"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

Luperon, DR

>> Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Luperon Day 1
• By 1000 we had boarded our bus for Puerto Plata, it was an adventurous ride. Baggage, students and a few foreign guests crammed in to view the country- side as we rattled up and down mountains, past stray donkeys, meandering cows and a million and one motorbikes. Our journey was marked with a pit stop to add air to a tire, a second stop to change said tire and a final, slow, stall as we entered our destination of Puerto Plata and ran out of gas. Personally, I have experienced such situations a million times, but the tropical backdrop made it seem more exciting, more urgent. In reality, it was your average delay, and I have never had such a short wait after running out of gas. Our leader from the Village Mountain Mission, Chris Percy, was there to pick us up in under ten minutes. We were off to Luperon.

• Once we arrived in Luperon we talked with Chris about the living quarters, settled in, and took a walking tour of the town.

• That evening we enjoyed our first home-cooked meal of the week and prepared for our first night in our snug hammocks. I am rather embarrassed to admit that I was the first to flip over, but not the last.

Day 2
•We awoke to a cacophony of roosters, insects, lizards, donkeys, cows, screeching pigs, and the rev of early morning motorbikes. The students had taken to their hammocks and enjoyed a restful sleep despite the unfamiliar surroundings.

• After breakfast we piled into the work truck to head out into the country. We spent the morning touring two villages in which VMM had built homes. The students were able to meet a variety of families who welcomed us into their homes for a tour, allowing the students an opportunity to observe the style of home we would be building.

• We returned to the compound for lunch and to change into our work clothes.

• The village we would be spending the week in is known as Diecisiete. On our arrival we were met by the family we would be building for, Seneida, Antonio & Meiri. Looking back it seems like we were always there, as if the village had somehow always been familiar. Like it was waiting for us.

• On the first afternoon we managed to dig out the foundation and move all the cinder blocks to the site. All the while, playing with the local children, learning better Spanish and working as a team. It will remain one of my favorite memories to think of my students jumping into the project with such efficiency and grace. As they carried blocks, they also carried children in piggyback or on their shoulders. They never once complained about the mud or heat or heavy labor. The feeling of pride is a great gift to be given by those you invest so much energy into teaching.

• The crew of the Harvey Gamage ended the day tired and happy…

• We spent the day on site laying blocks and mixing our first massive batch of cement. Blisters began to form as the gravity of this project began to take hold. The monotony of this work was interspersed with children coming home from school and looking to play games and our students comparing new-formed blisters and bulging biceps.

• After work we made a brief stop at a local beach to cool off and relax for a few moments. The irony of this visit was that backing the beach was a giant, gated resort standing in complete juxtaposition to the emaciated village we had just returned from.
This irony was not lost on the students, after dinner we had a great discussion about the day’s events and many of them brought up this observation. This is another great example of how the students are truly living in the moment.

• Another full day of work, mixing cement, paving blocks, the transportation of endless buckets and wheel barrels full of sand, gravel, cement, and water. The result was amazing, we had completed five layers of block, framed out the doors & windows and under Charlie’s carpentry eye, built the frames for the windows and doors. The blank piece of land from a few days ago was beginning to resemble a house!

• I must mention that every day we spent on the worksite we were treated like old friends by the locals. Carmen, one of Seneida’s new neighbors, made us homemade treats every day; fried plantains, empanadas, fried onions & cornmeal, vanilla pudding. Always a delicious treat. The language barrier dwindled everyday added by the patience of people like Carmen, Seneida and {some of the best teachers} the children.

• At the end of the workday we went to town to use the internet and make phone calls, always exciting for sailors at sea.

• That night we had quite a bit of rain and wind, no better time to tell ghost stories. After bouts of laughter and screams we zipped into our hammocks questioning every nighttime sound…


• A well deserved day off ! The day began with a gorgeous sunrise, not a rain cloud to be seen. The students were ready and waiting by 0800, ready to explore the Isabella, Columbus’s first settlement in the Caribbean. I will never forget their faces when they heard the roar of 17 motorbikes pull into the driveway instead of our typical mode of transportation. Cheers and a standing ovation greeted the surprise. The students quickly chose their driver, hopped on back and poof – instant biker gang. We were motley looking bunch attracting lots of attention as we drove through many small villages en route to Isabella.

• Our destination in Isabella was the Columbus museum, located at the site of his first settlement in the Caribbean. The museum was built in 1992 to celebrate the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of the New World. The museum contained the site of Columbus’s home, a few interesting artifacts and a cemetario that is most likely a replica, The students had a history class to discuss the aspects of the museum and the Dominican’s feeling on this historical figure. The Dominican government had planned it to become a huge tourist attraction, opening in 1992 to celebrate the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’s landing. A bit of irony as Columbus’s occupation of the area brought tragedy to the natives, and 500 years later building such monuments taps economic resources that could be better used for the welfare of the people.

• After our return from Isabella the students divided in to two groups to alternate between horseback riding and a couple hours at the beach. For many of the students it was their first experience on a horse, yet within minutes they were at ease in their saddles. Apparently we have quite a few natural cowboys in the mix.

• Before dinner the students had the opportunity to meet with students from the George Washington after school English program. The Dominican peers were eager to practice their English, learn about the crew of Harvey Gamage and their homes abroad, and even shared with us a touching skit demonstrating the amnesty of the Dominican Republic in Haiti’s time of need…

• Dinner was quite eventful as it began in the middle of a torrential downpour. We were all huddled in the girls’ sleeping quarters eating supper when we had an unexpected guest, a not so cute and furry tarantula. Screams erupted as we scattered in all directions away from the beast. Despite the fact that these arachnids are harmless, they still posses an alarming presence. It seems the rain had brought out all sorts of 8-legged critters. All around are specimens of a dozen different spiders displaying their agility at catching passing months and mosquitoes; of course this led to more story telling…

• As the evening approached, what better way to end then with Literature class? The students gathered together to discuss their reading of Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat. It was a lively discussion as the students applied their experiences in the DR to the opinions and experiences of the characters. There is nothing better then reading a story and living in the location in which it takes place, it almost feels as if you may encounter one of these characters as you cross the street.

• Back to work with one major goal in mind- finish the walls, 5 more layers of block. Once the students got into the groove of squaring up walls and lying on the block, progress was rampant. By 1600 we had finished the last layer, cleaned up and ready for a stop at a local swim hole.

• After dinner we all sat around a nice big bonfire and enjoyed some fine music by our resident artists Ian and Abi. Unfortunately, the rain cut the camp-side hour a bit short, so we once again huddled up for some ghost stories. Yet again the rain brought out a few 8-legged creatures to clear the night of pesky skeeters. Most of us had become accustomed to their presence and sat watching their delicate movements. Still, it wasn’t uncommon to hear a scream echo from the head as a critter startled the occupant. We all agreed that one of the many wonderful aspects of sailing, is the absence of bugs at sea.

• Another day of mixing cement… hard, dirty, work worth every second. By the end of the day we had poured the header, after leaving it to dry for the night we would be ready to put the roof on. Before us stood a slightly unfinished home, all the more motivation to work through the next day- full force.

• That night after dinner three couples, who were past years’ recipients of homes through Village Mountain Mission, stopped in to share with us a bit of Dominican culture. Their objective: to teach 17 gringos how to dance meringue and bachata. A fun-filled night ensued as myriad left feet marched and slid along to the percussive taps of a torrential down pour on the zinc roof that accompanied the music pumping out of the speakers. At the end of the night our twinkle toes turned into lead weights as we made our way through the mud and back to camp. Needless to say, a good work out all around.

• Our last day on the site…it sort of feels like we have always been here. I stand amazed as I look at the structure before us, we just built a house! It truly is amazing what a group of people can accomplish by working together. What an amazing gift to give someone, a new home.

• After our last day on the site the general mood was one of joy. We returned to the compound to clean up and enjoy one of our last nights in Luperon.

• We all seemed to gravitate together, discussing the past week and plans for the next day. We shared stories as we cleaned the last bits of cement from our toes. Then, of course, gave each other pedicures. The boys even joined in… all for one and one for all.

• Our last day in Luperon was filled with activity. We began the day with a visit to the 27 cascades, a series of waterfalls falling through a rainforest. As we donned lifejackets and helmets it became obvious this was not going to be your typical hike. The guides hiked us up the first 7 waterfalls, teasing us the entire way. Once we reached the top, it was time to go back down… jumping and sliding down the falls back to the first clear pool of water. It was great fun and left us feeling elated and cleaner then we had been since arriving in St.Thomas.

• After lunch we loaded back into the truck and headed out to a neighboring village where we hosted a mini carnival for some local children. We set up outside of their one-room schoolhouse and invited them to join us in a variety of games. Dan had an instant basketball game underway, the girls began face painting and polishing nails, kite flying, 3 legged races, pato, pato, ganzo {duck, duck, goose}, tug-of-war and freeze tag filled the rest of the afternoon.
• The moment of truth came after the carnival. We brought Seneida and her children back to her new home. Johnny, Dylan, Charlie, Chris and Jesse had volunteered to put the last few pieces of zinc roofing on. It was an emotional experience to stand with this family that had been living in a dwelling no better then a shack for the last few years, watching as new homes were built all around them. Tears were certainly shed and the gravity of this experience began to descend upon us.

• For our last evening we had a crew dinner at one of the local restaurants. It was a fantastic meal, and well deserved. We returned to the compound for a few hours sleep, as we needed to be on the go by 0230.

DAY 10
• We arrived home safe and sound after wicked long day of traveling. The students held up well despite the early departure. We all eyed Gamage with appreciation and affection as we neared the harbor. After a week of manual labor and sleeping in hammocks the schooner life feels like 4 star accommodations.

This week was an extraordinary experience that is difficult to put in words. I only wish I could bottle the sounds, smells, colors and voices of the world around us. I imagine that it will take a few days at sea before I {we} are able to fully articulate the significance of this experience. At this moment I know two things; none of us are the same people as we were before this project and I am extremely proud of these students. I am grateful to have them as my shipmates and look forward to the next two months of this fine journey.


House Building!

>> Monday, March 15, 2010

The student crew is  currently in Luperon, DR for about the next week working on our service mission with the "Village" Mountain Mission, where we are building a modest home for Ceneida and Salvador and their kids Meirdi, Antonio, and Samuel. The house will be 18' x 20' with a small porch, built of concrete block and poured cement.

This morning we toured the La 17 pueblo of "La Savanna," and checked out some houses built by the Village in the past. After lunch, the tours ended and we got to work lugging 500 cement blocks and digging a footer for the foundation. Tomorrow we'll mix and pour concrete and start laying block.

The village kids were on hand the whole afternoon, and we've been making friends by the dozen. Internet access is not the best, so we'll be posting a complete update with pictures in a few days.

Before we came to Luperon, we spent a day at the National Park in Samana and had "Schooner Olympics," a nautical challenge won by C watch. More to come!!

All are well,



Student Poetry and Short Stories

>> Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Caribbean" by Abi Campbell

Beleaguered with their history
once white invaded the islands
yet the rhythm of their indigenous
lives still beats; now harder then ever
Appreciation of breadfruit; lingering
above the dark skin
inherited by those souls
have been painted into the soil.
Voices of wave, calling out to life
breaking through the tension
of humid air
an air wishing to tell
the story of humanity

"Arriving" by Dan Dickinson

As I walk out of the airplane
I am thinking goodbye Maine
When I look at this lovely place
You should of seen my shocking face

All of the sailing I have learned
In the process I am completely burned
As the Caribbean stands alone
I am completely blown.

"This Island" by Macy Lamson

She takes care of us
She despises us
We sing praises, loud rhymes of love
Ever hopeful that she’ll let us go home

She is nature
She is the laughter of the sailor’s desires
We have a perfect love,
But a broken friendship

So, over the seas, we shall sail
The journey will be an exciting tale
Over the seas our quest is done
Only because she let us have fun

"These Islands" by Lee Brown

On the clouds we will meet
with the moon at our feet
and the sun’s glow is gone,
its only us in this dream

Mingled wine is our claim,
in this murderous fate,
and our black grief is here,
but its eve is of late,

When the full moon shines tonight,
we will fly from our keep,
and the blood of our fathers is alive,
and love will lie in restful sleep,

till the sun shines upon us,
we will dance in the night,
with the light of the moon,
and the love of the fight

with their screams in the air,
we will wear this tragic mask,
and bring terror to the world,
and to all of them that last.

"A History" by Kaitlin Orne

would we have remembered if it were us?
remembered the simple sound of ourselves laughing at the moon,
singing to the stars,
playing with the other broken souls that were once treated as foul animals;
perfect people forced to live in an imperfect world.
their voyage had been chosen for them-
we got to invent ours

"My Poem" by Jesse Prothers

You lay above the geotropical equator
You are the place I was born
Your constant beauty and warmness astounds me
There is a certain bondage between you and me
The way we have changed before each other
We are similar but we are different,
You have seen pain, brutatality and bloodshed
part of you has been destroyed, a scar
that you shall bare for all eternity

You have been my life companion
like peanut butter and jelly, I am only
half a sandwich without you
We share a bond like no other
You have never been cruel to me, you are
beautiful, gentle, giant

When I return to you I am hit
with an embracing sunlight hug
You are the flower that never closes
The brightest star in the sky during the
clearest night
My desire to be with you has no limit
to fall alongside you and float in your
vast oceans would be a dream come true.

"Trinidad Garden" Short Story By. Crawford Cunningham

Every Saturday morning I get to watch the sun rise. Watching it poke through the trees on the hill across the path. I see the sun’s rays light up the pink and purple flowers around me as it warms me up. On some days, just from first light, you know if its gonna be a hot day. There are a few early morning joggers as well as people strolling the gardens at first light. Later in the mornings people begin to file in. Some groups are larger, others are just couples going for a walk. On the best mornings I get to hear the beautiful voices of the church and prayer groups that meet in the parks. Some mornings tourists will come to the park to find lush, beautiful gardens filled with colors they could never have expected. Throughout the day the people come, some to play, others to talk, and others to silently sit, contemplating things. I see all of this happening around me. Often, people use my branches as cover from the intense rays of the sun. In the evenings people come to watch as the sun sets over the horizon, “Oohhing “ and “Aahhing” as the sun dips under the earth.

“In the Garden" by Abi Campbell

A late Saturday morning in the gardens of Trinidad. Although the grass is brittle due to drought the flowers are their usual color: bright magenta, cool pink, and pastel shades of purple. Tourists and natives alike, walk past on the paved pathway weaving like a maze throughout the gardens. Little school boys in their white and black uniforms run ahead of their mothers laughing and stumbling over their young feet as their mothers gaze ahead smiling. Just across the field under the shade of a gazebo stand people singing in unision, swaying back and forth to the beat enjoying the enlightenment of their weekend church sermon. Couples holding hands stroll by admiring the tall trees but making sure to avoid the small purple flowers laden through the grass with their feet. The sound of birds chirping to one another from branch to branch in their own specific tone cancels out the sound of cars whipping past only a few hundred feet away. But as I hear the sound it brings me out of this fantasy world back to reality.


Trinidad towards the Dominican Republic

So many things for the students to learn, both about the vessel and themselves; a whole new language and way of dealing with people. For instance, in my opening line, “toward” is the important word, as aboard a ship we never “go” to a place, as it is never certain we will reach that destination, as the sea and weather may not allow us to get there. So we say we are sailing toward a place.

Days ago we weighed anchor in Chaguaramus, Trinidad and ran the engine for about 15 minutes clearing the harbor. The students know the ship well by now and most are becoming fine deckhands; sails seem to set themselves as the crew comes together pulling with a will and all give a little cheer when we shut off the engine. We will always do our best to remain honest as far as sailing goes and not use any kind of power save the wind to transport us from one place to another.

On this passage, one of my favorites, we are normally assured a steady breeze out of the east… not so fast. This time a weak cold front and a giant low pressure system in the Atlantic conspired to turn us into real sailors—light and sometimes contrary winds haunted us, making us pay attention and work hard at fetching the D.R. We studied weather faxes trying to figure the best way around or through the contrary winds. But for the most part the days are full of study, quiet contemplation, and ships routine working like a well-tuned clock. The students are dropping their pretence—no more cool kids, no more tough kids. Just shipmates. There are little happenings and you are surrounded by great small events; Jessie beats Mr. Graham in a knot tying contest; Trey is noted to be one of the best helmsmen; JB learns speed-time-distance. Students correct each other so that the ship is run properly.

And then a terrible tragedy—a seabird accidentally mistakes on one of the fishing lines for food and is caught up in it. A Brown Booby. These are my favorite birds, so graceful in flight. They follow the ship and work in our wake catching flying fish that we scare up for them. I consider them a good omen, and feared that the one we accidentally hook will turn out to be the worst kind of bad luck. Then just after dinner I’m sitting on the aft cabin house talking to the cook, and Mr. Petrillo is washing my bowl because of the rare occasion of him losing at rock-paper-scissors, when I see a log lazily drifting by the ship. We are off San Juan PR so I’m not expecting any fish, but a log is a good sign. Now I should have called a student to tend the fishing line but sometimes I can be a bit selfish. I sneak back and grab the portside handline, looking around so no one will notice and Wham! A big mahi mahi is on. My heart jumps into overdrive. The next second Mr. Graham, having noticed me sneaking around the Quaterdeck, grabs the starboard line and Wham! Another mahi is on. The lines cross the stern and almost get tangled, so we dance around each other to keep everything straight. Mr Flemming helps me get across to the starboard side, and the fight is on. With a handline it is just you against the fish so it can be hard, and I’m cursing and pleading the fish to “come on girl, get in here where I can see you,” and she looks big she sure feels big. I think I’m going to lose her because of our bad luck. But when she comes to the side of the ship Jessie is ready with the gaff. I jokingly threaten him with bodily harm if he misses and he does! Twice! “Yer killing me Jessie” I shout and he handily gaffs her the next try. She comes aboard full of fight, so lovely and full of color—gold, blue, green, she changes before your eyes and everyone is going crazy, especially as the second fish is brought aboard. They are big, glorious fish. With no scale aboard we guess wildy at the weight: 20, 30 lbs.? I don’t really know but we measure the long one and she is 44” to her tail.

I consider our bad luck absolved—thank you, you beautiful fish of many names; mahi-mahi, dolphin fish, dorado.

We spend another couple of days making for Samana, Dominican Republic, and it is my first time here. I have a deckhand aloft to spy out the reefs, the Third Mate on the radar, the Chief Mate nearby to run things on deck and the Second on the anchor. We ghost in under main and forsails all ready to run, and I leave the engine off.

We come into soundings, the ship making 2-3 knots. I lay her off and start giving commands: take in your fore sheet, on the main let go! All done in a very seamanlike fashion, the students work perfectly as a unit and we settle back on the hook, the main engine switch still in the "off" position. Welcome to the Dominican Republic!

A fine passage.

Fair winds,

Capt. Flansburg



>> Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Trinidad has been good to the crew of the Harvey Gamage! So much has happened since our last entry, it is hard to know where to begin...

The passage down from Dominica flew by in just under two days, a day or two faster than we has predicted. Gamage was flying at up to 9 knots at one point! Our first taste of Trinidad was the passage through the Dragon's teeth, a narrow inlet with strong currents. We spent much of the first day taking care of ship's business; clearing customs, class, anchoring, and checking in with port facilities.

Our first full day in Trinidad was a whirlwind of activity. We took a maxi taxi into Port of Spain, the capitol of Trinidad and Tobago, and were let off at the Botanical Gardens where we had literature class in the shade. From there we walked south, along the Queen's Savannah (Port of Spain's "central park"), into the downtown area where we shopped, tried local cuisine like doubles, visited the national museum, and learned about the political legacy of Woodford Square.

The following day was a contrast to our city-dwelling. We first visited the Asa Wright Bird Sanctuary, where we took in Trinidad's natural beauty. We then took a boat ride through the Caroni Swamp to watch the scarlet ibis roost for the night, a daily ritual of color. On the way back to the boat, we stopped in the St. James neighborhood, famous for her nightlife and array of street food. We dined on Chinese food (which is quite popular here), rotis, doubles, burgers, fries, whatever we could find that intrigued us.We slept full that night!

Our next day was full of classes at Maracas Bay, a popular spot for locals to "wine" and relax on the beach. We learned about the physics of waves, then went bodysurfing. We also ate bake and shark, a shark sandwich on a "bake" of fired dough, a lunch made famous at Maracas Bay. We then stopped in on the Invaders Panyard, one of the original steel pan orchestras, to learn more about the national instrument and to hear its sweet tune.

We are now bound for the Domincan Republic and our service project there. All are well aboard, and we're looking forward to out first long voyage at sea!



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