We arrived in Trinidad, as usual, with a list of ships supplies to buy- plywood and fasteners for a linen cabinet we plan on building, some wire for a project with our masthead light, grease for our grease gun, paint, pump rebuild kits, and so on. After Trinidad supplies will be either difficult or impossible to find, so we try to stock up as much as possible. Fortunately if you know who to ask, where to look, and are willing to make a day of it, one can find almost anything in Trinidad.
Thus it was with a mixture of cautious optimism and can-do determination that Mr. Graham and I set out yesterday. Our first (and it turns out only) stop was WH Scotts in downtown Port of Spain which must rank as one of the world’s great hardware stores, as it provides an engaging day trip, offers a very nice selection of high quality English hand tools, and stocks an inventory which has been accumulating for a century. It is a vast place, consisting of not only the three story main building, but also an undisclosed number of satellite warehouses tucked away in the surrounding blocks. While they do have a few browsing sections, with seemingly random selections of tools and materials in glass display cases, the initiate soon learns that this is merely the tip of the iceberg and that the real inventory is tucked away out of view. It is interfaced through a byzantine system of bureaucrats, great numbers of whom are crammed into desks in every nook and cranny. They fight a daily battle against the forces of chaos armed only with ledger books, carbon paper and an extensive internal phone network.
Thus, after stopping by the third floor and admiring the power tools, Mr. Graham and I found ourselves on the second floor sitting on stools and going through our list item by item with a less than helpful woman, while our neighbor enthusiastically tried to sell us a propane powered soldering iron, describing it in great detail and drawing diagrams.
-Do you have grease, for a grease gun? I asked
-you turn the tip 90 degree, use like a hammer, our neighbor interjects
-No, the saleslady said.
Mr. Graham giggles
-Are you sure? I ask. It seems like something you might have.
The lady shrugs and makes a call, confirming that there is no grease. We continue this process for every item on the list, making occasional field trips downstairs, and on one occasion snuck into the warehouse to find the pipe fittings to make a rack after spending nearly 45 minutes trying to describe what we needed and being sent to random warehouses. The back room was filled with pipe fittings, overflowing from all the shelves and forming small mountains on the floor. I began poking around, but was soon discovered by the very old man who presumably is the only one who knows where anything is. After attempting to run me down with his shopping cart he came around and took me where I needed to go, wrote a list of parts and back up I went to the lady at the desk, who was in a heated discussion with a gentleman about a set of wheels for a dolly. We then asked for screws and were sent to the third floor, and after getting those asked for nails and were sent back to the second floor. At which point I told Mr. Graham, “I can’t go back there.” He agreed and we decided that discretion is the better part of valor, paid, and headed back to the ship.
By the proceeding account I do not intend to slight Scotts in any way. In a part of the world where supplies are hard to come by, they maintain an amazing inventory- what other hardware store, for example can you walk into and order oakum and a top quality Sheffield steel box saw? At Scotts, unlike say Home Depot, the customer always know that their shopping success will increase in direct proportion to their patience, sense of humor and dogged, unflagging determination.
Eric Simpson- Second Mate/Engineer
We arrived at the home of a little old Carib man who had taken part in the building of the Gli-Gli and was currently working on a smaller fishing canoe. His slight frame was draped in dirty, loose overalls and he surveyed the group of us from underneath his floppy conductor hat. He eagerly showed us pictures of himself working on the Gli-Gli as we stood among the wood shavings in the hot Dominican sun.
We piled back into the vans and drove to the head of the trail that lead deep into the bush. I headed down the trail not really knowing what to expect and after five minutes I was muddy up to my knees, my bare feet slipping and sliding over the ruts in the narrow path. I looked up every so often to see the pack backs of my ship mates bouncing along ahead of me and the green, dripping expanse of rainforest all around.
As we approached the canoe building sight I could hear the thud of axes and the muffled purr of a chainsaw vibrating dully through the trees. When we reached the clearing Chalu, the Carib elder and expert canoe builder, stood in jaggedly cut off shorts wielding an axe half his size. We stepped lightly among the strewn pink wood chips and sat a few feet away from the half finished canoe. The canoe sat balanced on its side as the curve of its bow and stern emerged at the hands of the men’s axes; a perfect example of rustic elegance.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the scene was the efficiency with which all the men worked together. This was partially due to their expertise but mostly due to their complete dedication to their craft. It was so impressive to witness an ancient part of Carib culture in action, being passed down from generation to generation before our eyes. We were able to see what most people are only able to read in history textbooks.
>> Wednesday, February 25, 2009
February 11, 2009
At anchor Gallows bay St Eustatias.Well this last week has been great we had a good overnight sail from St Thomas to the BVI with plenty of tacking for the students to get to know Gamage the first few tacks can be frightening propositions for new hands with the crew shouting instructions sheets flogging and the boat tossing about needless to say the students are really getting the hang of sailing Gamage (no surprise) and they are now using only one watch at a time(7 or 8 students) to handle sails.
I am, as usual struggling to learn all the students names and something about them . I am constantly amazed at the amount of talent aboard artists, writers ,sailors, musicians, jokers . people with big dreams its so heartening to look into our future and see these people there .
Today we went up to the Quill an extinct volcano with a rainforest in the crater a very cool experience. There were a lot or Hemit crabs working up the hill except when we startled them and they would roll down again.
Well this crew is coming together nicely working very well to make Gamage go!
Next we are bound toward Dominica.Fair winds Capt. Flansburg
>> Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Statia has provided a good place to focus our coursework on topics such as Caribbean poetry, plate tectonics and the historical importance of Statia in the American War of Independence.
Time to run to a student port report and another Beach BBQ!
Christine Honan, Head Educator
PS- We will try again to upload pictures from the nex port...no luck with the connection here.
>> Tuesday, February 10, 2009
After a little more than a week of being on the boat, the students on Harvey Gamage are settling into a rhythm. The late night watches are getting easier and the sea sickness is going away. After a three day sail, we are currently anchored off of St. Eustasius. At night, while we were underway, the stars stretched 180 degrees from horizon to horizon. With no land in sight, it was as if we could have been the only ones in the world. We have everything we need right here with us, and there is a feeling that we could just sail forever. It is nice to be on land, however, and today we are going to hike into the crater of the Quill, a dormant volcanoe on the island of St. Eustasius. Soon we will set sail for Dominica.
student, Alyssa Reetz
(pictures coming soon....!)
The day after our arrival in Statia, we were able to go snorkeling for the first time. Everyone was extremely excited, and the excitement grew as the snorkeling gear was uncovered and boat trips to shore were underway. When all of us arrived ashore, we lugged all the gear and our picnic lunch down the road a little ways to a very small sandy beach. Fins and snorkels were provided for everyone. We all tried to find the right fin sizes, but if we couldn't, then we had to settle for the next best fit. After brief instructions from Christine, it was into the water we went. Snorkeling is a lot of fun. It wasn't a coral reef, but there was an old sea wall underwater that supports a lot of marine life. We swam along it for a little ways, spotting all the little wonders of the water. The vibrant colors of all the tropical fish were absolutely gorgeous. They swam about all around us. Giant sea urchins clung to the rocks like magnets clinging to the fridge. Their sharp quills stuck out in every direction, making them look very trecherous. The underwater world is such a wonderful and mystical place. It was amazing to see it so up close and personal, and I can't wait to do it again. It was soon time for lunch though, and we had to swim back ashore for our PB and J's.
student, Chandler Neale
Gli-Gli? Now I know you guys must be scratching your heads wondering what it is. On February 4th, we all went to Tortola from our anchored boat in Trellis Bay, five students each in our small boat named Sherman. The purpose of our trip was to meet Aragorn, one of the creators of the Gli-Gli project, his small traditional dugout canoe that was built in 1995. When we all got to Tortola, Aragorn made us an offer that if we would help do a beach cleanup, in exchange he would let us sail Gli-Gli. Gli-Gli was built from one tree on Dominica and it was a project for the Carib people to make a connection with indigenous people in the Caribbean region. The canoe actually made an 800 mile voyage to South America. So to sail it was an amazing experience for us. However, I must admit it was scary. We sailed to a little nearby island, swam, explored, and sailed back to Tortola for a BBQ on the beach by the moonlight.
student, Sally Nguyen
For pictures and more information on the Gli-Gli project visit the following link:
>> Sunday, February 1, 2009
In the meantime other projects proceeded apace. Third Mate/ Carpenter Mr. Graham made some improvements to the anchor windlass. Deckhand/medical officer John Fagan checked his inventories and made some last minute purchases. Deckhand Jasmine McKracken, who moonlights as a furniture maker made a series of shelves for our new logging system. Deckhand Nell Smith worked on renewing some lashings in the headrig and improving the lifelines. I spent my time attending to some engineering chores, attempting to anticipate anything that might break in the next two months and purchasing spares. First Mate Bill Burke and Captain Flansburg managed to be everywhere at once monitoring, organizing giving helpful hints and making lists. In the middle of the chaos our three educators Christine Honan, Annemarie Gero, and Robin Tiller arrived with a mountain of educational supplies all of which needed a place for stowage.
With the students arriving this afternoon, however, order is finally emerging. The piles of supplies have been tucked into all corners of the ship. The mattresses have been made and the bunks aired out, each with an instructional chart, books and foul weather gear. The berthing areas have all been deep cleaned and now we are stowing those stubborn items which have entrenched themselves on deck- a pile of plywood here a small boat mast there and the tenacious bottle of shampoo. Soon we will do a deck wash and polish brass and then wait. I am confident in saying that we are ready.
Sencond mate/ Engineer Eric Simpson