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.
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.
We sailed out of the anchorage to meet our pilot, Woody - who has been taking Geronimo across the Devil's Backbone Reef and into Harbour Island for many years. Once through the reef, we sailed up to the anchor at Man Island and settled in for a relaxing afternoon. Some time at the beach, swimming and a final exam review rounded out the afternoon. Matt made a delicious steak-veggie-peanut sauce stir fry (I actually just had some leftovers, it was good). We had a quiet evening studying for the exam.
This morning we started off the day with the final exam, but not before Grace C. served us some delicious cinnamon rolls. In the late morning, Matt took his last turn as JWO and sailed us off the anhor toward Harbour Island. But first, we did our "Chase the Buoy" excercise where each students takes a turn being in-charge and retrieving a buoy tossed over the side, completely under sail. The wind was up, and we sailed with a double-reef in the mainsail and the staysail. Matt was the first one up, since he was JWO. He was followed by Grace C., and they both posted good times. Dallas, Lizzy Cheka, Caroline and Grace H. all did a great job bringing the boat to a complete stop next to the buoy. Ben chose to go a little faster in an attempt to beat Matt and Grace C., and was barely able to slow the boat to the required minimum speed and get the top time of 3 minutes and 32 seconds. Alex was last, and decided on a slightly different approach. He gybed Geronimo around, and started his approach to the buoy on a close reach. It looked like it would be close, and Alex was able to get the slow down next to the buoy one second faster than Ben. All of the crew did an excellent job demonstrating their sailing knowledge and retrieving the buoy under sail. Ben was our last JWO sailing us up to the anchor just off Harbour Island. We went ashore to the beach to play in the waves, then into town to explore and find ice cream, then back on board for our final night at anchor.
Tomorrow we will go alongside the dock and commence Field Day, a thorough cleaning of Geronimo, followed by showers, dinner out and closing activities.
This morning we had mangrove class tucked up into the mangroves. Back on board, Matt was at the helm as we sailed out of the narrow entrance of our anchorage. We tacked toward Spanish Wells under a single reefed mainsail and double reefed jib. Dallas and Caroline took on helm duties for the balance of the trip - under some lively conditions with the wind blowing 20-25 knots out of the east. We anchored up outside of Spanish Wells and the crew went ashore to explore and have lunch. Back on board we sailed under jib alone a short distance to our anchorage at Meek's Patch with Ben at the helm. From our anchorage we noticed some p-i-g-s (some mariners consider it bad luck to say the name of this animal) on a nearby beach. Yes, we went to a similar island about a week ago. Apparently this has become quite popular in The Bahamas. These ones were a little more lively, and also eager to swim out.
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.
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