"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

St. Eustatius and Nevis!

>> Saturday, November 7, 2009

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.
History Educator


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