"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

First Impressions

>> Monday, February 7, 2011

Our students' first writing assignment for literature class:

Ocean Classroom has been amazing though only a few days have passed since our arrival in St. Thomas.  We were taken out to the Harvey Gamage.  There we were greeted by two bottlenose dolphins.  Theirs was probably one of the most heartwarming displays I’ve ever seen.  They hung around the boat swimming right up to the hull at times.  When we moved to another bay close by they followed and remained for most of the night.  They finally moved on in the morning.  Then on the 6th we had another unforgettable experience.  We were anchored off Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands.  We went snorkeling on the reefs near the island and it was more beautiful than I can possibly describe.  Brightly colored fish were everywhere.  The water was perfect and so incredibly clear.  Between the colorful aquatic life and friendly dolphins, I know I wont forget this voyage.

The color of the Caribbean is something that strikes me more than anything else.  Besides the brilliant light blue of the water and the rich green of the hills, there are the colors of the houses.  Cheerful yellow, reds, purples, and blues are something that my eyes, color starved from the drab of the Maine waters, can drink in for hours.

These past four days have been very interesting.  Learning about the boat, about our duties, and about life on board is happening really fast.  The best part so far was taking in the dark the first night we were sailing in what I thought were big swells.  Thankfully I didn’t get seasick.  Time is going by quickly already and I’m having a good time.  I can’t wait for everything else I am going to experience.

There is nowhere else I’d rather be right now.  I’m living days to the fullest; hence it feels like I’ve been here longer than a week.  This is already the greatest experience I’ve had in years.  By 8:00 today we accomplished and learned more than during an entire day at home.  Yesterday in the tropic waters off Tortola, we hiked to the summit of Norman Island.  There I realized I h knew how to conduct boat checks, fill pump logs, tie knots, and names sails; knowledge I drank up in the past few days of sailing.

Ben H:
So far the voyage has been awesome.  My shipmates are great and the crew is amazing.  The educators are fantastic and the captain is a really good guy.  There is a lot of hard work involved but this trip has already been one of a lifetime.  I’m very excited to continue the voyage and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity.

Out first night was humbling.  The boat was rolling and every time I went below I lost all control of my stomach.  I got no sleep but finally I was able to eat some saltines which helped immensely.  Even though I felt horrible and couldn’t sleep it was quite peaceful and soon I got used to the wave motion and simply sat on deck watching the swell roll past the boat.  The sunrise the next morning was unbelievable and staying up all night gave me time to reflect.  Everything out here has a purpose, even seasickness.

Solitude is nowhere on this boat.  In a away it is refreshing.  I enjoy talking to people and learning about them.  I almost learn more about myself from others than it I had solitude.  I am happy.

Ben VA:
The past few days have been tough.  I’m working muscles I normally don’t work, and I’m struggling to figure out what’s going on.  It’s a lot of work, but in the end I think it will be rewarding.  Sailing around the Caribbean can be a once in a lifetime experience.  We have to take good care of the ship.  It is fun being dirty though. 

We did a lot of fun things on the Harvey Gamage.  Yesterday we went snorkeling.  I had never seen that many kind of fish together at the same place.  It was amazing to see the life in the water.  Just after that we went hiking on Norman Island.  At the top of the mountain we had a very great view of the sea and watched a beautiful sunset with a rainbow just beside.

One week ago, I stood sturdy.  Feet moving flawlessly across the ground, my balance unmatched.  Yet when boarding the Harvey Gamage I was put in a peculiar situation having to concentrate at every moment to refrain from ending up on the sole.  As the days passed, my balance increased, allowing me to walk without inhibition.  It wasn’t until we arrived in Road Town and went ashore that I felt that same lack of balance.  This time, however, I was ashore.
The Harvey Gamage is many things.  The ship itself is big, majestic and beautiful.  Sailing through the sea on it is different, very different.  She rolls, rocks, and pitches in the waves.  It is sickening, literally.  While underway-on Gamage seasickness is typical and understandable.

Yesterday we climbed Spy Glass Hill on Norman Island, often thought of as the basis for the novel Treasure Island.  When we reached the peak at sunset, our sunburned faces and hand beginning to callous seemed at rest.  The views of Tortola, Dead Chest Island, and an assortment of Caribbean Islands were perched upon the teal crests of the ocean we now call home.  We had pure silence, certainly juxtaposition from our cozy racks.  Silence was never something I appreciated, and while sitting on those rocks I was overwhelmed by the simple sound of silence.

Coming into port at Tortola, tears welled up in my eyes.  It had been nearly ten years since I had set foot in the Caribbean.  The pastel colored houses and open squared reminded me so much of my home, St. Lucia.  I could not believe I was actually there!  That first step onto the pavement, I will never forget. 

Night watch was demanding, physically and mentally.  Standing up 12-4 sounds difficult until you do it: then it’s grueling.  However, I cannot think of a better feeling then being relieved from watch and resting my head on my pillow.  Within a couple of minutes I was in a deep sleep.

Freshly sun kissed skin, stiff tussled hair, dirt and grime between each wrinkle and crevasses of my skin.  There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.  Standing bow watch with the sun eating down on my back, sweat beads trickle down my forehead until each hour that passes30 or 40 new freckles appear – some in places I didn’t expect.  From my knees to my toes.  My fingers are beginning to blister at the base.  There’s nothing that compares to the smell of the salty ocean.


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