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.
This morning we sailed over to the Snake Creek under jib alone while dining on Celeste's breafast burritos. With full bellies, we are now prepared for a full day of turtle tagging.
Bridgit was our first of four JWO's today and she did a fine job sailing us off the anchor and executing several tacks on our way toward Fowl Cay. She passed the reigns on to Celeste who carefully brought us up to our anchorage, under sail, in the lee of Fowl Cay. After lunch we set out to explore the coral reefs on the windward side. We saw healthy corals, too many fish to count and even a Hawksbill sea turtle. Our third JWO of the day was Lekha, and she sailed us off the anchor toward Man-O-War Cay under a reefed main and jib. Lilly R. then took over and short-tacked up to our anchorage where we now comfortably sit for the night. The balance of the afternoon was spent taking saltwater baths followed by a freshwater rinse, cutting T.J.'s hair (several people were involved) and getting back into schoolwork. As I write this, Celia is making spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.
We set sail from Green Turtle Cay on Friday, bound for Great Guana Cay through the Whale Cay Channel. T.J. was JWO and sailed us off the anchor and then short-tacked his way through the narrow channel. Katherine was JWO for the next watch bringing us in through a tight channel requiring many course changes and careful navigation, before sailing us up to the anchor at Fisher's Bay on Great Guana Cay. Both T.J. and Katherine had some difficult and stressful watches, with lots of things to think about and the wind blowing over 20 knots at times, , and both of them performed really well under pressure. We stayed at our anchorage for two nights, taking the opportunity to get some schoolwork done, have a marine science class on sea turtles, watch a movie and explore the island.
Our attempt to explore Manjack Cay on foot was thwarted by several species of insects - so we switched plans and spent the morning balanced between study hall and turtle tagging. Before lunch we were underway a few miles south to pick up a small power boat that we keep in The Bahamas and tow behind - Liquid Hoss. We anchored on the north end of Green Turtle Cay and set out on an adventure where we snorkeled on a wreck. We saw lots of fish and caught four lobsters that help supplement dinner. Bridgit rounded out her day of cooking by making pesto pasta, chicken, vegetables and lobster for dinner.
This morning we commenced the Junior Watch Officer (JWO) phase of our trip where the student crew assume a leadership role in running their watch. The mates and I take a step back and are their to support them if needed. Lily C. started off JWO by doing a great job sailing us off the anchor, followed by Celia sailing us up to the anchorage off of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay. On the way we had a watch vs. watch "chase the buoy" competition, where each watch retrieved a floating object completely under sail and completely on their own. Both watches performed exceptionally well.
Over lunch we went in to explore town, then we headed off to feed some wading, but not swimming, pigs off of a small uninhabited island. We then did a little snorkeling where we picked up two more lobster and four conch, explored a sand bank and then zoomed back to Geronimo for a relaxing late afternoon. Our plan is to depart for Great Guana Cay tomorrow.
Lilly R. started off the day with pancakes and fruit for breakfast. We then sailed off the anchor and had a Marine Science quiz as we sailed down to Manjack Cay with a light easterly breeze. With patience, we managed to sail the entire way and we sailed up to the anchor around lunch.
After lunch we set up camp, so to speak, on the beach and commenced sea turtle tagging. The Geronimo program has been involved in a long-term green sea turtle population study in cooperation with the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida. Our first day out, and we captured, measured, tagged and released four green sea turtles in just a few hours. Lekha, Lily C. and T.J. each captured a turtle - but it was a real team effort.
Back on board we had a bagel pizzas and salad for dinner, followed by a rousing game of Apples to Apples. Looking forward to exploring Manjack Cay on land and snorkeling on the reef tomorrow.
Yesterday afternoon, the wind started to back off as forecast, and left us motor-sailing across the Gulf Stream with a light easterly wind. It was a quick and uneventful crossing of this massive ocean current. Those are the best ones.
Just after midnight we made it on to Little Bahama Bank and did a mixture of sailing and steaming in light and variable wind until we reached Spanish Cay in the Abacos. Lilly R. was at the helm as we sailed up to the anchor, while Lekha stood by to let-go. The "Q" flag was hoisted and I went ashore to clear in with customs and immigration. After some paper shuffling and patience, we were cleared in. When I made it back to the boat, we had some celebratory ice cream that I just picked up followed by our first swim call. Katherine was the first one in. Lilly R. and Celeste did some butterfly strokes. Everyone took the opportunity to get clean.
We sailed from Spanish Cay to Powell Cay under jib alone while C Watch (TJ, Lily C., Celia & Mr. Brown) cooked dinner - burgers and dogs with guacomole and salad. A Watch (Bridgit, Celeste and I) had dish duty. Everyone is ready for an early quiet ship and a late wake-up tomorrow.
We have sailed over 1500 nautical miles in just under three weeks. That has been a pretty quick pace. Our plan is to slow things down a little now that we are in the islands.
For breakfast, Celeste and Ms. Flanagan teamed up to make some really delicious cinnamon buns. After a class on barrier island ecology, we slipped our lines and sailed off the dock bound for sea. Celeste was on the helm leaving Cumberland, and then B-Watch took over. Lekha had the helm out through the entrance channel – and did an amazing job in challenging conditions. Lilly R. kept an eye on buoys and Katherine took the lead on sail handling. It was a little lumpy as we spilled out of the St. Mary’s River on the last of the ebb, but settled down as we headed south along the Florida coast. Today was Celia’s birthday, and we celebrated with cupcakes and birthday wishes after dinner.
Early this morning (at 3:28 a.m. to be exact) we were fortunate to witness a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. Bridgit, Celeste and I were on the mid-watch and watched as the rocket blasted off, brightening the sky and arcing above us. We cleared Cape Canaveral this morning and our hope is to push across the Gulf Stream later today as the wind is forecast to settle down to under 10 knots out of the east. The wind has not yet diminished, C-Watch (Celia, Lily C., TJ and Mr. Brown) have the watch are are presently making 9 knots.
We made it to Cumberland Island on Thursday morning and slept in to recover from the overnight watches. After lunch we ventured out to the beach for swimming and relaxing. The balance of the day was spent catching up on school work and watching a movie on board.
The folks at Greyfield, where we were docked, kindly offered to load us up into a truck and show us around the island. If you ever get a chance to visit – it is an amazing place. We drove down to the ruins of the Carnegie mansion Dungeness on the south end of the island, made a stop at Sea Camp and continued all the way north to Plum Orchard. TJ made cheese tortellini with meat sauce for dinner and we had time ashore with phones before our morning departure toward the Bahamas.
We enjoyed our time in Charleston. The first night we went out to dinner as a crew to celebrate passing 1000 nautical miles at a local BBQ restaurant. Part of the next day was spent on our traditional Charleston Scavenger Hunt - Port Watch (Celia, Celeste, Katherine and Lilly) beat out Starboard Watch (TJ, Lily, Lekha and Bridgit) by a narrow margin. We rounded out the day with a long study hall session at the air-conditioned College of Charleston library. Yesterday we had a visit to the South Carolina Aquarium followed by a tour of another Sailing School Vessel Spirit of South Carolina. In the afternoon we returned the the climate controlled oasis of the library, followed by free time in town. Will Cramer, SG and Geronimo alum, and his family hosted us at their home for dinner (thanks again!). Back on board we made final preparations to get underway toward Cumberland Island.
Wake-ups were at 0600 for a 0630 departure outbound from Charleston. Lily C. was at the helm as we left the dock and Celia took us out through the harbor entrance. Bridgit, Celeste and I are on watch as we push south on this sunny day. We are contemplating making a Greek salad for lunch. Hope to be at the St. Mary's River entrance just south of Cumberland Island some time after dawn tomorrow.
Today marks two weeks on board and the crew has really come together. They are becoming quite good at steering, sail handling and navigation. More importantly they have been taking good care of Geronimo and each other.
After rounding Cape Fear we continued on to Charleston in some more lively conditions, but maintaining a close reach on a port tack all the way to the harbor entrance. Our final evening underway the energy level was high and the crew did not let the rain or salt spray deter them from singing and eagerly anticipating our arrival. Even reefed down, we averaged around 8-10 knots and cleared the entrance to the harbor at about 0230. Lilly, Celia and Bridgit split helm duties bringing us in through the channel and up to the anchor under a nearly full moon. We have sailed nearly 500 n.m. on this passage and a total of 1000 n.m since we departed Rhode Island, all in under two weeks.
This morning we came alongside the City Marina, with Katherine at the helm. We spent the morning cleaning Geronimo, followed by class and then much-anticipated showers and phone time. Our plan is to head out to dinner tonight and spend the next few days exploring the city while catching up on schoolwork and sleep.
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