on the edge of the reef.
Afterwards we moved to Elbow Cay to visit Hope Town. Our time on shore began with a trip up the Hope Town lighthouse before taking our whaler across the harbor to town. Students explored the shops and many indulged in ice cream. This will likely be the only town we visit on the voyage.
This morning we had an early wake up in order to make it to Cormorant Cay in time for high tide to tag turtles. For over thirty years Geronimo students have tagged and measured sea turtles in the Bahamas as part of a study with the University of Florida's Archie Carr Center. The students divided up between Geronimo’s two small boats and caught a dozen turtles including a large loggerhead which Katie brought to the surface with impressive fortitude. Once at the surface, Mia quickly jumped in to help Katie get the turtle aboard the whaler.
Just a few minutes ago we set the anchor in our home for the night just north of Sandy Cay. Cam and Mia are in the galley making dinner while the rest of the crew are paying cards in the main salon. Tomorrow morning we will explore Pelican Cay Land and Sea Park.
Yesterday the student crew joined Geronimo at Treasure Cay Marina in the Abacos, The Bahamas. Since Luke was the first to arrive he helped me and Ms. Juber, the second mate, provision for our voyage. This was a great help. By 3 o’clock everyone was on board and moving into their bunks. Once settled in, the group headed to the beach where we swam and played a game of volleyball.
In order to depart the marina on a high tide this morning, all hands were working at 7 am to ready Geronimo to get underway. Doris was at the helm for our departure and smoothly brought us off the dock and through a narrow channel. Shortly after, we anchored and had breakfast. The morning was spent discussing safety and emergency responses. By 11 o’clock we were ready to go for our first sail. Though light, there was just enough wind to sail off the anchor and continue on to Fish Cays. Here we went for a swim and snorkeled around the small islands.
This evening we will make the short 5nm trip to Foots Cay off of Great Guana Cay. Matt, today’s cook, has decided to try out the boat’s grill and make burgers for dinner tonight. We are all looking forward to our night at anchor. Many students plan to sleep on deck or in hammocks.
Tomorrow we will head to Fowl Cay to snorkel on one the the Abaco’s most notable reefs.
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