Thinking back to my previous days on this long stretch of sailing, I realize how far I have come, how far everyone has come. I am no longer mindlessly following orders without understanding the purpose for my actions. Everything is beginning to come full circle as my knowledge and understanding has increased. The feeling of knowing something so different is exciting, and every day we continue to advance.
However, the most exciting part of this voyage has been going aloft. After working my way up to aloft clearance, learning my knots, and the running and standing rigging, I was finally able to go aloft with Angela. After going over the safety, I began my ascent to the top of the port side foremast shrouds. My first step on the sheer pole was sturdy, but from that point on, my legs trembled with every ratline. I could feel the ship dancing with the waves below, and the unsteady shrouds breathing with my movements. With each step I gained more stability, but less room, and soon enough I was perched on the cross trees at the top of the mast.
Focused on calculating my movements, I never had time to look down during my climb. Only when I reached the op did I peer at everything around me. I was greeted by 360 degrees of crystal clear azure waters. There was nothing else except the ship below my feet, the bird’s eye-view. Suddenly, everything was put into perspective. This ship, my temporary home, was so insignificant. Something so large, large enough to hold so many of us, was so miniscule in comparison with the tremendous seas we depended upon. The view was absolutely breathtaking. Inspiring. And although I should have adrenaline pulsing through my body, I was calmer than ever before. -- Michelle
Somewhere along the way we picked up an extra passenger – a large heron perched itself on the bowsprit and watched us while he rested. Boy did he get a good show! Two students, Matt and Andrew, climbed aloft with deckhand Angela for the first time! This is one of my favorite events to witness. In order to be given permission to climb aloft, first they must become aloft cleared which involves weeks of studying the rig, knots and safety precautions. One can imagine the smiles from the faces of these two boys as all their hard work had finally paid off!
This group of has come a long way over the past five weeks! It seems like only yesterday we were all meeting for the first time at Proctor, now those clean clothes have become dirty, and they are transforming into salty sailors. Currently they are taking on more and more responsibilities around the ship and working together seamlessly as watches. I am so thankful to be a part of this amazing adventure.
>> Monday, October 17, 2011
On October 11, at approximately 0900, a large schooner on a sailing adventure stopped in Georgia. You must be wondering why a schooner with 23 wild and crazy students and 11 adult staff would want to stop in Georgia. Well, off the coast of Georgia lies a special island blessed with magical powers. Cumberland Island is a National Seashore protected from the horrible wrath of human development. Accompanied by the wonderful and fabulous Dave Pilla (Proctor's Ocean Classroom director) the students filled their time with horse hunting, seashell finding, and jungle prowling. The live oak trees hidden by Spanish moss watched the students as they scampered across the forest floor, some barefoot and some wearing sandals. After six miles of exploring the interior landscape, they headed from the trail toward fine sand beaches and the students took the chance to swim and build sand castles. The sand squeaked beneath their feet as sand dollars and conch shells were located in the beach sand. Students did their best to cover themselves from the powerful sunrays as they spent six more miles returning by way of beach.
The cramped feet and red skin staggered to follow their shadows as the sun meltedtowards the horizon. Twenty-six schooner bums were relieved at the sight of the Harvey Gamage, still sitting pleasantly a couple hundred feet off the waters edge. The hole in the water surrounded by wood was their home for the time being. The raked masts rose elegantly from a husky hull and the neat furls slept atop the spars. With successful horse hunting, seashell finding and jungle prowling 34 excited and adventurous individuals would depart the next morning south, for a 1200 mile passage to Hispaniola.
>> Sunday, October 16, 2011
It is now October 16 and the Harvey Gamage is now bound for one last provisioning stop in Fernandina Beach, FL before heading out to the open sea. After participating in a sunrise meditation on the beach of Cumberland Island, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. It’s not often that you are able to see the full color spectrum in the sky –yellows, blues, purples, oranges, and even greens. With the moon still dutifully keeping watch behind us as the sun rose, the sight was one I will not soon forget.
On another note, with more practice hopefully Elijah and I will be able to finally memorize the lyrics to the song we wrote and attempted to perform in the ships talent show. Acts in the show included poems, ukulele performances, jokes (about Dave Pilla who happened to be visiting) and impressions. With our handy battery powered lights outlining the stage, it brought to an end a phenomenal day.
Our last day on the island held in store a twelve-mile hike through the Spanish moss laden live oaks, and then across a sun soaked beach. Along the way I was able to find whole sand dollars as well as more conch shells than I could physically hold! Everyone arrived at the boat slightly sunburned, salty, tired, but feeling quiet accomplished. A small note of sadness is in the air though as we had to bid farewell to Mr. Arrow our first mate since Gloucester. However, with the addition of Mr. Bailey in his spot, our adventure continues and seems just as promising as ever.
>> Monday, October 10, 2011
Well -- we were supposed to set sail today for Cumberland Island, but Mother Nature had different plans for us. The rain and wind have forced us to come up with an alternative schedule for the day. Luckily the friendly people at the Maritime Center here in Charlestown have provided us with a large classroom! The students have already had an English class, science class, and now they are in navigation and seamanship class where they are learning how to splice, whip the ends of rope, and stitch canvas for their home made ditty bags! Midterms are around the corner, so I think the students are welcoming the study time with open arms.
Hmm about time I write a blog entry…Hello to the people reading this! It’s really hard to describe what’s currently going on because words don’t give this kind of trip justice! You really have to be here to understand it fully, but since you all can’t be here I’ll do my best to describe it.
Yesterday in Charleston we did a walking tour of the historic district. It was really cool learning about how the city was formed, and in what ways the town had an impact on history, like how it was the first battleground of the Civil War.
Today we went to the Aquarium--it was made of pure awesome-sauce! The exhibits were amazing ranging from a salt marsh, to a deep-sea tank. During our time there we were also able to explore the turtle rehab center. I recommend people check it out because it is amazing there are places like this out there that help sea turtles.
When we were let loose in the main aquarium area, I first attempted to get my aquarium assignment done. We had certain things we had to do like interview an aquarium employee and describe our favorite exhibit. Let’s face it; we are still at school even though it doesn’t feel like it! After a while I decided to just have fun and as you’ll see in the pictures it was so worth it.
After a jam-packed day, we were given time to go ashore for dinner! Charleston is nothing like I have ever experienced before. I have been to New England and Florida, and this town is very different from what I am used to. There is a really cool vibe here! All right, it’s getting pretty late and I have work to do!
>> Friday, October 7, 2011
6 October 2011- 0900 80nm from Charleston Light
Wind NE’ly 12 kts, clear skies, good visibility
Sailing under all plain sail, starboard broad reach, 6 kts
This morning finds Harvey Gamage a hive of activity. The weather is beautiful, the main salon is filled with teachers preparing classes and blog entries, students filling out logbooks for the hour, and breakfast cleanup teams. I hear the deck watch preparing for wash down, and students “navi-guessing” in the chart room.
We shut down as soon as the Nansemond River joined the James River, at the site of the historic Civil War battle of the ironsides Monitor & Merrimac. Since, we’ve sailed at speeds ranging from 1.5kts to 9.6kts, and made fine passage- with the wind on our port quarter for much of it. I expect to be alongside in Charleston by tomorrow early afternoon. Hopefully, we’ll only fire up the engine to maneuver alongside. The forecast looks promising for this, and the students have been practicing their lines and sail handling skills.
If it hasn’t made it to the web site, I’d like to share again my pride, love, and appreciation for my hometown, family, and friends. Again, they came through to create a fun and memorable experience for the group. They won’t forget it, and loved every minute of it. What a great opportunity to recharge the ship and its company after a challenging passage south.
As for this passage… it’s the reason we all signed up for this. We had a pin chase testing the skills and knowledge of the student crew. We’ve had epic sunsets and sunrises. WE’VE CAUGHT TWO FISH!!!!!!!!!!! (Fishing credit to Matt Poutsiaka). Delicious tunnies. Last night, all hands took five minutes time out to listen to the ship, and then wrote about it… if we’re tech-savvy enough, you can listen as well, and read their reflections. In the last hour before dawn, we were again joined by dolphins- mostly unseen but announcing their presence loudly.
The ship’s company is coming together as a solid crew. All hands are meeting and exceeding the challenges before them, and looking forward to conquering the next set. We’re beefing up on skills for the next big offshore push in a week or so- the 1,200 nautical mile slog to windward. We’ll take these days as the gift they are, enjoy our next couple of ports, and then buckle down to the business of sailors again.
Captain Caroline Smith
Hello hello hello! Greetings from the ever-energetic Harvey Gamage! Ocean Classroom 2011 is in the midst of our longest passage so far… and by golly it’s quite a ride, between sunrises there is a constant hubbub aboard. We have been completely under wind power since our departure from the Chesapeake Bay area. The ship hit nine knots and was HAULING in big waves, winds and a wild vibe before reaching a spot of calm, during which two fish were caught, inspected and cooked. Matt, the fisherman, ate the heart of the first false albacore for good luck and we tied both fish tails to the head rigging in the name of tradition. Our Marine Science teacher Jason walked us through the workings of these fishies, one of which had been chomped on by a shark before being caught. The marine life doesn’t end here, a smack (group) of jellyfish floated on by, followed by yet more pods of dolphins. Bow watch was my first hour of watch tonight where ‘B watch’ had sunrise watch 0400-0800, during which about six dolphins played in the wake of the bow and because of the bioluminescence they were like little ribboned rockets, silvery and shooting forward and aft. And the soft little “puufft” as they surfaced was a perfect way to watch the sun peak up over the horizon. As the Gamage nears Charleston the air feels warmer and the sailing gets better, a fresh breeze has struck our sails and everything is going, going, going. Everyone is loving life in the big blue. Which is big… and blue.
>> Sunday, October 2, 2011
After leaving the history laden location of Mystic, we set sails for the Chesapeake Bay. This trip has been saturated with novel experiences and the sail from Mystic to Chesapeake was another first for the students. We were at sea for 3 days. When the ship is at sea for multiple days it becomes more alive than usual with spirit and movement of bodies. The spontaneous interaction with a natural medium joined with the necessary operations of the ship imbue every moment with action and decision that dictate the future in a very real and actual sense.
The students are getting there sea legs and gaining the knowledge that they will require to facilitate the ship and her duties. Some are nervous, but becoming aware and comfortable—others seems as if they have been at sea for years. Regardless of the various emotional senses of belong, we are all becoming aware that this is our home—this collection of wood and steal is our vessel of discovery and adventure.
The evening before we approach Chesapeake Bay we encountered some high winds and moderately heavy seas. The students were, at times, frightened by the inherent power of the sea, but were also enriched with pride and excitement for their ownership and responsibility of becoming seafarers. After some seemingly long hours in the dark navigating our passage into the Chesapeake Bay we arrived at our anchorage at sunrise--seamlessly beginning a new day in this enticing world of our own creation.
Going ashore with Captain Smith's family we were entertained and educated on the oyster and crab fisheries by those who know it best: local individuals that have fished and lived in these waters for generations. The students were able to develop their field notebooks and be hands on with the creatures they were inspecting. Academic credit was being established through this field day, but was seemingly secondary to the wonderment provided by the creatures that lay in their hands. After the measuring, illustrating, investigating, lecturing, and discussing their came a few instances of ingestion of raw oysters. It was enjoyed.
Following the educational day on the salt marsh we were introduced to more educators, family, and friends as we had a proper crab feast on the James river. Sitting on the dock, listening to conversations about adventure, the times to come aboard, and the subtle water lapping at the beautiful wooden skip-jack in her slip, we all enjoyed the festive and restful atmosphere before departing back to our home: The Harvey Gamage. Bellies full and spirits high we sang songs and recounted the day. Sleep was sound and long as we are at a peaceful anchorage, but we all await what adventures will evolve in each moment to come. We extend our salty and warm regards to all of you and will update you when able.
P.S. I apologize that I am unable to provide any images this time, but technology and time are not permitting.