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.
After overcoming a couple of hiccups, weather and flu related, I am very pleased to report that Geronimo and her crew are in the Bahamas. It is a treat for me to escape Rhode Island winter and join the vessel and her crew for this passage. Upon arrival to the boat yesterday, I found the students eager to help in any way and looking forward to saying goodbye to Florida. After a dinner of chicken, veggies, and quinoa, cooked by Grace H. all hands turned to making the boat ready for our transit. Lizzy helped Ms. Finkel with the anchor while everyone else set the mainsail. Dallas calmly steered us through a crowded mooring field and back out into the Atlantic. Under a full moon, we had a pleasant motor sail across the gulf stream. In the early hours of the morning, C watch brought us onto Little Bahamas Bank and into shallower waters. As students woke up throughout the morning all commented on how clear the water was and how well you could see the bottom. Something I never get comfortable with. At present, we are roughly 20nm from our intended anchorage for the night. There, we will have dinner and catch up on sleep lost during the passage. Tomorrow we plan to clear into the Bahamas, go for our first swim off the boat, and if the wind allows, practice tacking.
In the late evening hours, with the wind building out of the north we sailed into the entrance at Lake Worth Inlet. Ben was at the helm, and did a great job under challenging conditions as we sailed up to the anchor inside Lake Worth just after midnight.
Yesterday was a good day to be at anchor. The wind was gusting up to 30+ knots and it brought some cold temperatures. After a late wake up, we had Marine Science class and got settled into our schoolwork. Ben was cook for the day and started us off with eggs, bacon and bagels, followed by cheeseburgers, potatoes and green beans for dinner.
With plans to depart Thursday for The Bahamas, we decided to take this opportunity to explore ashore. Lizzy started off her day as cook with pancakes, sausage and fruit salad. Before lunch we loaded up in rental cars off to our first stop to see manatees and then to the beach.
Our next stop was to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center to learn about sea turtles conservation in preparation for our sea turtle research in The Bahamas.
Early this morning I woke up to check the updated forecast and buoy reports, but the southerly wind persisted - so the crew got to enjoy a few more hours of rest. At 0600 we turned-to and got underway for points south. Matt was at the helm bringing us off the dock. We paused in the turning basin to set the mainsail and made our way out of the channel.
A-Watch was on first (Dallas, Lizzy, Matt and me), followed by B-Watch (Grace C, Alex, Caroline and Ms. Finkel) from 0800-1200 and C-Watch (Grace H., Ben, Cheka and Ms. Juber) from 1200-1600. Over the course of the day the crew became more comfortable on board with their on-watch responsibilities and living on board underway.
The frontal boundary moved through faster than I hoped bringing with it some unfavorable offshore conditions. This thwarted our plans to sail across to The Bahamas, so we are bound for Lake Worth Inlet about 100 nautical miles south of Port Canaveral. Looks like we will have good window to sail east later in the week. Lizzy and Dallas put together tortellini, meat sauce and salad for dinner. We are about and hour or so away from the entrance and sailing along nicely on a broad reach under a single-reefed mainsail and full jib.
All of the crew were on board by late afternoon, and the remainder of the day was spent taking care of some final shipboard details, moving into bunks, a team-effort burrito dinner followed by an evening gathering to discuss living on board. Everyone was tired from a long day of traveling and went to bed early.
This morning we woke up at 0650 and moved the boat to the fuel dock, did our morning chores, had breakfast and then moved into our safety orientation. After lunch we spent a few hours loading on provisions for our trip. In the late afternoon we went out for a sail and continued our on board orientation. Caroline was at the helm passing close by to a large cruise ship and Ben was at the helm as we came alongside the dock. Dallas, assisted by Grace C., was the cook today and set the bar high making fried chicken tenders, homemade mac and cheese and a salad for dinner.
Showers and phone time tonight before an early departure for points south tomorrow. Our plan is to get underway and if the sea state and wind cooperate - we will head across the Gulf Stream to The Bahamas. If not, then we will sail down to Lake Worth Inlet to wait a few days for the weather to improve.
Katherine, Celia, Celeste and Lekha joined Ms. Flanagan and Mr. Brown for an early morning snorkel before we departed for Treasure Cay marina on our last time underway as a crew. Lekha was at the helm on our way into the marina and up to the dock. After getting settled and starting into Field Day (an intense half-day cleaning of the boat), the marina asked us to move to another dock. This time Lily C. was at the helm bringing us alongside for a final time. Field Day wrapped up right before lunch, followed by jumping into the pool, a trip to the beach, showers and phones. For our final night together we went out to dinner at a restaurant on the beach and then gathered on deck for our final activities reflecting on our time together over the last six weeks. The crew departs tomorrow afternoon from Marsh Harbour.
We had a pre-dawn departure from our anchorage in hopes of arriving to a turtle-tagging creek near Water Cay at high tide. The wind was calm, so we steamed the entire 11 nautical miles and arrived just after breakfast. The student crew were happy to enjoy and extra hour of sleep with the time change. Over the course of the morning we had a team studying for their exam and a team tagging turtles. On the first wave, T.J. caught both turtles. On the second trip, Lily C. jumped one to start things off in my boat. Celia showed tenacity in pursuit and swam after a turtle for at least 5-10 minutes before capturing it. Lilly R. persisted and swam after one, retrieving it a few feet below the water. Katherine continued her reign as the master of jumping turtles and captured the last one. Meanwhile, Lekha and Mr. Brown were able to catch three lobsters.
Back on board for lunch and the final exam. After the exam everyone jumped in the water to mark the occasion. The balance of the afternoon was spent relaxing, swimming and paddle boarding. Lily C. was the first one to get hoisted aloft, followed by Celeste and Bridgit and most everyone else. I was able to find two more lobsters and on my way back saw the largest Spotted Eagle Ray that I have ever seen, similar in size to the one that the students saw at the reef at Pelican Cay Land & Sea Park. Lekha and Ms. Flanagan are making dinner - chicken and lobster burritos, along with apple and pumpkin pie!
Tomorrow we will head into the marina at Treasure Cay for our final full day together.
On Friday morning Celia sailed us off the anchor and then we moved into a round of "Chase the Buoy," where the student crew take turns retrieving a small buoy tossed overboard completely under sail. They all successfully performed this with Katherine and Lily C. earning the fastest times. We continued to an anchorage further north and spent the afternoon relaxing, swimming and making a short trip to Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay.
This morning Lily C. sailed us off the anchor and we then commenced our final exam review in the form of Marine Science Jeopardy. T.J., Lekha, Pickles and Katherine did a noon sight of the sun to determine our latitude. After lunch we went into Hope Town to see the lighthouse and explore town. Back on board the student crew had been hitting the books in preparation for their final exam.
Our first stop in Little Harbour was a cave. The first cave was more of an overhang, but the second cave had lots of interesting caverns and even a population of bats. Next we walked out to an abandoned lighthouse that was built in the late 1800's and watched the waves crash on to the rocky shore. Back into the small settlement we had a look at the art gallery and foundry, and stopped for some food and cold drinks.
Back on board Lekha was the JWO sailing us out of the Lynyard Cay anchorage - and she did a great job short tacking us through a narrow channel (16 tacks in total). She handed the watch over to Lilly R. who sailed us up through Tilloo Bank and on to our anchorage at Tilloo Cay. A team effort (Celia, T.J. and Lilly R.) put together dinner of ravioli, hamburgers and salad.
On the south end of Abacos is a small bay called the Bight of Old Robinson. Bridgit sailed us down to a more accessible anchorage, just a few miles away. Our first stop was a huge sandbar and a shallow creek where we searched for turtles without any luck. Celeste managed to get buried in the sand and Lekha ventured out with Mr. Brown and Ms. Flanagan to look for lobster. We managed to get two really large ones that eventually became part of dinner. After noon sights (determining latitude by measuring the angle of the sun), we ventured off into a creek which had several blue holes. We found two and snorkeled over top of them. We also tried to tag a few turtles, but the glare from the sun low on the horizon made it too difficult. Back on board Celeste brought us back to Lynyard Cay to a more protected anchorage for the night and led the charge with Katherine to make spaghetti tacos with salad and lobster on the side.
Lilly R. made breakfast this morning of sausage, bagels, hash browns and pineapple. We are off to explore Little Harbour in a few minutes and plan to sail north to Tiloo Cay for the evening.
For the first time since we arrived to the Bahamas a few weeks ago - we were able to push out beyond the lee of the islands and the barrier reef that fringes the Abacos and be back in deep blue water. T.J. started off our day with crepes for breakfast, and then was the JWO sailing us off the anchor and on to Man-O-War Channel back into the deep ocean water. We sailed south on the outside of the reef toward the southern end of the Abaco chain. In the early afternoon we had a celestial navigation class where the students took a noon sight of the sun to determine our latitude. For a first try they all did a good job.
Katherine took over as JWO and sailed us down to the cut through the reef at North Bar Channel and then sailed us up to the anchor at an idyllic sandy island with palm trees. In honor of Lekha's birthday we headed out to snorkel on one of the best accessible reefs in the Bahamas just off Sandy Cay in the Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park - and it didn't disappoint. We saw a nurse shark, a huge spotted eagle ray, amazing stands of healthy elkhorn coral, more fish species than you could count, a hawksbill turtle, a loggerhead turtle and I even spotted a reef shark. Back on board and we hauled back the anchor to sail down to a more protected anchorage at Lynyard Cay. Since dinner was running a little late from our full day - we decided to bring out Lekha's birthday cake on our short sail. We anchored up just about 20 minutes ago and dinner is just about on the table. T.J. made an elaborate chicken wing spread with rice and broccoli.
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