Just when I thought I would go the whole long passage to the Dominican Republic without getting sea sick, my stomach turned and the gross green feel flushed upon me. Oh what a night…
I was told that this trip would push my comfort zone but I had no idea how physically and mentally challenging Ocean Classroom actually would be. I also did not realize how much more I would appreciate this accomplishment. When I went out on the head rig for the first time and I looked back aft at the ship, I was so proud of what I was doing and amazed at the beauty of the ship that we, the students of Ocean, were sailing.
Days and days at sea. It is something that people often talk about but never experience, but to spend 37 days surrounded by the churning ocean is another thing entirely. It can be incredibly monotonous at times, but unimaginable. It is a strange thing to not see land for weeks. My appreciation of land is much greater now.
I look out and see nothing but crashing waves and the dark black night sky. Occasionally the moon peeks out behind the clouds and I sit on watch as the waves crash on top of me in my foul weather gear. I look forward to solid ground after 11 days of rolling and tumbling on our way to Hispaniola. Likewise, a break from pumping the bilges. Dominican Republic, here we come!
Today the Bro’csle (Foc’sle) got shafted, it is the 24th of October as I write this, just like every other rainy day there are two waterfalls coming in through the overhead bulkhead. One onto my rack and the other on Brook’s. Sometimes it is due to heavy seas and random squalls that we encounter on our voyage. As you read this no doubt there are waves crashing onto our pillows. Classic. Sleeping in the Grundens, not so classic. Ocean is still sick!
I slit its throat and eat its heart. Yes, that’s right. We passed some driftwood, which is usually a good place to find fish and the beautiful Mahi Mahi. Klare, Megan and I each caught our own Mahi. The two vegetarians and the upbeat humanitarians are officially as salty as you can get. Yes, all three of us ate the beating heart of a Mahi. There really isn’t a need to say anything more.
Who knew I would feel at ease on a heeled over ship with the ocean spray soaking me head to toe every other wave, not to mention the fact that there is no land in sight for many hundreds of miles. After 5 days of motoring on our passage to Hispaniola, the relief and joy I felt when the wind finally arrived is indescribable. The days no longer stand-alone. They meld together only defined by watch rotations of 4 hours each. When we crossed into the tropics, Lizzie our chef made us all smoothies. We have made it to the Caribbean Sea. Who knew I would be able to catch and kill, then eat the beating heart, and fillet a 40 pound Mahi Mahi. After a long night o pumping bilges I was met by one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. Still so much to see and learn. What does land feel like? I’ve forgotten. Give the pony a kiss and a carrot for me!
Today is our 9th day at sea without any sight of land and we get excited about the rare passage of other vessels. It’s been a really long voyage but I know I will never again take land for granted. Mr. Czasak has a wonderfully colorful wardrobe, which provides me with many talking points. His 70’s style facial hair is pretty cool too. A Highlight is getting to know my watch deckhand Mickey and asking him lots of questions.
Life is hectic right now. All the days have turned into one never-ending existence.
It is tiring both mentally and physically. But it is awesome, no matter how tired or seasick, or homesick I am, I love it. Oh, and Mr. Czasak has amazing song choices that can brighten anyone’s day.
Fruit Loops. Something I took for granted before this trip. Yesterday in ditty bag class Captain Flansburg sits on the two-step with a large bowl of fruit loop in his hand. Before I even have a chance to think about it the words, “You’re killing me smalls” jump from my mouth. He says, “What, do you want a bite.” Of course I do! He scoops me some fruit loops from his bowl and holds them out for me. I reach for them and to my surprise he doesn’t pull the spoon of dried cereal away. Never in my whole life have fruit loops tasted so good. I was in awe and my jaw dropped when I realized that I had eaten from the Captain’s bowl. Oh my God!
We crossed into the tropics yesterday! I was down below in my rack when we crossed and I heard a cheer from above deck. I ignored it—I thought it was someone puking or getting nailed by a big wave. Later we mustered back aft for a celebration, smoothies! After days and days of drinking nothing but warm water, the ice-cold smoothies were heavenly. As we hung out on the cabin top, drinking smoothies, dark storm clouds started to materialize overhead. I guess that’s one thing I’ve learned to love about Ocean; the weather stops absolutely nothing. We’ve had squalls for the past day or so, so everything is wet. Sometimes I feel as though I will never be completely dry again.
As we learn to navigate the seas, we learn to navigate life. The lessons we learn can and will apply to every part of life off the boat. We know how much we are able to change and how much can change us. Ocean is amazing.
Cleanliness is a truly relative thing at sea. On the sixth day of our passage to the Dominican Republic several squalls came through. After we hastily struck our sails the crew broke out in joy over the deluge of fresh water from above. We all ran around with the communal bottle of “Joy” dish soap and soaped up our hair and bodies with the rainwater. We then took buckets of salt water and rinsed then stood basking in the rain again to rid us of the salt. Feeling almost clean now, well, the cleanest we will be for the next month.
Our voyage to the Dominican Republic has been an adventure through and through. The sea was calm at first, even tame. But now the sleeping beast has come to greet us. Frequent squalls and heavy winds abound. As of right now it feels like we will never reach the island of Hispaniola. With every passing day we grow more anxious, smelly and salty. Today the sun finally came out for a bit. And our exhausted tired faces suddenly have seemed to light up as well.
Nine days at sea. I’ve been seasick since the first day of this voyage and puking every day we’ve been sailing. There was one day where I thought the seasickness would kill me. (Although I was assured that no one had ever died from seasickness) I just can’t wait to get to Samana, in the DR and dry land. We met a lost Heron on the sea named Henry, he probably won’t make it. Can’t wait for this hell passage to the Dominican to end in a few days.
Today marks day nine on our long passage from Fernandina, Florida, to the island of Hispaniola and the Dominican Republic. Life at sea is becoming steadily easier, but at the same time I am yearning for some land. The past few days have been filled with rough weather and lots of puking. Not from me luckily, but from pretty much everyone else, some much much worse than others. Our crewmembers and educators have been laughing at us because we think 10 days at sea is a long time. We had an unexpected stow away for the past few days. Henry the great blue heron. He was probably blown out into the sea during a storm. Unfortunately, yesterday he left us. All I want is to see land, and eat cereal, lots and lots of cereal. We will hopefully reach the Dominican Republic within the next two days, and you know what that means don’t you? CEREAL!!
Sailing is pretty cool. We’ve been out for 9 days now. My bunk has puddles in it. Literally. I’ve been sleeping in foul weather gear. Other kids have been getting pretty sick and puking and its funny. The weather is hot and the water is gorgeous because we are in the tropics. We catch Mahi Mahi’s every day. Everything is good. Last night a wave crashed on me as I was falling asleep in my foulies in my bed. I’m talking about a legit wave too. I just want to go swimming for real…
Sitting in the salon, I was working on my homework. Then someone from deck yelled “Dolphins!” I quickly ran to and up the companion way (ladder to you) and across the deck. Looking forward I saw Brooks and our cook Lizzie looking from the bow. Being head rig cleared, I ran and got a harness and layed out on the head rig. Looking down, suspended a few feet over the Atlantic I could see dolphins riding the bow waves and surfacing for a quick breath under my feet. I was in utter disbelief and bliss at being able to be less than 2 feet away from these majestic creatures in their natural environment. Two calves were swimming close to the surface with their parents staying close by. For me, the feeling of being able to watch these wild dolphins is indescribable. You could never see anything like this in an aquarium or zoo or anywhere else. Only here, on the Schooner Harvey Gamage, 200 miles off the coast of the United States. These are the times I crave a future in the Marine Sciences.
Looking through a Sextant you don’t see reality, you see a fiction that you create with the turn of a dial. A fiction that helps you find reality.
We just passed into the tropics. I’m really excited to get to the DR after this 10-day passage.
>> Friday, October 15, 2010
Cumberland is Georgia's largest barrier island. At this national park we explored beach and marsh ecology.
Janelle overlooks the largest salt marsh south of the Chesapeake.
Frankie communes with the wild horses of Cumberland.
Ocean Classroom at the gates of the old Dungeness mansion once owned by the Carnegies.
A group shot in the live oak maritime forest.
>> Sunday, October 10, 2010
The past few days have been tougher than I ever could have imagined. The crew of the Harvey Gamage has experienced high winds and seas of at least 12 feet or more. I never could have imagined a storm like that out in the middle of the sea until I was staring it right in the face, We experienced more seasickness and discomfort than I ever thought imaginable. At times I found myself in a love-hate relationship with Ocean Classroom, especially as I battled feeling more sick than I have ever felt before in my life. Then 36 hours later I found myself marveling at the Atlantic Spotted dolphins which were mere feet away. Or sampling raw tuna mere seconds after the mighty fish had been dispatched on the deck of the Gamage. Ocean Classroom had me tasting Oahu and Tuna for the first time along with facing challenges I never thought could possibly exist. The most difficult challenges may still be ahead but I am going to enjoy the calm seas we now have and the smooth sailing into Charleston.
It's been incredible to see this year's Ocean Classroom students (now crew) come together with the common goal of bringing the Harvey Gamage to the Caribbean. Although, some have spent time on the ocean and most have seen the ocean or perhaps swam in her, none were quite prepared for the demands of sailing a schooner across the vastness of the Atlantic. I have witnessed a transformation before my eyes. Your students are more confident in themselves and their potential; likewise, they are confident in their shipmates and have learned to exist, work and live in one cohesive unit. No longer do they consider themselves first, no longer is it about the individual. As we say in the maritime world "ship, shipmates, self." It was a concept, at first, that was met with apprehension. However, they have come to embrace it and we are only a few weeks into this years program. You probably won't recognize the student and "teenager" you sent to Mountain Classroom to start this journey. This is a profoundly positive fact. When you see them again they will be young adults, truly. They have always been students, but now they are also tall ship sailors. I know I speak for the Captain, educational team and crew when I say we are proud to call them our shipmates.