First came a three or four warblers who lost offshore, decided to catch a free ride. They landed on our rigging, flew around catching insects, and eventually, stripped of their natural wariness by the sheer novelty of the situation, started landing on peoples arms, heads, hands and with a marked preference for Mr. Hunter.
Although the warblers were extremely popular they were by no means the only visitors. The sea was filled with by the wind jellyfish, all of whom seemed to be headed south, becalmed like us but having no engine. Dolphins visited twice, looking up at us from some of the clearest water we’ve yet seen. A young shark passed on some indeterminate mission of his own by without paying us the slightest attention. We turned the ship around to look for a sea turtle spotted by captain, simply enjoying ourselves on our flat patch of ocean.
As the sun set much of the ship’s company still lingered on deck, talking and laughing. The visits of so many animals in such an unexpected place had in some way washed away all the malaise normally associated with motoring through a calm, leaving the Gamage a happy and contented ship.
Eric Simpson (Second Mate/Engineer)
St. Petersburg, FL April 4, 2009
After taking fuel in G.C. We are underway bound for Guanaja in Honduras 300 N.M. away. With a fine Tradewind we make good time and I remind the students to enjoy it while they can as we are soon out of the Caribbean and won’t be having beam reaches and sunny days forever, but that is the future.Coming into Guanaja is a little tricky with lots of Coral Reefs for which the island is famous. I put the first mate up aloft to spot the for me and the tender ahead to sound out the bottom with a lead line while doing this I realize that this is probably the same way Columbus came into this harbor over 500 years ago we couldn’t use the radar as it was still in disrepair and the GPS is sometimes unreliable down here due to old chart datum that has never been accounted for. I thank all those old navigators who have come before and the ones who taught me the skills we are now passing on.
We come to anchor and have some time to look around at this magical place tall with lots of trees making a recovery from hurricane Mitch years ago. The main “town” is mostly on stilts and after a short while we are cleared in.In what has become typical of this voyage Miss. Honan quickly finds the best boat operator on the Is. And the students are off seeing some of the last live coral reefs in the world.On our second night we take the students out to a restaurant owned by some very nice Germans who feed us roast pork and Spetzla (German pasta) a good time is had by all.Next day we are bound for the USA 750 NM distant. The students are really coming into their own now and we are trusting them with more and more responsibility they are all studying hard for midterms and navigating and sailing and cleaning and…… I really am pleased at how well they take it all.We have a couple of great sailing days with one day of 190 nm falling just shy of the coveted 200 mile day.
As we approach the Yucatan channel and leave the tropics mother nature shows us her stuff buy sending a cold front our way all hands have plenty of time to get ready and the ship is as prepared as she can be for this event. Finally we see the line approaching with lots of rain and lightning as the lightning gets really thick and close I order all student hands below. And the cold front passes in the classic manner temperature drops, lighting strikes all around, rain falls and the wind comes around 90 deg. One bolt of lightning comes so close that Mr. Simpson and John Fagan feel a shock! After all this the wind dies and we have to motor student Anthony Merrill and B watch Navigate as we make our way to the anchorage south of Mullet Key A huge American flag on the key welcomes us home.
Fair Winds, Captain Flansburg
>> Saturday, April 4, 2009
Yesterday was the first day of no reviews or midterms. Shortly after waking up, my fellow students and I got into two vans and were driven to Weedon Island Preserve. Upon our early arrival, we were able to look at the interactive cultural and ecological exhibit to learn about what the place was about. After a short walk on the boardwalk on the edge of the mangrove and a picnic lunch on the observation deck, we met Steve, the man in charge of the kayaks.
As we really became entrenched in paddling through the mangrove forests, I declared it was “like being Lewis and Clark.” We were surrounded by mangroves on both sides and and were going through tunnels with mangrove up above us as well. There were crabs, lizards, snakes, and we spotted a black crowned night heron hiding in the prop roots. After more exploration and capsizing a few of our kayaks, it was time to head back top the vans.
After returning to the ship, it was the first night that we had the chance to use our cell phones in over two months. Everyone was happy since we also had our first mail drop with letters. All in all it was a good day before spring break.
Anton Landauer (Student)
Along our transit north, we were accopanied by pantropical spotted dolphins, by the wind sailors, skip jack tuna, wahoo, flying fish and a lone pigeon. Since our return to the states, we have been busy with midterms, four square tournaments, and a long kayak paddle through Florida mangroves located in Weedon Island Preserve. The 3, 700 acre preserve is situated along the western shores of Tampa Bay and supports a rich coastal system of mangrove forests, open mud flats, pine flatwoods and maritime hammocks. Walking and paddling we enjoyed our interactions with many of the local inhabitants such as the gopher tortoise; ospreys; leaping mullets; rays; little blue, great blue, and black crown night herons; egrets horseshoe crabs; and the native flora. Perhaps a side of Florida many people do not see. Our pictures from this latest expedition through the mangrove tunnels have been lost- shucks. However, at this point you will get to hear about it all from the student and crew over the up coming break.
Christine Honan (Head Educator)
Night diving was a whole new experience. As we jumped in to the chilly (not colder than Maine) water, within the first five minutes we see a sea turtle, an octopus, Christmas tree worms and a moray eel. It was amazing to see all of the animals that come out at night.
Our last dinner was off the ship at Caribbean-German restaurant. The owners, Annette and Hans, were very generous. The food was delicious and everyone had a perfect time. Our last night on anchor watch was very windy and rainy, but it was all made up the next day when we got to visit the “town on stilts.” Antonio and his son, Homer, who drove us on their small dive boat, took us in one last time. The town was really interesting, filled with many dockside stands to enjoy local food and drinks. The whole experience was really great and everyone had an “awesome” time. We were reluctant to leave, but excited at the same time to actually reach Florida.
Cody Barry (student)
March 19th, 2009 Grand Cayman Island
Finally! Underway. Done with impacted wisdom teeth and ship surveys we sailed out from Sto. Domingo bound west hoping for the Bay Islands Honduras .the wind was fair but very light so we made slow but steady progress to the west the students quickly regained their sealegs and started earning aloft clearances many were challenged by going aloft for the first time facing a fear of heights on a moving ship is no joke but once back on the relatively firm deck they all agree that it is a very good experience . After a few days I put into practice my Jack of all trades and pulled Sally’s one stitch from her now healed wisdom tooth extraction. She didn’t even flinch . meanwhile the ships radar decided to give us some trouble not a big concern for the Caribbean but being an important tool we made an unscheduled stop in Grand Cayman which has turned out to be a top rated stop from most of the students the amount of sealife seen and coral reef experience not to mention the wonderful folks here was incredible. But Tempus Fugit so we are bound away once again tomorrow for the west and hope for yet more and better adventures in the future as our time in the tropics comes to an end.
So till next time Fair Winds Capt. Flansburg.