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.
On Friday morning Lilly R. was the JWO and sailed us over toward Water Cay on our way to Treasure Cay. We stopped for a few hours, had a class on mangrove ecosystems in the mangroves and then set out in search of sea turtles. In what is called a creek in the Bahamas, but really is just a narrow, sometimes winding path through the mangroves, we found a population of Green Sea Turtles that was probably close to 75 or more. Only our inflatable Thunderchief could pass into the creek, so we rotated through. Ms. Flanagan caught the first turtle, I caught the second and Lekha and T.J. teamed up to catch the third. The were mostly healthy, but we did find two small fibropapillomas (small tumors) on two of the three.
Back on board, Lekha sailed us off the anchor under jib alone and brought us to the entrance to Treasure Cay. Pickle (aka Bridgit) was at the helm as we came alongside the dock. We spent the next hour or so preparing Geronimo for the possibility of tropical storm force winds or higher. Lily C. put together a dinner of mashed potatoes, cole slaw and ribs.
Yesterday morning Katherine sailed us off the anchor and then up to the anchor just a few miles away. Most of the crew went over to snorkel on a sunken barge that was teeming with tropical fish. T.J. sailed us off the anchor under jib alone while avoiding some squalls and navigating us through a narrow passage over a sand bank. He brought us up to the anchor off of Marsh Harbour, where we intended to stay to ride out a frontal passage. The student crew spent some time ashore in town followed by some phone time, then back on board for pizza made by the Mates and Lilly R. By the time dinner was over the cold front had passed.
It was a beautiful morning, a very slight chill in the air (but probably still in the 70's) and a nice sailing breeze out of the NNW. Celeste did an excellent job sailing us off the anchor and on our way to our next stop. She short-tacked around Point Set Rock and then handed over the watch to Bridgit (who now has asked to be called Pickle). Near Fish Cays we crossed paths with an SG family that was heading the other direction. Pickle did a fine job sailing us up to the anchor off of Fish Cays. The rest of the afternoon was spent in class on tropical coral reefs and study hall. Katherine, Lekha and Celia joined the Mates and me on a short snorkel trip in the late afternoon. Mac and Cheese (with and without fresh-caught lobster) along with vegetables for dinner, courtesy of Pickle (aka Bridgit).
There is an area of low pressure in the western Caribbean right now that has the potential to turn into a tropical low and impact the Bahamas. So, we have decided to backtrack a little and move toward a well-protected and safe dock at Treasure Cay. Our plan is to arrive tomorrow and we will likely spend a few days as we wait and see what happens with the weather. This is the same marina where we are planning on ending the trip, so it is not ideal - but it is the safest place for us to wait out this weather.
Back on board, Celeste made jerk chicken, couscous, vegetables and salad. Mr. Brown contributed one spiny lobster to the meal as well. A very full day. Off to an anchorage south of Marsh Harbour to find a lee for a frontal passage tomorrow.
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.
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