The students took the on role of junior watch officers on this last transit. The students rose to this challenge, and drew upon all the sailing and navigational skills they’ve learned to bring Westward safely to St. Eustatius island in five days from the Dominican Republic!
During this time, we celebrated Halloween of course, with a costume party, trivia game, scary stories, and piñata!
We went ashore on the sleepy isle commonly referred to as Statia after breakfast on November 4 and hiked to the crater of the extinct volcano. At the top, we enjoyed the views and exploring the rainforest that spilled into the crater. A lucky few saw sunning iguanas!
After exploring the old town, which is marked by colorful old Dutch architecture, we went snorkeling in front of the town. Colorful reef fish swam and hawksbill turtles hunted among remnants of old buildings and shipwrecks under the sea, including a sunken cannon.
We left early the next day for the larger island of Nevis. We anchored the bay of the green extinct volcanic island mid afternoon. We spent the rest of the day tidying up the boat, and studying literature, having a quiet productive study hall, and preparing to go ashore all the next day.
Onshore in bustling Charlestown, we visited the Nevis Turtles Group who told us about their efforts to tag the endangered hawksbill, leatherback, and green turtles that nest on the beaches of Nevis. Their efforts to track turtles and stop poaching of the animals and their eggs have helped rebuild the turtle’s populations. However, these ancient animals are still threatened by coastal development.
Emile, of the Turtle Group, graciously showed us the history of his home island. We visited the birthplace of American founding father Alexander Hamilton, the old slave market, the Jewish cemetery from the 17th century, and the ruins of the hot springs bath house where British tourists have been relaxing since the 18th century.
In the Afternoon we met Jim Johnson for an eye opening exploration of the medicinal uses of rainforest plants. Students learned which plants not to eat (because they may cause hair to fall out), and which plants have healing properties. We enjoyed Jim’s enthusiastic and informative tour up the mountainside into the primal rainforest.
We wrapped up this island day by joining Emile and his student volunteers of the Turtle Group in searching for nesting hawksbills on the beach. It was a calm, starry night, and moon light lit our search! We investigated turtle nests, and counted the number of eggs that had hatched from one nest. We retuned to Westward after midnight, exhausted, but full of the natural wonders we had seen that day.
Posted by Abi Iverson at 7:18 AM
There is certainly nothing more rewarding then arriving safely ashore after a long transit at sea. The icing on the cake is dropping anchor off a Caribbean island brimming with lush, green beauty.
Samana, Dominican Republic treated us land-starved mariners well. Our brief stay was filled with exploration and education. We began our first full day with an early visit to the open market. Narrow streets packed with venders selling everything from haircuts to crocs, diapers to lotto tickets, fresh vegetables to chicken feet. Over seated motorbikes and overloaded trucks fought to deliver their goods. A variety of stereos battled for airspace as the chatter of bargaining rose and fell to its own rhythm. Amongst all of this, the students were given some pesos and the challenge of purchasing as much fresh fruit as they could carry. They didn’t hesitate. Under thirty minutes, with pesos to spare our valiant shoppers emerged from the frays of squabbling patrons laden with bundles of native fruits.
Papayas, mangos, oranges, plantains, watermelons and a few previously “unknown” varieties were piled in the back of our days transportation. For approximately $40 US dollars, the students bought the equivalent of what $150 US dollars would buy of fresh, organic fruit in any state-side grocery store. Mission accomplished!
As we sampled some of the goods we began our drive toward the mountains overlooking the town. Before reaching our destination we had the opportunity to stop and visit a local elementary school. The students dressed in crisp, clean uniforms greeted us with shy smiles. We struggled with our limited Spanish vocabulary, as they graciously guided us through conversation. Within ten minutes the ice was broken. Apparently all it took was a game of Duck, Duck , Goose resulting in huge smiles and youthful laughter.
It was a rewarding opportunity to meet these kids, for most of our students it really brought the Dominican Republic into perspective. We were not just tourists, but travelers, and with that came the gravity of this experience.
After saying our goodbyes in both Spanish and English, we continued our travels further into the mountains. Eventually we came to our destination, the Cascadas de Limon. Our hike began with a near torrential down pour, spreading unavoidable, deep, muddy puddles up, down, left, right and center of our path. The students trekked on with the typical faces one makes as tropical mud oozes between your toes. Soon enough we reached our goal, the bottom of a majestic Waterfall. The students spent the next hour swimming, dodging in and out of the cascading water, and exploring the small caves hidden behind the sheets of fresh rainforest water. Not before too long it was time to head back through our muddy tracks.
Our friend and local contact, Martin, arranged a delicious Dominican style lunch for us at a restaurant near the trailhead. With our bellies full we relaxed and admired our lush surroundings before heading back into the bustle of town. Back on Westward our Never Fail Party Comity threw a toga party to celebrate Evan’s 17th birthday. After the festivities and dinner everyone hunkered down for study hall and an early bedtime.
The next morning began with the sunrise and another day of exploration. Once again Martin came through , this time with a large twin engine tour boat to take us over to the national park. Excited, happy faces emitted cries of “Yeeeee Haaa” as we sped across Bahia de Samana. Once at the park we toured an enormous mangrove forest and ancient caves complete with petroglyphs before breaking at a secluded beach for lunch and a swim. Of course time flies when you’re relaxing on a secluded Caribbean beach, before we knew it we were back on our mighty tall ship Westward.
As we knocked the sand off our feet, the students began preparations for setting sail toward our next destination. The voyage planning was now in their hands, watches set to work researching port information, weather, wind, and plotting our course. Shortly after we hauled anchor and set sail toward Nevis. All in all, not a bad day of school.
From all accounts Samana was a great success. We have spent the last few days discussing our experience in the Dominican Republic. The students have certainly impressed me with their detailed observances and poetic expressions of their encounters. I am proud of the travelers they have become and look forward to our next port stop.
Posted by Abi Iverson at 6:54 AM