"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

Grand Cayman Island

>> Thursday, March 19, 2009

Our stop to Grand Cayman has epitomized the excitement of the unknowns of a sailing adventure. All we have to do is take advantage of the unique, exciting and genuine opportunities along the way, which is certainly what we are in the midst of doing right now. Situated at the edge of the deepest part of the Caribbean Sea, the Cayman Trench, this low-lying, limestone island is surrounded by coral reefs, teaming with life in crystal clear turquoise Caribbean waters.

We have paddled on kayaks through the red and black mangrove forests learning about their important ecological niches; had classes on the white coral sandy beaches; snorkeled in a majestic coral reef community with sea turtles; barbequed on the beach; and saw octopi, tarpon, a giant green moral eel, star fish, sea urchins, coral banded shrimp, sleeping squirrel fish and spiny lobster on our night snorkel. Students have even managed to complete a navigation seamanship quiz, prepare for their upcoming marine science test covering ocean and atmospheric circulation, learn about the history of the Caymanian turtle fishery and write a creative historical short story based in the DR. Never a dull moment.

So what do the students have to say about all of this?
In response to the question, “What was your favorite thing about yesterday,“ here is what each of the students had to say:

“Going snorkeling along Eden Rock and seeing the barracuda, jellyfish and school of sergeant majors following me. That was cool.” -Sally Nyguen

“Doin’ the cook out. I like being a grill meister. And seeing the turtle and the huge barracuda that Lucas and I saw.” -Anthony Merrill

“The experience of swimming with a sea turtle. That was cool.”
-Lucas George

“The octopi. By far.” -Pearce Flynn

“Probably the night dive. Seeing the eel.” -Alyssa Reetz

“Favorite thing…the night snorkeling. The octopus was really cool. It was just more exciting the reef during the day time.” -Cody Barry

“I liked kayaking, but I also like the octopus and the eel.” -Tristan Pavlik

“I thought seeing the eel and the octopus in the night snorkel was really cool.”
-Emily Burke

“About yesterday? I guess kayaking in the mangroves. So beautiful and nothing I have ever seen before. But hanging in the water after class on the beach was quintessentially fun.” -Mackenzie Gassett

“Kayaking. I love kayaking. And the starfish” -Chandler Neale

“Like one specific thing? Kayaking was a lot of fun and then from there…probably the BBQ and night dive in sequence. I really enjoyed swimming at night. Seeing the eel, octopus, and lobsters. Just really thought it was incredible. Mainly I just really enjoyed the entire day.” -Logan Wellborn

“The kayaking was cool. Really cool. But I liked the night diving, to swim around and see fish with lights. I got to see a tarpon at night and that was cool.”
-Christo Milholland

“Just being able to sit out on fossilized coral and enjoy the sunset while eating dinner.”
-Mariclaire Joseph

“Yesterday was my favorite day out of the whole entire trip. We were just like a family…we learned a lot. I loved kayaking and hopping off the boats and swimming.”
-Sari Weiss

“I liked the kayaking.” -Josephine Miller

“I liked the sea turtle. I definitely liked the sea turtle…the way it swam and following it.” -Annie Wilcox

“Probably the night snorkel. The tarpon.” -Hanna Jovine

“The BBQ. Just hanging out on the beach and talking to a an older Caymanian who worked on a lumber boat that went that all over the world.” -Anton Landauer

“The kayaking. At the end we were going really fast.” -Jamaine Gooding

“Definitely going through the mangrove canals.” -Madeline Owen

Another successful day of school.

-Christine Honan (Head Educator)


Captain's Log Archive

March 10, 2009 Santo Domingo, DRThere we were, Carinival was over and the ship’s company was looking forward to 664nm of open, off the wind sailing, 110 hours(4-5 days). Then customs shows up in a speed boat with weapons enough to invade a country. Dressed in black combat gear and the darkest sunglasses manufactured. “Just a routine check of your paperwork, Captain.” “Ok”, I say, and bring it up. I am thinking, “You need all that hardware to check up on a bunch of high school student?” All was in order of course and we upped anchor and made for Chacachacare, an abandoned leper colony. But… on our way, Trinidad coast guard comes by in a speed boat, armed to the teeth. “No way,” I think. “Captain, we need you to go tie up at the coast guard dock for a ‘routine inspection.’ ” So we strike sail and motor over to the dock.Four or five coasties and immigration guys come aboard and look through the vessel and chat for a while. One of them wants Sally’s phone number, I hear later. Then we are underway again to get to Chacachacare late and supper is at 2100 and all is well… until… customs comes by, “Just a routine inspection, Captain”. This time I don’t even come on deck. The next morning we explore the abandoned buildings on the island then get underway back to Chaguaramas for laundry and to clear out of the country, and on our way… guess who?! Yes, customs again. I have since found out that President Obama is visiting Trinidad in April and they are training their security folks. We must look like a good training ground. They love our new president as does everyone I have spoken to in the Caribbean.Now we sail and sail and sail. Glorious off the wind, never touch a sheet, rolling along and you feel like you could just go forever. This is the time that you know that sailboats are humanities greatest blend of art and nature.One night, flying fish come aboard and one hits Sari. We get 10 or so and the cook fries them up for breakfast. Sooooo good. And we get another big eyed tuna!!! We fetch the DR in 5 days. No record broken, but a good run anyway.Normally when we arrive here, we tie up and officials come aboard, etc. But Sansouci Port is legit now and I find out that “our man” Senor Benitez is no longer but they accommodate us and other than Sally getting her wisdom tooth out the students and crew have had a great time here. The cook, Mr. Hunter, gets two days off (very much deserved), the students eat out, get ice cream and go dancing along with walking the same streets as Christopher Columbus and Sir Francis Drake. No big deal!Well today we are underway for Honduras and our voyage continues!
Fair winds, Captain Flansburg


Bienvenidos a Santo Domingo

>> Tuesday, March 10, 2009

During our extended stay in the DR, we certainly have been welcomed by the friendly, outgoing and hospitable people of the country. Docked on the western bank of the Rio Ozama alongside Santo Domingo has made it easy to take advantage of exploring the 16th century Spanish colonial sights and cobblestone passageways of the Zona Colonial. We have come and gone many times through the Puerta de la Misericerdia and visited sights such as the former Spanish colonial administrative buildings of the royal court; Fortalaeza Ozama, the oldest colonial military edifice in the New World; and Catedral Primada de America, whose first stone was set under the administration of Diego Columbus. The open air and shady plazas have provided inviting spaces for our classes. In history class, we have focused on topics related to the historical importance of the Caribbean, specifically Hispaniola’s pivotal role and the rise of European colonial dominance. For literature class, the students are reading Farming of the Bones by Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat, a fictional account of the 1937 Haitian massacre in the DR under the dictator Rafael Trujillo. Yesterday, the students completed their first Marine Science exam in Plaza de la Hispanidad, covering plate tectonics, earth structure, water chemistry, and the physics of waves.
One night we took the students out to dinner to try typical dishes from Santo Domingo. They had mofongo, a plantain mash with garlic, and Sancocho, a delicious beef stew with incredible flavor. After that we took them dancing and they had a chance to try the merengue and bachata, the popular dances of the DR. Our students continually impress us with their willingness to try new things without hesitation. They have had their eyes wide open on the details of every nook and cranny.
Our group also had the fortunate experience to get off the beaten track and visit the Wild West of the DR, the most ecologically diverse region of the country. We passed through small communities dependant of fishing or farming, especially sugar cane, bananas, corn, rice, cassava, and river fish. Our stops in the roasting desert scrubland included visits to Taino petroglyphs, a massive salt water lake (home to crocodiles and innumerable iguanas) a Haitian market on the border, and a local fresh water swimming hole. Ahora todo va bien y vamos al parte oeste del Caribe. !Hasta pronto!
Christine Honan, head educator



After much fun and random inspection by the Coast Guard, we departed Trinidad. Next stop,, Dominican Republic. Approximately 700 nautical miles of open ocean. Harvey Gamage was carried along with high spirits and fair southeast winds. Still within visual range of Trinidad, a rare leather-back sea turtle was spotted during Marine Science class. Seeing such an animal in the wild is rare and everybody was excited. The next few days were filled with many fish shenanigans. We caught a tuna which our cook, Mr. Hunter, prepared perfectly for us. That was probably the best tuna I have ever had! Nights were spent dancing with flying fish “as the students went to their work with sparkles in the eyes” (Simpson, Eric). Many of us were hit by them while standing watch in the middle of the night. Sari on the other hand, went above and beyond the call of duty, smacking any fish after her out of the way and onto the deck. WE managed to have a flying fish dissection class one morning and flying fish for breakfast another morning. A pod of Atlantic Spotted dolphins guided us to our destination while playing in the bow wake. This leg of the voyage was full of excitement for everyone.
Lucas George, student



Normal wake ups today, 7:00 A.M. Still feeling sick to my stomach, even though the other students gave me the night off from watch. While I was in my rack last night I heard everyone talking about how they were going to swim with the bioluminescence. That upset me because I am doing my big science project on that. Everyone is on deck now time from chores! B-watch has deck wash, easy. After chores it’s finally breakfast. We all eat fast with anticipations running high. It only took four boat trips in good old Sherman to make it ashore. As we approached the place where we were going to beach my mind started to run wild. Can I catch Leprosy? What if there are still some people left, and now they have turned into mutants? What if I don’t make it back alive? We hit land with a boom, I made a small yelp from being in mid-thought. As I got off the boat I notice that the beach wasn’t at all sandy, it was made of all coral, rocks, and sadly trash. Christine yelled count off, which meant that free time was just seconds away, we, all 21 of us students, have to be able to say our numbers in order with out messing up, sounds easy, but believe me it apparently is very hard. I take Sam’s number in honor. Christine tells us that we have one hour to go explore. All the students booked it to the first abandoned house they could see, kicking up all the coral as they ran, leaving Christine, Annemarie, and myself alone on the beach. I took my time observing every last thing I possibly could. Everything from the creepy finger like vines that were over taking the already small passage ways, to all the shattered glass that was on the ground. I went to the second building, from the looks of it this was the biggest building. Annie, Jake, Logan, and myself had to be very careful as we stepped over the broken floor boards, because it was about a ten foot drop down below. We came to this big open room with few beds on either side with faded numbers above them. At the end of the room there was a small sign that read: WOMEN’S WARD. From there we went upstairs. The first room we came to on the right looked like a bomb had gone off, bottles and paper all over. The next room had a big table in the middle with beakers and viles and medical paper work of all sorts. We all were amazed by how much was still left from the medical clinic. On the way back, we stopped at the church and it was filled with religious quotes. We took a moment to think what it must have been like. I couldn’t even imagine being stuck on this island. I looked at my watch, three minutes. We all ran back to the beach where we first met. Boat trips had already started. I sat on the crumbling pier, thinking about all the young, sick children and how privileged I am. While I explore abandoned leper colonies for history class, my friends are stuck in a small, stuffy classroom, learning about things they will probably never see or use. I get called over, time to leave. I say my goodbyes to Chacachacare, knowing that someday I will come back and show my friends what I have seen.

Below is an excerpt from the short story “How to Escape from a Leper Colony” by the Trinidadian writer Tiphanie Yanique, which we read in literature class. It is a fictional story based in Chacachacre in 1936 about a young girl who is taken to the island. This excerpt comes at the end and describes well the state of the island today.
“Now when you sail by on your ships you will say the island is haunted. You will visit the places where we bathed and played soccer. You will take pictures of our houses, our beds made up stiffly like war bunks. The sheets still on them and the pans lying dirty in the sink. In the surgery, all the records resting open for any curious boaties to rummage through and know that someone’s leg had been chopped off… Someone;s arms were too ruined to hold her baby, someone else had been cremated. Someone had begged to be killed in his sleep. The x-rays will still be up on the x-ray machine. Our medicines, the salves that only soothed but didn’t heal, all exposed. Now the government says they will tear down everything and build hotels and casinos so that your ships have a reason to stay and spend money.”
Sari Weiss, student


Captain`s Log Archive

February 25, 2009 Chaguaramas, Trinidad

The last 2 weeks have been full of great events. Our first fish of the trip, a big eye tuna, was caught and while we were filleting the fish Robin (the science teacher) did an impromptu Ichthyology class. This fish was rather small so it was enjoyed by all hands as sashimi i.e. raw. Much to my surprise the students, who normally shy away from such things, were the primary consumers. If you have never been fortunate enough to enjoy fresh caught tuna with soy sauce and wasabi trust me when I say it is truly one of life’s great pleasures!
In other events the students were off exploring Dominica’s natural wonders and had a rare glimpse into Carib Indian culture with a trip to the Carib territory to spend some time with Carib dugout canoe builders. These men are not building canoes for show they build these seaworthy craft for working fishermen.
We stayed in the lee of the Windward Islands for the passage south to Trinidad giving us a comfortable ride, but hove to in the lee of Grenada in order to tuck a reef in the Mainsail which was a good thing too because as usual the Atlantic Ocean was waiting for us with strong winds and a big sea running. The students all took in stride like the true seafarers they are becoming.
Trinidad saw the students off again to see some of nature’s beauty and spend time exploring the north coast. Carnival was in full swing as the largest celebration in the islands students saw and participated in a parade full of dancing and music and incredible costumes. The locals were very welcoming and encouraged the students to join in.
Also we all ate heartily at local food stands enjoying “doubles” and “Roti” both Trinidadian favorites.
Students are really enjoying the trip now and the refrain of “ this is the best thing I’ve ever done!” is heard after every new experience, new people met, new foods tried, every challenge or sight.
Next we are bound for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic one of the oldest cities in the new world. This passage is important because it will be one of the longest we do for the whole trip making it the perfect time for students to test out all they have learned. I’m confident they will rise to the occasion and surprise me yet again

Fair winds! Captain Flansburg


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