"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

Cocoa farms, Service, and Phone Time

>> Tuesday, February 25, 2014

For the past two days, we've been working with local farmers here in Grenada. We knew we would be in for a good time when, when we asked what we could bring up to the project, they said "do you have any machetes?"

So we stopped on our way up and bought some machetes. Since then we've cut and cleaned bamboo, cleared fields, barked trees that steal light, made retaining walls, and turned compost. We've also played soccer with local kids, jumped in freshwater swim holes, watched movies in the street, ate supper and drank cocoa tea out of calabash bowls, and helped fisherman haul their catch.

Our contacts here in Grenada are the incomparable Dorise and Paula, who have been fantastic in finding us work, delicious food, a place to sleep, and the wireless connection that allowed us to call home and catch up with loved ones. Because of them our stay here was not only memorable, but unforgettable... Thanks so much!!

Their non-profit organization, the Cocoa Farming Future Initiative (CFFI), is working to help local Grenadian farmers and to promote sustainable and resilient crops. To learn more about their mission or volunteer and intern opportunities, check out their website at cffigrenada.org. You can also participate in their mission by buying a cocoa tree and supporting a local farmer. Donations are tax deductible. Let them know you learned about them from Ocean Classroom!!


Pin Chase

>> Saturday, February 22, 2014

Every Ocean Classroom trip, students in each watch "learns the ropes" on Gamage. We've been aboard for a month now, high time to have a pin chase competition!  A-watch came out on top, narrowly beating the other two watches, who both finished less than a minute later. Conrats to the students who have ALL become fantastic shipmates!

Look for more photos at the Flickr photo site.


Sculpture Reef

So, we got to snorkel here today....not a bad day at school!



Prickly Bay, Grenada

>> Friday, February 21, 2014

     Though the passage from Carriacou to Grenada is short, we utilized our sea time with tacking drills, and had a fantastic dinner of Beef Stroganov with Lizzie's homemade molasses cookies as dessert. We sailed through the night staying just off the island, weathered morning squalls, and arrived in a very sunny harbor this morning. We are looking forward to weekend exploration of Grenada and then some hard work on the cocoa plantation Monday. Oh, and some laundry...


Dutch Counterparts, Seaturtles, and Whalers in Bequia

>> Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Walking back across the island from Friendship Bay, where we checked out some whale boats local whalers used to hunt humpbacks, we saw a large schooner anchored off of Gamage's stern flying the Friesian flag. She turned out to be the Wylde Swan, of the Netherlands, with teenage trainees aboard. What a fortuitous turn of events! We decided to prolong our stay to interact with another group of high school students learning at sea. We played some typical Dutch games and were able to check out each other's boats... the Wylde Swan boasts air conditioning, flush toilets, showers, and watermakers. But she also taught our kids how much they love Gamage, and the very real and intimate relationship we all have to our ship, our home.

Earlier in Bequia we visited the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, where "Brother" King taught us about his quest to conserve the Hawksbill Sea Turtle, the very species he grew up hunting as a young man.


Dominica, according to Rose

>> Sunday, February 16, 2014

     We wake early to meet a man named Sea Cat at the green-striped Island Pride Gasoil station in Rosseau. We drive up into the verdant, wet hills in a huge white van, its bench seats covered in eclectic red and gold palm tree print, its floor in ancient, coffee colored linoleum. We stop first at a fruit plantation to provision for the ship. Hiking up the slope past the occasional meandering goat, behind the squat white stucco house, we arrive at the orchard. Haphazard clumps of gnarled and lichen covered trees: grapefruit, lemon, sour orange. I scramble up a rough barked grapefruit tree, avoiding the spreading green bromeliads which cling to the curved branches like limpets to a rock, their thick waxy leaves forming still pools of water at the base.



>> Saturday, February 15, 2014

As the full moon set and the sun rose at dawn, Bequia loomed to windward just a few miles away. After tacking into Admiralty Bay, the students came ashore and explored Port Elizabeth, where the cold bitter lemon sodas, pizza, and wifi internet made us feel a bit more... modern than we've felt aboard a wooden schooner for the past three weeks. Tomorrow we will visit the Old Hegg Sea Turtle Sanctuary, where "Brother" King will share his mission to conserve the very hawksbill turtles he grew up hunting. Then we'll visit the whaleboats. Bequians are allowed to hunt a few whales each year, according to the International Whaling Commission, using traditional techniques that include wooden wind and oar-powered boats, iron harpoons, and rope. We'll learn about their traditions, history and heritage, and their practices, and try to measure these with our own thoughts on whales and how humans should interact with them. It should be an exciting day... look forward to more photos and student writing soon!


Iles des Saintes

>> Thursday, February 13, 2014

       From Dominica we set sail for Iles des Saintes, a group of eight picturesque French islands only 30nm away. We entered on the same tack as the French during the Bataille des Saintes in 1782. We tacked back and forth to our anchorage under a bright sun and strong wind. On the sail from Dominica, we were lucky enough to see a pod of juvenile Sperm whales swimming incredibly close to the ship.  The students were overjoyed and turned this into an opportunity to learn more about Sperm whales and report on them during our evening almanac.

       Yesterday we explored the largest island in the group, Terre de Haut, where we climbed up to a Napoleonic fort for a history class. By the end of the day we were snorkeling in turquoise waters around a rock formation called Pain de Sucre and students were studying the invertebrate of the Caribbean. The drastic difference between Dominica and Iles des Saintes was apparent as we walked the narrow streets of Terre de Haut, practiced our French, exchanged our Eastern Caribbean dollars for Euros, and sampled the local baguettes. We are definitely learning about the cultural and biological variety of the Caribbean!


From Fishcakes to the Boiling Lake

>> Monday, February 10, 2014

      Worn out, weary, and full of wonderment, we are finally ready to weigh anchor. For the last two days we have been shepherded about the island by our charismatic tour guide, SeaCat, an Ocean Classroom legend. It's an experience just to ride around in his passenger van, which has a sunglasses-wearing octopus spray-painted on the front and back, as SeaCat says hello to all his local friends. Yesterday he took us to the Carib territory where we met the culture of the higher Dominican elevations and sampled just about every fruit and spice the island has to offer. We climbed trees to pick grapefruit, guava, and oranges, but the highlight was when SeaCat ground roasted cocoa beans and mixed them with milk and sugar for us to eat with our breadfruit and jerk chicken lunch. We returned to the ship heavily laden with fruit and spices for our next passage.

      Today we experienced another adventure with SeaCat: the epic trek to the Boiling Lake. Twenty-six kilometers of treacherous terrain, a rumored 20,000 footsteps, our adventure took us up to a view of the surrounding islands, down into the valley of desolation, and eventually to the other-worldy  boiling lake. We soaked in hot springs, painted our faces with sulphorous mud, and swam through a deep gorge that led us to a hidden waterfall. We ended the day with a delicious shipboard meal and  the anticipation of our next port of call.



>> Saturday, February 8, 2014

We arrived in Dominica after a nearly 3 day passage from Statia, ready to take in the Nature Island. We've already explored town, shopped for the region's best fruit and veggies at an open air market, and snorkeled Champagne reef, where the island's volcanic activity causes bubbles to form out of the reef.


We've also got photos posted online at: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjS5ntnm, which will be out photo home for the rest of the voyage... Enjoy!


The Quill

>> Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The crew, on the rim of the Quill
Kevin's postcard art

Rose's postcard art


Sint Eustatius

Sint Eustatius has been good to us, providing out student crew with a number of firsts...

First foreign port of call, and the first passports stamps that accompany that. 

First shore time and the cold, sweet, delicious Tings (grapefruit soda, for the uninitiated) that come with that.

First green flash, which occurred last night on a clear, beautiful evening just before the supper bell was rung. It was a fine prelude to Lizzy's fantastic baked ziti supper.

And our first pod of dolphins, which shared our approach to the anchorage here in Gallows Bay. 

The students have had a fine time here on the "Golden Rock," but are anxious to get back to sea and continue this great voyage. They've sent postcards, and are eager to get on a phone or online soon to share their adventures!


Captain's Post

“Sailing is going slowly in the wrong direction at great expense”

Usually we begin the spring term with several short stops to the BVI.  This year the Education department and I decided to start with a bit longer sail—I suppose it has to do with building a crew out of a diverse group of students.

Our first passage, after the “shakedown” to Buck Is., was to Sint Eustatius, only ninety nautical miles. But this it the Caribbean and that means that this time of year the wind blows steadily from the east—the very direction we needed to go. So, you can drive 90 miles in an afternoon, fly it in a minute, or sail it—could be as little as 10 hours for us in perfect conditions. As it was, though, it took us 5 days of tacking to weather.

What is the point? Everyone learns something from this: to slow down, be patient, appreciate the beauty around them, to do all they can when things aren’t going their way, and to count on others to do their best in turn. That working and waiting for something is ok, even better most of the time.

Students came to the ship with different ideas about what this voyage was for. We will depart “Statia” with a crew who has a good idea what it means to them.

  Fair winds, Captain Flansburg


Beating to Statia

>> Monday, February 3, 2014

Sint Eustatius lay only 90 miles from Buck Island, but nearly due east and into the teeth of the trade winds. We sailed over four miles, on average, to make a mile of easting. But five days at sea have turned a group of students, all strangers a week ago, into a crew. We've sailed almost 500 nautical miles already, and all have learned so much... about the boat, about the Caribbean, about each other, and of ourselves.

Today we hiked the Quill, a dormant volcano that dominates the landscape here, and while inside the crater learned about the Caribbean plate and how these islands were formed. Tomorrow, we lay into town to explore the history and culture of Statia and the region, as well as have our first meal ashore.

Lots of great photos are on the way (internet access is so very limited.. and SLOW) but we'll work hard to post some student writing and artwork before we take off, bound south for Dominica.



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