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.
Our first Sea Legs trip of the summer is underway. Yesterday eight incoming freshmen and VI former Sophie joined Geronimo for 5 days of sailing. As soon as everyone was aboard we pushed off from the dock and went to a nearby anchorage to discuss shipboard life and go over safety procedures. Shortly after, we raised the mainsail and sailed off of the anchor for Potter Cove near Jamestown.
Our anchorage may have only been 9 nm away but it took us 18 nm of sailing to get there as the wind was out of the south. This created an opportunity for each our new crew to tack the boat and practice using the winches. After roughly three hours of sailing we arrived in Potter Cove and let go the anchor. As the majority of the crew busily worked to take in sails and clean up on deck Mimi was down below preparing dinner. Around 7:30 we all came together to eat and share stories from our summer.
At ten o’clock we broke into anchor watches with Kelvin having the first shift. Everyone on board was assigned an hour during the night to make sure Geronimo remained safely at anchor. This morning we turned to our regular routine of chores and preparing the boat to go sailing. By nine o’clock the anchor was off the bottom and we were underway for Cuttyhunk. At the moment, starboard watch, comprised of Chance, Catie, Kelvin and Christina have the deck along with our 1st mate Mr. Mckenzie. There is very light wind this morning so we are motor sailing out of the bay. By this afternoon we should be anchored off of Cuttyhunk.
With the festivities over in Quebec City it was time for Geronimo to head back home to Rhode Island. The student summer crew departed the vessel for home and the professional crew quickly worked to prepare for the upcoming trip. 5 weeks had been allocated to sail Geronimo from Rhode Island to Quebec City, allowing plenty of time to explore the Canadian Maritimes. Our trip home, however, would have to be completed in just two weeks with a three day stop in Halifax in the middle.
In Quebec City we boarded our crew for the first leg of the transit, made up of Alumni and friends of St. George’s. After a parade of sail out of the harbor we began a push for Halifax, which was over 750 nm miles away. The first two days underway had little to no wind. Though frustrating on a sailboat, it did make for efficient motoring down the St. Lawrence River. Once out of the river and into the gulf we picked up a sailing breeze and headed southeast for the Canso Strait. Arriving early in the morning, we boarded a pilot and led a small procession of sailboats through the lock and waterway for the Atlantic Ocean. Naturally, when multiple sailboats find themselves together with the same destination it becomes a race. So, once through the strait we set our sails as quickly as possible along with the vessels Rona II and Vahine to “race” to Halifax. Fortunately, there was no shortage of wind on this side of Nova Scotia, unfortunately it was straight out of the southwest, the direction of our transit. Luckily Geronimo is a weatherly boat and we were able to beat our way down the coast for Halifax.
Three days were spent in Halifax enjoying the sights of the city and the Tall Ship Festival. Here, we also made a few crew changes and welcomed different Alumni aboard Geronimo for the next leg of the sail. Again we exited the harbor as part of a parade of sail. Once the parade had been completed all the vessels set more canvas and charged out of the harbor. From there, the tall ship fleet that we had been sailing with all summer began to break up to head to different destinations. Many embarked on a transatlantic journey to Europe, the remainder heading to additional ports in Nova Scotia or back home. Again we were faced with winds from the southwest. Early the following morning we found ourselves unexpectedly becalmed about 40nm off of the Nova Scotia coast. The calm seas were a welcome relief for some of the crew who were still finding their sea legs. After about 12 hours, the breeze filled back in and we were off for Portland, ME.
In Portland we cleared into the US and spent the afternoon walking around town. There was no time to stay overnight though, as a low pressure system was working its way up the east coast. Thunderstorms and heavy rain were forecast for the following day. All on board thought it best to try and get a head start on our passage south from Portland and try to avoid the unpleasant weather. We were able to avoid the rain and storms, but were not able to avoid the fog. By the morning we were sailing along in pea soup fog with less than 1/2 mile of visibility. The sailing conditions, aside from the fog, were favorable though and we made good time to the south. By 2200 we were entering the Cape Cod Canal. On the western side of the cape we had the best sailing conditions of the transit. Geronimo easily began sailing at 10kts on a close reach and scooted across Buzzards Bay. By daylight we were just off of Narragansett Bay. With the rising sun the wind moderated and Geronimo ghosted north past Newport and under the Newport-Pell Bridge. Just outside of Bristol, RI we took in our sails and went to the dock. Once alongside, time was spent cleaning the boat, inside and out. Afterwards a small BBQ was held on deck to celebrate our homecoming and a successful trip.
Today we board 8 incoming freshmen who will be sailing aboard Geronimo for the next week.
Trophy in hand, I can now announce that Geronimo and her crew took first place in the modern vessel class of Sail Training International’s race from Boston to Prince Edward Island. Sail Training International annually holds a race series that promotes camaraderie and competition between sailing vessels small and large whose mission is youth development through sailing. This race had Geronimo competing against vessels from Finland, Germany, England and Latvia with Geronimo being the only US representative in its class. Geronimo also had the distinction of having the youngest crew on board of any vessel participating. The race was sailed in challenging conditions with strong winds and two days of very limited visibility. Being the students first week on board the boat they all adapted incredibly well and remained focused and upbeat for the duration of the race. This accomplishment, of out performing these other vessels who routinely race in these events is something all on board can take pride in. Congratulations to Vivian, Kari, Kenta, Mac, Natalie, and Krysten for their success!
Geronimo is well on her way to Quebec City. Yesterday, the students decided that the best time to leave Rimouski, based on tides and currents in the river, was 11 pm. So after a taco dinner prepared by Kari, most of the crew went to bed for a brief while before having to get up and get underway. Through the night there was little wind which allowed us to make steady progress using our engine. Around 8 this morning shouts came from on deck announcing the presences of beluga whales. For roughly the next hour we had a marine mammal show all around us seeing belugas, minkes, seals, and dolphins just off of the boat. Kenta was quick to grab his camera and capture as much of it as possible.
The students just had another planning session and have decided to leave Iles Aux Coudres to the north and to take the southern channel down the river. This route is navigationally a little more challenging than the north route but the students have decided the shorter distance and more favorable currents make it worth the little extra work and focus that will be required through the night. By this time tomorrow we will likely be docked in Quebec City our final port of the voyage.
We made it to Rimouski and earned every mile that we traveled to the west to get here. The Geronimo crew has now sailed in nearly every sailing condition from favorable beam reaches and runs to no wind at all to current and wind both on the nose. For this past transit we were stuck with the latter. Luckily we only had 400 nm to go and nearly a week to do it. We pulled into the Rimouski Marina at 0900 Friday morning.
Today we took time to stretch our legs and spend some time in the forest at Parc Du Bic National park. Here we hiked to the highest point of the park and enjoyed fantastic views of the Seaway. Mac, Kenta and Vivian led the pack to the top, reaching the viewing platform first. On our way back to Geronimo we stopped at the supermarket for our last provisioning run of the voyage. With one more transit still ahead of us we are turning our sights to Quebec City and the challenge of navigating the St. Lawrence River, famous for its dynamic currents. Tomorrow afternoon the students will learn how to use tidal reference stations and a tidal atlas so they can best decide when and where we should be traveling in the river.
Natalie spotted the first whale as we rounded Cap Des Rosiers and officially entered the Seaway. Humpback whales surfaced and dove all around Geronimo as me crept along at 2kts along the Quebec coast. At this point we’ve seen three of the five baleen species of whales found in the waterway: minke, finn, and humpback.
All of the vessels participating in the Rendezvous 2017 event are currently converging on Quebec City. Over the past two days we’ve been sailing in the company of these ships from all over the world. Yesterday we received a horn salute from Esmeralda the 371’ Chilean square rigger as we crossed their stern. The fleet is playing a nautical game of leap frog as we move along the coastline as vessels switch from sailing to motoring and duck in and out of anchorages.
Making ground to the west has been a challenge as the wind is also coming from that direction. Last night we sailed Geronimo the best we could to only make 20 nm in the direction we need to go. I guess it was just a matter of time before our luck ran out, especially after having three weeks of great sailing. As a result of these conditions we are currently tucked into a small bay at St. Louis, QC waiting for the wind direction to improve. After a night of bouncing around this is a welcome break. Most students are up on deck right now enjoying the sun and reading. Later this evening we will resume our pursuit of making ground to the west.
The students, on their own, have planned the next leg of our voyage into the St. Lawrence Seaway. As a group they poured over the charts and weather forecasts to come up with a plan to get us to Rimouski, QC. Ensuring we arrive on time and travel the most comfortably given the forecast. Currently Kari and Krysten are on watch and are working through some fickle wind that has them frequently tacking and changing course for us to stay on track.
At the moment we are about 40 nm away from the mouth of the Seaway. Once there the students will not only have to consider wind direction but also current which will affect us greatly as we travel up the river. Just when everyone is getting comfortable with navigating and points of sail this new challenge will be added to the mix.
Geronimo just doesn’t want to slow down! We made it to the Magdalen Islands in less than 24hrs and sailed all the way onto the anchor. The islands are beautiful and their red cliffs and green hills rose dramatically up from the ocean as we neared them. Everyone was on deck to witness our landfall.
Now we are moored in La Harve- Aubert on the south end of the archipelago. After spending the morning cleaning extra thoroughly in the bunk room and galley we headed out into the small town. First we walked to the end of the community to climb two peaks that overlook the town and neighboring islands. Once back in town, free time was given so everyone could explore the small shops and cafes that line the main street. The Magdalen Islands are part of Quebec and most people here speak French. As a result, we’ve had to rely on Vivian and Krysten, who are both studying French at SG, to act as translators.
Today we ventured over to the beach on the south coast of the island. Here we ran around on the “singing sand” that squeaks when walked on. This afternoon we will likely go for our first swim call off of Geronimo and brave the cold water. Luckily for us, a warm shower at the marina is a short walk away!
We departed Nova Scotia with winds from the south setting us up for a quick sail over to Prince Edward Island. Mac was on the helm as we sailed underneath the Confederation Bridge which links PEI to New Brunswick. This 8 mile bridge is an imposing sight, especially at night and it was a thrill to pass beneath it under sail. At midnight we entered Summerside channel, Krysten at the helm used the buoys to pilot the channel and Natalie and Kenta took in sail.
During the two days we’ve been here we’ve tried to take in as much of the island as possible. Yesterday we drove to the north coast to walk along the red sand beaches and cliffs PEI is famous for. We also took time to learn about the community’s farm and fishing industries and tested our bowling skills at 5 pin bowling. Last night in celebration of the Fourth of July we invited the crew of Atyla over for a BBQ. Atyla’s crew is made up of young adults from all over the world and it was great to have this cultural exchange and share this American holiday with them.
Later today we will make ready to get underway and head to the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of the St Lawerence. The wind is predicated to be light today but building. I anticipate we’ll be in this next port of call in two days time.
Happy Canada Day! (a day late) Pugwash has been the perfect port to experience small town Nova Scotian life. With yesterday being Canada Day, the town organized a parade and small carnival that we were able to enjoy. Lots of people have also come down to the pier where Geronimo is docked to check out the vessels moored here. The students have enjoyed meeting the public and talking about their experiences aboard Geronimo.
This afternoon Mac, Vivian and I will head out to the grocery store to restock our provisions to prepare for the remainder of our voyage. With our next official port being out in the Magdalen Islands we thought it best to restock here in a slightly larger community. This evening we will say goodbye to Pugwash on the high tide, following a large salt carrier out of the harbor. We plan to sail through the night for Prince Edward Island.
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