"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

Bird Song

>> Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Our second day in Trinidad was filled with birds. After a hot van ride from Port of Spain into the mountains, our group arrived at the Asa Wright Nature Centre. As we walked up the path towards the buildings, flowers were blooming beside us and the calls of birds filled the air. I hadn’t realized until then how special birdsong is to land and how we don’t get it sailing.
            At the sanctuary door, our knowledgeable guide Denise met us and led us to the front porch overlooking a feast of feeders. Birds were fluttering over juicy fruits and sugar water nectar: bright purple Honeycreepers, iridescent green Tanagers, yellow-patched Bananaquits, and three different species of Hummingbirds.
            Then we were led into the rainforest. As we walked through the rich greenery, Denise stopped to share information with us. We learned about queen leafcutter ants that fly only once in their lives and grow almost as big as your thumb. We learned about birds that clean themselves with ants. We saw Oropendola birds who build nests like hanging baskets from the treetops, we admired flowers named “sexy pink,” and smelled the sweet spice of crushed clove leaves. It was so inspiring to see such a thriving sanctuary, especially in a country so well known for its birds.
            After the sanctuary, we loaded into the vans again and headed for the Caroni swamp. As the sun started to lower in the sky, we boarded a small boat and motored down passageways through thick mangroves. Every few minutes we stopped to gaze at wildlife: Blue Herons, scampering crabs, and even a pair of snakes in the branches above us.
            Then the mangroves opened up and we were at the edge of a blue lake, where we stopped. At the center lay two little bright green islands, and in the distance off to the left we could see mountains rolling away into puffy purple clouds.
            “Here we wait,” the boat driver said. “They will come in flocks, the ibis from over there.” He pointed towards the mountains.

            We waited. The sun sank and the light grew soft. Just as we started to fidget, someone pointed down the water and we all turned to look. They came in pairs and small groups at first, little red dots skimming a few feet above the gray-blue surface of the lake. Then they came nearer. Their scarlet wings caught the light and as they settled on the island in front of us, they seemed to grow against the green background of foliage.
            There were more. Each group soured bigger than the last, forming swathes of living color that painted itself across the sky. Each flock settled into the branches of the trees on the island ahead, the scarlet birds swooping up as they landed, decorating the emerald island with their bodies so it looked like a bush adorned with bright, sweet, beautiful flowers, still vibrant in the fading light.
            As night drew in, we finally left the ibis resting on their perches. We turned the boat around and headed back into the darkened swamp. It had been a long beautiful day. A cook breeze picked up, raising goose bumps along our arms. As if to remind us of everything we had seen that day, a lone dove cooed through the mangroves.

Hila Shooter


Shark 'N Bake

Maracas Beach was surely one of the most enjoyed daytrips we’ve had so far off the boat. The trip started with a beautiful two-hour drive through the mountains to the beach’s location on the other side of Trinidad. All the views along the way were incredible, and I especially enjoyed the occasional head bobbing out of the van window in front of us. Upon arriving, we knew we were in for a great time, as the parking lots and road were packed with cars and locals. The first priority once we parked was lunch, and all the options looked delicious. In the end, everyone ended up ordering either a “vegetable and bake,” a “fish and bake,” or a “shark and bake.” The “bake” part of these names referred to a fried dough bun, which would encompass the filling of either vegetable, fried shark, or fried fish (skin intact).           
Following lunch, we had an hour-long discussion of the scientific paper we had all read for homework. This discussion was very interesting and by the end, everyone had joined in. After class we were all given a couple of hours to roam the beach, swim, sunbathe, and best of all, bodysurf.
Maracas Beach is perfect for bodysurfing. Funneled waves come into the shore, grow, and break about two hundred feet from the long, straight shoreline. Most of the waves we caught were of moderate size, three to five feet, but some abnormal ones reached almost seven feet. All the students and educators had such a great time during this free period. We never wanted it to end. The reason we enjoyed this day so much, in my opinion, is because we felt such a connection to what we did that day.  Most day-trips we go and converse with the locals and learn about their culture, which is almost always very different than ours. This day however, the culture was something we had so much ease connecting to, because it was exactly like one we have all experienced before, a day at the beach with all your friends. Hanging out with friends was exactly what everyone was doing at Maracas, locals and us included. I think I speak for all of us when I say that it was really great to experience a familiar feeling, compared to all the new experiences and feelings we have on this trip everyday.

Hayden Wright


The Sailing Life

            The sailing life is really fulfilling. Even if you don’t like living on a boat, you will find something that you enjoy. Maybe it is traveling and discovering new cultures or ways of life, or maybe you see sailing as a way to become independent and prepared for life. There are so many different things that can make you want to finish this trip.
            Since I’ve been here I have learned so much. I have learned to appreciate everything because some stuff that at one point seemed insignificant is a really big deal to other people. I have learned to not waste food, to accept drinking warm water and that it is okay not to take showers. I learned to realize that not all the days are going to be perfect. I feel like this trip has made me become a very responsible person. We are having a great experience, travelling around beautiful places and having lots of fun, even when things get hard.

Luca Domestici         


A Little Piece of Home

            Sailing on the Harvey Gamage has introduced me to many new, different and interesting friends, both onboard and on shore. Some of the most special onshore connections I’ve made thus far were created, and even rediscovered in Grenada. This was a complete surprise to me. It was our first night anchored in Grenada, and the whole student body was scattered about the deck, sewing ditty bags for Nav Sea class. One of the small boats came along the port side and up climbed Doris (pronounced Door-es), a small French woman with big hair and an even bigger personality. The moment I saw her, I knew she was familiar.
            “Where are you from?” I asked her. She told me she was from France originally, but lives permanently in New Hampshire. Hearing this, my suspicion heightened, as I myself am also a permanent New Hampshire resident. Very excitedly I asked her,
            “Do you bake bread?”
            “Yes, I am a baker,” she replied, a little taken back.
            “I think you used to buy eggs from my mom,” I practically shouted.
She asked me if I lived in Washington and I confirmed that I do. We both smiled at each other and my previously downtrodden, homesick mood was pushed away by this re-encounter with a woman from an old memory. Back then I knew her not as Doris, but as the “bread lady.” My family would buy her fantastic flat bread at the local farmer’s market when I was six or seven. It was a sort of family outing, and I remember it fondly. She had not been to the farmer’s market in several years and I sometimes wondered what had become of her. Meeting her again in Grenada in such an unusual circumstance was incredible. It was also incredible to learn that some people in my town are largely a part of what Doris has been doing in Grenada with the Cocoa plantation. This was probably the last place I was expecting to find “a little piece of home.”

Sarah Holdner 


Ships' News: Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013

>> Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Check out our latest "Ships' News" post over at the OCF blog...


A Waterfall Walk in Grenada

>> Wednesday, March 13, 2013

            We spent our first day in Grenada poking around the woods, hiking up to a waterfall at a high point on the island. The waterfall was a beautiful cliff, slanting enough that the water bounced from one rock ledge to another, before finally arriving at a small pool at the bottom. Some of us ascended part way up the fall itself, holding on to barely existent bits of roots and other plant matter and attempting to dig our heels into the rock face and small amounts of organic matter.
            We used the stream as our trail for sometime, as well as following trails through farms and woods, encountering multitudes of plants not found in our temperate zone homes. The tropics are a lovely place, full of strange and beautiful plants. We passed Giant Heliconia plants whose huge leaves provide shelter from damp, and whose stalks provide material for delicate baskets and twine. A fallen tree in the river offered a mountain of excellent bark to make twine from. The name of the tree escaped me, but the quality of its bark reminded me of the tulip poplar tree we use as a fiber source in the Eastern US. My feet found the local stinging nettles, which are also an excellent fiber plant, as well as being an extraordinary skin irritant if handled carelessly.
            Walking through the cocoa plantation at the beginning of our hike, we encountered banana, mango, plantain, guava and nutmeg trees. They were tucked in throughout the plethora of cocoa trees, which were covered in green, yellow and red pods. Seeing all the trees laden with fruit was a fun introduction to the projects we would do the following two days on the cocoa plantation.

Mira Watkins Brown 


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