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.
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.
Greetings from Pugwash, Nova Scotia! Geronimo is docked along with the vessels Katie Belle and Atyla for the weekend as part of the town’s Harbour Fest and Canada Day celebrations.
We left Pitcou early yesterday morning to ensure we made it to Pugwash on the slack tide. This harbor requires special attention when proceeding in as there is a large tidal difference and a river with a strong current at the end of the bay. Kenta was on the helm for the majority of the passage up the channel and smoothly brought us up to our dock.
The students are becoming at home aboard Geronimo and are settled into the routines. They are also becoming strong navigators. With so much coastal sailing ahead of us the focus on watch has been understanding terrestrial navigation and finding our position with a three bearing fix. The student’s confidently piloted us to Pugwash and ensured that we arrived on time for the tide.
Prior to our transit here we spent the afternoon in Pictou. This small town was welcoming and shared their marina facilities with us, so everyone could enjoy a shower on shore. We also visited the Northumberland Strait’s Fisheries Museum and lobster hatchery. Our guide explained the importance of fishing in the community and allowed us to hold some of the lobsters at the hatchery.
Today we will welcome the public down to the dock. The students will be working in rotations to greet the public and answer any questions people may have about the vessel or program.
Once again we are on the move, this time bound for Pictou, Nova Scotia. Geronimo spent the last two nights rafted alongside the Spirit of South Carolina in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. This was a popular stopover for other vessels from the race as it is a port of entry into Canada. Before we knew it 8 other vessels from the fleet were tied up in the harbor, 5 of us all rafted together at the end of the pier. It was great to be able to meet the other crews and see some of the other vessels we had been watching closely on our navigation instruments during the race.
Yesterday afternoon was dedicated to exploring Cape Breton. We started with lunch at the Cape Breton Celtic Music Interpretive Centre. During lunch hours the centre has musicians playing music unique to the island and a brief lesson is given on its origins and traditions. Afterwards we drove to the Bras d’Or Lakes and the town of Baddeck. Here the students were given some free time and a chance to stretch their legs.
This morning we prepared to get back underway. In order to pass through the Strait we needed to transit through a lock. Krysten steered us in and Kenta and Vivian manned the mooring lines as we came down three feet to meet the tidal level of the other side of the strait. A minke whale was there to welcome us into none other than St George’s Bay, the body of water on the western side of the Strait of Canso.
We crossed the finish line at 2:43 local time early this morning. Natalie was standing by the chart and GPS to get the exact moment we crossed the line to report to race control. It is hard to say right now where we stand overall as time correction factors still need to be applied to everyone’s time but I’m cautiously optimistic that we will come out in good standing. Over the course of the race we were able to overtake all of our competitors in class C and D which consists of modern vessels like Geronimo. We held our lead against them all the way until the finish. Everyone on board is deservedly proud of this accomplishment.
With the race behind us and the sun finally out we are enjoying a leisurely motor sail through the Strait of Canso. Kari and Krysten currently have the watch, along with Ms. Hadley, navigating us through this narrow waterway which bisects lower Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. We plan to stop at Port Hawkesbury, midway through the Strait, to clear into Canadian customs and catch up on some sleep.
We are currently cruising at 9kts across the Gulf of Maine aiming for the first waypoint of the course. Its been a competitive race and at all times we have been in sight of other vessels. This has built extra excitement and pressure to stay ahead of them. The crew has done remarkably well adjusting to their new surroundings and responsibilities on board. The students were thrown right into the thick of it and have risen to the occasion. Sailing Geronimo at this speed demands a lot of attention. Kenta and Vivian have already stood out as skilled helmsmen, both are able to hold a steady course, in challenging conditions, for their entire turn on the helm. Kari led the charge in the galley this morning preparing us breakfast after four hours on watch. Mac put together a navigation presentation about the race and our opponents that he shared this afternoon. Everyone has been contributing to the success of this leg of the voyage.
We are roughly a third of the way through the course and expect to cross the finish line in less than two days time. It will be interesting to see how the sailing conditions change as we round Cape Sable at the southern end of Nova Scotia.
The summer Geronimo program has begun! The student crew joined the boat yesterday in Boston and are already well settled in. Last night after a vessel orientation and dinner on deck we ventured out for ice cream and a walk up to Bunker Hill.
This morning Krysten stepped up to be the first cook of the voyage, preparing a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon. Afterwards we headed into Boston to explore the city and look at some of the larger sailboats and ships in port. Once back aboard Geronimo we turned our attention to shipboard safety and routines, extensively going over the vessel’s safety equipment and everyone’s responsibilities in the event of an emergency.
We have just wrapped up dinner and dishes and are about to sit around the main salon table and discuss our first sail together as a crew. This trip will bring us north to Nova Scotia and the Strait of Canso. While in route we will be racing against the other sail training vessels also heading from Boston to Nova Scotia. The wind looks favorable making for a speedy and competitive race. Everyone is looking forward to getting underway tomorrow morning.
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