On Thursday, we were back in English Harbor, Antigua for a couple of last minute errands and a rare opportunity for a fresh water shower for those who chose to indulge. This day we had the pleasure of bringing local sailing historian Alexis Andrews aboard for a discussion about “Vanishing Sail” in the Caribbean. Alexis is currently working on a project to preserve and bring light to the Carricaou ship building tradition. Before the large steam and container ships were prevalent in the Caribbean much of the inter-island trade was done by locally built sloops. A few of them still exist today and a small community of boat builders also still exists keeping these traditions alive. Alexis is currently making a documentary about these peoples and ships and we wish him the best on his project.
Friday we were underway again, bound of Dominica. We had a deadline, for one of the Caribbean’s best open air markets is on Saturday in Dominica. We pressed on as much canvas as we could, setting the fisherman sail. This sail sets between the fore and main mast and greatly increases our sail area. We are not always able to use this sail because it doesn’t carry well to windward but the wind was in our favor. We gained over ½ a knot in speed helping us reach Roseau, Dominica in time for the market!
Overall it was a great week filled with new experiences, and I’ve only mentioned the new sail related ones that occurred. Much time was also spent exploring and snorkeling at new reefs, shopping in the markets, hiking through the forests, and meeting with locals. As a crew member, I have enjoyed so much being able to share my love of the sea and sailing with the students and get so excited everytime I see them meet a new challenge and conqueror it. I look forward to all the new experiences and challenges we will meet as this trip continues.
>> Saturday, February 11, 2012
Two weeks into the program, students were asked to describe their home, SSV Harvey Gamage, in a few sentences. Here is what some churned out:
“The Harvey Gamage is a loud vessel, never quite, never shy. The floor boards creak, the sails flap, the motor roars, dishes clink and clank, things fall. (We fall too.), but, she’s fearless. I say she’s beautiful.” – Patricia Tapia
“Her wooden bones are etched with time, knowledge tucked in every crack. Her salty perfume lingers in my nostrils as I inhale her breath. She cradles us asleep and shakes us awake, never idle, she slips on. Gamage is our mother, our vessel, our wings to far off places.” – Iyla MacArthur
“The walls of the boat whisper constantly, telling stories of long ago.” – Soren Walljasper
“The sails are my favorite part of the boat. They humm, buzz, and vibrate in strong variable winds until a harmony is formed between the jib sheets and the fore and main halyards.” – Claire Madden
“The galley smells like mom cooking apple-amazing-pie.” – Peter Kammerer
“The deck is a sacred area of the ship. It changes hands with every watch and holds every crewmember responsible for its daily upkeep.” – Libby Arford
“This new home of ours stands by us strong and proud through our joy and our fears, it groans in empathy as we stand bow watch at 0100 and rocks us back to sleep as we lie deep within its hold.” – Tegan Maxey
- To Gamage with love from its humble occupants
Our last morning, on February 3rd, in Trellis Bay started with a refreshing snorkel on the nearby reef. Despite the strong winds and choppy seas we were able to enjoy the diversity of the reef and I, personally, was thrilled to see a beautiful Acropora cervicornis (staghorn coral) colony. Following the excursion, it was again hands on the windlass, as we prepared to get underway to Statia (St. Eustatius). The Anegada passage was quite forgiving and we made it to our destination in under 36 hours.
In the waters of Statia, we got our first view of the textbook “volcanic islands”. We hiked the extinct “Quill” on Sunday and ate lunch in its crater after having dragged ourselves up and down the highest point on the island. The next day was filled with classes and walks through the historic town of Oranjestad. Evenings entailed refreshing swims prior to delicious meals and were usually followed by reading, music and relaxation.
We left Statia on the 7th of February, bound for Antigua. With the Eastern Trade winds and Northern Equatorial current against us we took 3 days to arrive at our destination. The length of our passage was valuable for making steady progress in the art of sailing and program academics. With our colors flying, we sailed into English Harbor, Antigua, tall and proud on the morning of February 10th.
Over the last two days we’ve learned about the history and culture of Antigua, hiked its impressive cliffs and swum its refreshing waters. The plan for the next few days is to give Gamage some tender loving care and if possible explore the local marine systems before getting underway to our next destination.
- MAHIMA JAINI
Marine Science Educator
Everything floods my brain so quickly – I wonder if having too many new experiences will overload a person’s brain. If it does, then I’m probably very close to that overload. This world is so different from home – there is so much to learn and so much to know. Everyday life itself is foreign. The rhythm of the ship takes time to adjust to.
All students are woken up at 0700 and are given fifteen minutes to muster on deck and be prepared for morning chores. In a half-asleep daze, this task was difficult to accomplish at first. After a week, though, we have all fallen into the rhythm o the ship. Morning chores consist of three different tasks: “Sols and bowls” is the sweeping and scrubbing down of all the bulkheads, sols and heads below deck; “Brasso” finds a person polishing all of the brass on the ship: pinnacle, rails, bell and other bits around the deck; “Deckwash” follows with scrubbing down the decks with high pressure fire hoses and deck brushes. Each of these take about half an hour, and by eight in the morning it is time to eat breakfast.
Many actions on board require such attention to detail. The Harvey Gamage is the all-providing mother to us all. She is our home and our bed; our school and our workplace. We must take care of her with love so that she will, in turn, provide for us.
This home is beautiful, and the community here is family. Many of us may be strangers now, but in four months I’ll know these people better than my actual family.
>> Friday, February 3, 2012
Trellis Bay, BVI, Home of the Gli-Gli
Most outsiders might not believe that the 32 of us just started our voyage a week ago. We are already familiar with each other’s sleeping and eating habits, to say the least. Students are literally “learning the ropes”. Classes have begun and people are acclimating to shipboard life. Our days are occupied with the study of our ship, the ocean, the surrounding maritime history and literature. We left the US Virgin Islands on January 29th and made our way to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) perfecting our tacks, familiarizing ourselves with the safety protocols and priming our ship for harbor visits.
Our BVI explorations began at Peter Island where we did an early morning snorkel to get an underwater view of the nearby reef. The same day we found ourselves on the streets of Road Town, Tortola and gorged ourselves on delicious West Indian food at the infamous Roti Palace. The ladies even let us prepare some of our own roti. We concluded our day by walking the back roads of the bustling capital to their tropical botanical garden. In this botanical paradise we found orchids, calabash trees, banyan trees among others and participated in the first port report of our voyage.
We have been safely anchored at Trellis Bay for the past two nights. The folks in Trellis Bay welcomed us ashore and have been sharing their knowledge, expertise and experiences of living and ancient Carib (Amerindian) cultures. Students repainted the bottom of the traditionally built dug-out canoe, “Gli Gli”, an instrumental vessel for reestablishing connections between Carib island people. The “Gli Gli” Project is a symbol of Carib unity, and we were lucky enough to spend all day with a co-founder of the project and one of the Carib sailors.
After painting “Gli Gli” we visited the Good Moon organic farm outside of town. Here the students helped harvest cassava and prepare the soil for future crops while overlooking breathtaking views of turquoise Caribbean waters.
We are holding classes ashore today while we have an even keel. Tomorrow we hope to be underway once again.
For more information about the “Gli Gli” Project check this link: http://www.aragornsstudio.com/CaribCanoeProj.htm
-CHRISTINE HONAN SIMPSON, ABBEY LITMAN & MAHIMA JAINI
Educators, Harvey Gamage.
February 2, 2012, Trellis Bay, Tortola, BVI.