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.
Once fueling was complete we made ready to leave the marina. Maddie was on the helm and steered us all the way from the dock, underneath the Sidney Lanier Bridge and onto the anchor. The remainder of the morning was spent discussing safety procedures and line handling. Hoping to escape the heat, we decided to depart Brunswick and head out to the Atlantic ocean. On our way out we bent on the jib and set the mainsail for the first time this trip. Once complete, the students were divided into two watches and we turned south for Cumberland Island. Evan steered Geronimo from the entrance of the St. Mary’s River to our anchorage tucked behind the island. Katie and Maddie, with the help of Mr. Kane, let go the anchor.
The majority of today was spent ashore. Cumberland Island is a personal favorite stop of mine. The island is only accessible by boat and the southern end is operated by the national parks service. Students were able to explore on their own and saw wild horses, armadillos, raccoons and hundreds of fiddler crabs. After lunch aboard Geronimo we returned to shore and went for a swim at the beach.
This evening we had a class about compass correction and chart basics. This was in preparation for our sail to Charleston, roughly 150 nm away. The forecast looks good for a pleasant and fairly quick sail.
This summer’s 4 week Geronimo program is underway!
Kasamba was the first to arrive to the boat, joining us yesterday afternoon. Shortly after her arrival, she jumped in to help the professional crew finish storing the many provisions that we purchased for this voyage. Today the other 7 students arrived. By 3 o’clock we were all aboard the boat in Brunswick, GA. Most of the afternoon was spent unpacking, going over shipboard routines, and becoming familiar with the vessel. Later in the afternoon, we had our first informal lesson about docking procedures and line handling. All students practiced throwing a dock line and making it fast to a cleat. This exercise was in preparation for shifting the boat from our currently slip to the fuel dock at the end of the marina.
After dinner, we started the engine and prepared for our short transit. Maddie cast off the dock lines allowing Geronimo to be underway for the first time in over a month. Liam and John made great throws with their lines as we approached our new dock, making for a smooth arrival.
Tomorrow we will begin what will become a fairly standard routine on board. Everyone on deck at 7:30 to have a quick meeting before morning chores. Afterwards, we will take on fuel and move to an anchorage closer to the bay’s outlet. Here we will go over many safety items before getting underway for our first sail together.
Energy is high on board at the moment with the whole crew around the main saloon table brainstorming meal ideas. All seem excited to be here and ready for our sailing trip to begin.
Geronimo is secure at the last port of the spring voyage. Fortuitously, Courtney is from St. Simon’s making this an extra special stop for the crew. The Hogans graciously had us all over for dinner last night. There, we enjoyed the comforts of being in a house and stuffed ourselves with BBQ.
This morning, the students completed their Marine Science final exam thereby wrapping up their academics onboard Geronimo. With this work behind us, we visited the village of St. Simon’s and climbed the St. Simon’s lighthouse in the afternoon. Back aboard Geronimo for dinner, we had the pleasure of having Carol Hamblet, wife of previous head of school Charles Hamblet join us. Mrs. Hamblet was at St. George's when the current Geronimo was constructed and launched. She shared stories with the crew about how the vessel we are all living aboard came to be. She also brought us many delicious homemade baked goods. We have been very spoiled here in St. Simon’s.
Tomorrow morning Maya is responsible for breakfast before all hands turn to cleaning the boat in something the professional crew refers to as field day. Parts of the vessel that are not routinely cleaned will get some extra attention as the students get ready to move off the boat. Once complete, we will head to the beach for some much deserved relaxation.
Today we get underway for St. Simon’s Island. It’s hard to believe, but this is the last passage of the voyage. Everyone on board is filled with mixed emotions as the trip nears its end.
Our time in St Simon’s looks to be busy. Tonight we’ll spend time with Courtney’s family, who live on St. Simon’s, before returning to Geronimo to study for the final exam. After the students complete their final tomorrow morning we will relax in town celebrating the completion of everyone’s school work. Saturday will mostly be spent cleaning and packing before a special dinner where we will reflect on the voyage. This has truly been a fantastic trip and I look forward to our last three days together.
Greetings from Cumberland Island, Georgia. After two full days in central Florida it was time to continue our trek along the Florida coast. Clay and Libby organized our departure and by 9 am on Monday we were underway sailing for Georgia.
The trip north was uneventful with a mix of sailing and motoring. In the end, we were able to sail more of the passage than I initially thought we’d be able to based on the forecast. Cumberland Island is a favorite stop of the professional crew and we are eager to share it with the students. At the moment C watch is cleaning up from lunch and the other students are working on their last bits of school work. This afternoon and tomorrow we will go ashore and enjoy this peaceful place.
Around seven last night, Geronimo sailed into Port Canaveral channel. Courtney was JWO for our arrival and organized taking in sail and setting up for docking. Once alongside we enjoyed dinner on deck before turning to school work.
Today, we visited the Kennedy Space Center. This poetically aligned with yesterday’s introduction of celestial navigation in the marine science course. On our next sail the students are expected to find Geronimo’s latitude with the use of a sextant and the sun. To round out the day, and continue the space theme, those who are ahead in their school work watched Hidden Figures. Caroline deserves special mention as she is the first student to have completed all of her work aside from the continuing marine science class.
To counterbalance our time thinking of things above the earth's surface, tomorrow we will turn our attention to water rising from below sea level while visiting Blue Spring State Park. Here the students will have a chance to swim and snorkel in an artesian spring fed by Florida’s aquifer. Afterwards we will return to Geronimo and prepare for our second to last passage. This time to Cumberland Island, GA.
Our day began with crepes prepared by Libby. After breakfast was cleaned up we went ashore to visit the Loggerhead Marine Center in Juno Beach. Having spent the previous 24 hrs aboard Geronimo at anchor it was nice to get ashore for a little adventure. The Marine Center was a great way to wrap up the ecology portion of the marine science course. Our guide reinforced information the students had learned or taught each other through presentations during the trip. There, we also saw adult loggerhead and hawksbill turtles that were in the center’s care. With many of the students nearly done with their school work, after our tour we were able to spend some time hanging out in West Palm Beach.
This evening Mary K., Courtney and Ismail planned our trip from West Palm Beach to Port Canaveral. In the hopes of arriving at Port Canaveral before sundown they have decided to get underway at 6 am tomorrow. Wisely, they prepared Geronimo as much as possible tonight for this early departure. There are only a few tasks left on their list before we can haul back the anchor and head back out into the Atlantic. The wind looks favorable for our transit and I expect us to make quick progress up the coast.
After looking ahead at the wind forecast for the coming week we decided to get underway from Key West and begin our trek up the coast as soon as possible. Even with this timely departure we’ve still had to work against east winds as we round the south end of Florida. Fortunately, at this point of the voyage, the students are familiar with upwind sailing and are taking the extra bumps and sea spray in stride. The silver lining is that with these steady winds and the aid of the gulf stream we have been making great speed.
Our destination is West Palm Beach and we are presently 30 nm away. Ismail and Maya will share the JWO responsibilities for piloting us through the inlet and to the anchorage. Everyone will enjoy what I hope to be a peaceful night at anchor. Tomorrow will be spent tidying up Geronimo and catching up on school work. Thursday we will likely go ashore to check out the West Palm Beach area.
After 5 days of being underway we arrived yesterday morning at Stock Island, Florida. Our passage here began with comfortable downwind sailing. After three days our luck ran out and the wind died just as we were about half way along the Cuban coast. The remainder of the voyage was completed with a mix of motoring, sailing and at times, motor-sailing.
Having maintained a speed greater than 6 knots for the first few days of the trip we were ahead of schedule enough to make a special stop en route to Florida. Cay Sal Bank is 100nm east of Florida, 25nm north of Cuba and technically part of the Bahamas. On the bank are clusters of uninhabited, small, islands. We chose to anchor near Cay Sal island, the southwestern most island of the group. Caroline was JWO for our arrival and the first student to be in charge of anchoring Geronimo. She did a great job and navigated Geronimo to a perfect spot just 1000 feet off the beach. Once secure, everyone turned to a deck wash to get all the grime of shore off of the boat. With chores done we spent the afternoon jumping off the boat and even decided to swim to the island.
The last leg of our trip to Florida was maybe the most dramatic yet with patches of no wind and sections of steady winds and heavy rains. Only B watch managed to avoid getting drenched during their watch from midnight to four.
Now we are docked for the first time since the students joined Geronimo in Safe Harbor Marina. It’s a treat to be alongside with showers and freshwater nearby. Later this morning we will go to Key West to visit Ernest Hemingway’s house, and its dozens of cats, before the students embark on a Key West scavenger hunt.
Prior to leaving the Dominican Republic the students worked together to plan our passage to Key West with little help from the professional crew. This officially began the junior watch officer (JWO) portion of their Geronimo program. The students, now aboard Geronimo for over three weeks, will have more leadership opportunities and responsibilities as we continue into the second half of the trip. Maya was selected to be the first JWO and organized her shipmates in preparing Geronimo for departure from Luperón.
Each watch choses a student to be the watch’s JWO for 24 hours. As JWO they are responsible for deciding courses, sail trim, and organizing sail maneuvers. At this point, every student has had the opportunity to be JWO at least once. This routine will continue for the remainder of the voyage. I hope to add more challenges for the students as their knowledge and comfort in the role grows.
B watch is currently on deck, with Clay as JWO. The wind is forecasted to die out as the day carries on. We are trying to work with the little wind that’s still with us. Chances are we will have to use the motor later this evening in order to continue our progress toward Key West.
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