Sunday, March 23, 2014

Shore Leave - Hamilton, Bermuda

Bermuda might be my favourite port so far! It was off to a good start, as well as the whale sighting, the night we arrived was mail day! After a disappointing mail port in the Dominican (more to do with the DR mail service I think then thoughtful friends) I was thrilled to have 15 pieces of mail waiting for me! I opened a couple that night but most I'm saving for the mid-Atlantic. Thanks to everyone who sent something!!

As well as a whale and mail, Bermuda is just so easy to navigate compared to a lot of places we've been. It's western and English speaking which goes a long way. It's also got beautiful beaches, turquoise water and colourful houses. Of course the climate is quite moderate but I think they have actual seasons here, not just hot all the time. The weather has been shorts and T-shirts warm by day and a little cooler at night which is perfect as far as I'm concerned. The people are very friendly and polite. "Good morning" and " good afternoon"s are said to those you pass, store clerks are helpful (one let me know about a visitors card I could get for free which got me 10% off my purchase) and I've seen a bus driver lift a stroller off the bus for a mom on board. 

Our first day here was a bit strange as it was a scheduled school day (remember we arrived a day early) so the kids were in classes till 4 and then had to do a deep clean of the ship before getting shore leave. 

On my shore leave I did some shopping in town, including a grocery store to stock up on snacks for the crossing. The grocery store was full of lovely familiar products from North America as well as the UK. Postcards were cheap and I sent a bunch off (what goes around comes around, right?)

I made it to a pink sands beach. Beautiful! But not pink in the way PEI dirt is red, it's more subtle. On the advice of a local artisan I talked to I went just before sunset which was perfect. 

One day we had a local lady who knows some of the crew stop by with a chunk of banana tree from her garden! Unreal. I very much enjoy picking fresh bananas from the tree to eat. 

We also got more substantial provisions in and our stores are full in readiness for 25 days at sea. 

There was a big crew change in Bermuda which is the last one for the semester. It was a rare occasion that the whole crew, maritime and accademic, were able to go out for dinner together, 2 chief mates, 2 bosuns, 2 shipboard directors, etc. as there was a couple days of crossover. The only one missing was Captain Sture who arrived the next day. The 2 on watch were invited to spell each other off and join us (the restaurant we ate at was across the street from the ship) but they opted to take their food to go and ate together. At any rate it meant no cooking dinner for anyone as the students were all out and about and that was a very nice treat!

Another day I had time off and headed north to St George's, a UNESCO heritage town. It's small and lovely, the bus let me off across from a bakery and there was a yarn store close by so top marks for first impressions! 

After looking around St George's I headed to Tobacco Bay and did a little snorkelling. Was it cold? Not really, Guelph Lake in May is much worse! I didn't stay in too long but saw a bunch of different fish and coral. The highlight was seeing large parrot fish that were beautiful shades of teal, purple, rust, yellow and green and so bright they looked like they'd come right from a Crayola box. 

Random fact about Bermuda: there is no fresh water so everyone must collect rain water from their rooves! I'm not sure how it gets used after that (for the household? Into a central system?) but I found that interesting. 

So that was our last port on this side of the Atlantic - next up, ocean crossing! I'm excited and a bit nervous but not at all worried that we will make it there safely. And very excited to be headed back to Europe!

Sailing Along - Turks & Caicos to Bermuda

On this leg we left the Caribbean and are now sailing in the North Atlantic. There was a noticeable change in the weather - it's still warm by my Canadian standards but hoodies and sweaters were worn, especially for night watch. 

We had very favourable winds and were able to sail the whole way from our anchorage in TCI to the pilot station in Bermuda. We were rushing to beat a gale forecasted to blow in on our arrival day and got the ship up over 10 knots many times. 

Although we were going along quite quickly the seas weren't that rough and it was quite a pleasant sail. 

There was a full moon on this leg and I never get tired of watching it dance on the water and through the rigging. I stood the 0200-0400 night watch one day to get some extra moon time. 

We celebrated St Patrick's and St Joseph's Days with special meals: Irish stew with soda bread and pasta with tomato sauce accompanied by bread crumbs and raisins. I had been planning a little Irish dance lesson for St Pat's but it was a bit too rocky so we'll reschedule for another day (holidays are totally moveable on a ship!)

Just as we came into Bermuda a whale (humpback?) breeched a few times and I was on deck to see it. What a great welcome!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Shore Leave – Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

Another port where we were at anchor and got tendered in for shore leave.  This time the anchorage was more precarious, there were waves breaking on a reef not far off our leeward side. The wind direction was unusual for this time of year but the conditions we had made the maritime crew very nervous and shore leave was cut short by a day so we could get out early and take advantage of some favourable sailing conditions on the way to Bermuda.

The water in Turks and Caicos (or TCI) was gorgeous! I will miss all the turquoise and teal colours of the Caribbean water as we head further north.

The first day of shore leave I headed in with the students for their port program and went with them to Chalk Sound, an area I’d read was extremely beautiful.  The water is cut off from the ocean by a bit of land and there are 365 little islands in this body of water.

Joan, from the local historical society was our guide in Chalk Sound and she talked a bit about the history of TCI.  We walked up a hill where sailors had carved their names in rocks although a lot of them have been removed to a local museum.  She also showed us Silly Creek, named after George Silly who was responsible for a lot of industry in the area.

After Chalk Sound I went to the more tourist part of Provo (the local name for the island of Providenciales, the most built up island in TCI) and had a look around the stores, ate some conch (very popular here, TCI even has a conch farm!) and ice cream.

I met the students at the local sailing club in time for a BBQ dinner (hamburgers, nothing too exciting) and to catch the boat back to the ship.  The waves were too rough for the Captain to feel confident in our tenders getting everyone in safely past the reef and all so we chartered a local ferry for the day.  We motored back through that beautiful golden hour to our home away from home.

The next day I was ashore again to pick up some provisions for the ship.  This time we were able to use our own tenders although it was a wet ride back at the end of the day! Everyone ended up completely soaked, but that’s life on a ship!  I hadn’t expected to have the whole day ashore so didn’t have anything planned.  After the grocery store I went to a local coffee shop and had a delicious salad while enjoying wifi and getting caught up on internet happenings.

We left the next morning, our planned departure day but in the morning instead of evening.  Interesting fact about Turks and Caicos: because they are a British Overseas Territory they drive on the left but a lot of cars are imported from North America so it’s quite normal for the steering wheel to be on the left! Confusing for sure.  And their currency is the US dollar so quite a mix of things all round!

Photo Essay - Havana, Cuba

Better late then never, here are some pictures I took in Havana with my “real” camera!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sailing Along - Cuba to Turks & Caicos

Leaving Havana was the most excited I've been to be back at sea. I'm not sure why but my heart was singing as we pulled away from the pier. 

This sail marked the half way point - kind of exciting, kind of sad. 

Fittingly for the half way mark, this sail was also the sail of midterm exams. This meant a quiet ship and stressed students. They had a day of study and then exams began. There were 5 exam sessions over 3 days and as well as written exams the students have to do short oral exams too. 

We celebrated Shrove Tuesday with pancakes for dinner. Surprisingly few people had heard of this tradition (not surprising for the international crew but I thought it was better known in North America).  

We motored the first few days and then, although the wind was still non existent, we set all 27 sails! This was mostly for a photo op for the captain who will be leaving soon to take a captain's position on another ship. It was beautiful to see that much canvas out and captain was not the only one taking pictures. (Although he had the advantage of going out in the MOB boat for a full view of the ship.)

The non-wind continued all day so after the day's exams were done we had a swim call!  I jumped off the bowsprit and quite enjoyed floating and looking at our beautiful ship with all her sails up.

After the swim call we had a Mardi Gras themed family dinner in the banjer and served fish we caught off the ship. This sail we caught another mahi as well as two tunas. I made sushi for the first time - after a 10 second how-to I was rolling away and really enjoyed it. 

The day we arrived I had a major baking day making buns, bread, muffins, gluten free brownies and buns, cookies and johnny cake (a local recipe I got from a guidebook). Phew! That night we were at anchor and had a BBQ on deck. Turks and Caicos is another port where we are at anchor so tendering in it will be!

Shore Leave - Havana, Cuba

As I mentioned last time Havana was the "parent port" for this semester so the students were gone most of the days with their parents and didn't have to stand gangway watch during the day making for a very quiet ship. 

The place we were docked was a secure port, there was a metal detector and x-ray machine which were sometimes used when you left or came back. Other times the security people just waved us through. 

I didn't do anything terribly exciting here. When I had time off the ship I mostly just wandered around the streets enjoying Cuba. It was interesting to see the differences in the city depending which direction you walked in. We were right in Old Havana, lots of old buildings (obviously) with balconies and laundry drying. Lots of tiny stores, restaurants and snack bars. Colourful squares, bicycle taxis, tourist shops and food vendors. Walking along the water was a wide boulevard running along the seaside and in the distance a more modern Havana with skyscrapers. This was a great place to run and I went out twice. 

I happened across an art show & sale on this wide boulevard. It was fun to browse among the different artists who had stands set up. 

The internet situation was interesting. Wifi and internet (on a shared computer) only seemed to be available at a few of the more modern hotels and even then it was iffy. First you had to buy a card like a phone card with a pin number to log on to the network. These were available in half hour or full hour amounts and were not always in stock. Then sometimes I was told the network was down, or had too many people on it so they couldn't sell me a card. Finally on the last day of our stay I was able to both buy a card and log on to the network! Hooray! It's a bit sad that one of the first things the crew wants to do in port is find internet but it's the main way we stay in touch with friends and family and for some, potential employers. Anyways I had a great half hour catching up on things. 

On the way back from my internet session I had a good find, a bakery! I had 3 pesos left and rather then have them go to waste I spent them on a box of goodies. 

Who needs Cuban cigars when you can have pastries!?

Where I Live

My cabin is on the port side in the aft ship, and it's pretty far aft, there's only one cabin past it. I share with Anna-Marie, one of the teachers and we get along quite well. It's another case of it being a small world as she's from Toronto!

So this is my bunk, I have to climb in and out of it and can sit up on it if I slouch. There's a shelf near the foot of the bunk and storage compartments along the side (see my backpack sticking up?)

If you look closely you can see a corner of the seat/couch in the lower left corner (it's blue).  

Under my bunk is a set of cupboards where I keep my clothes. They lock which isn't really for security as much as keeping the doors from swinging open when we're rolling. My eight-year-old self would have loved this feature but now it's slightly annoying. 

This is the view from my bunk: 

Our closet is on the left there, you can see more of the seat and the table as well as Anna-Marie's bunk. Behind the seat is an open shelf (where the books are). 

Beside the closet is a hook and our mini "information station" and beside that is the door. 

On the other side of the door we have a sink which is very handy. Much more convenient then sleeping in the banjer and having to go up a level to brush your teeth!

Next door there's heads (toilet) and the showers are down the hall and down the stairs but accessible without going out on deck. 

So that's the mini tour of my living quarters, hope you enjoyed it!

PS. Since writing this Anna Marie and I switched bunks - equal opportunities next to the porthole!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Half Way

Random recap to mark the half way point in this adventure! (Which isn't for two days but I won't have internet access)
I've baked 177 loaves of bread and 383 buns. 

Bruises and burns are part of my regular look. 

I've ridden in the back of a police car (it was acting as a taxi, honest!)

I've tried wakeboarding. 

Number of rats caught on board: 2.

Amount I've spent at the General Store $9.

Amount I've spent at Slapps $4.

I've had one day off. 

I have washed shorts and shoes with the hose in the galley. While I was wearing them. 

This may be the only high school where the students are encouraged to carry knives. 

The longest day I've worked was 13.5 hours. On average I work 74 hours a week. 

I've stood 6 hours of night watch. 

Spending this last December (and the 10 before that) wrapping gifts for AAF has really paid off on bagged lunch days when we pack 42 lunches. (If anyone involved in AAF is reading this please note if we got festive cling wrap we could wrap so much faster! No tape needed, no shape too awkward!)

Number of times going aloft: 2. (Need to get that number up!) 

I've seen dolphins, whales, manta rays, flying fish and monkeys in the wild. 

I've ridden in both the tender and the MOB boat. 

Number of TV episodes watched: 9 and a half. 

I have 9 new stamps in my passport. 

Islands circumnavigated: 2.

And I'm so excited to continue on the second half of this journey!

Last thing, I have a favour to ask. I'm curious how many people/who reads this blog. So if you are would you mind letting me know? In the comments, by email or Facebook. Thanks!

Sailing Along - Dominican Republic to Cuba

We were able to sail almost the entire way this leg which was a welcome change after a 11 day motor last time. We did turn the engine on for the last day or so as the wind died down to almost nothing, the water looked more suited to canoeing then sailing! 

I stood night watch from 00:00-02:00 near the beginning of the sail. Lots of stars and nothing too eventful. Had a quick snack and went back to bed after. 

One of calm day the crew set up our pool on the main deck. Captain Bjarke made it last semester and though it's more for wading then swimming it was nice to cool off and how fun to have a pool on a tall ship! One of the classes that afternoon took place in the pool!

On Sunday we had our first No Power Hour of the semester. The engine and generator were both turned off and although the emergency and navigational lights were on (backup battery) all was quiet and beautiful. Most everyone came up on deck and little groups of people were sprinkled around relaxing and enjoying each other's company. During this time the engineer gave tours of the engine room. I only went for a short time but I saw our water makers (we have 2) that can each produce 6000 litres of water a day by removing the salt from the sea water. The water is also passed by a UV light so by the time we drink it it's quite clean. 

There were a couple whale sightings, humpback and we think pilot. Unfortunately I missed seeing the humpback jumping but I saw the spray from its blowhole. The pilot whale got really close to the ship, you could see its white body about 20 feet away and I also caught sight of a fin!

Remember when I said we'd done our last gain an hour time change? I was wrong! Although we were at our furthest west point then I forgot we'd be zigzagging east to west a bit. This time we changed time during the day so everyone got an hour extra of daytime rather then an extra hour of sleep. So all those times you wish you had more time in the day? On a ship you can make that happen!

More drills this sail. This time the situation involved a collision, a fire, 3 injuries and ended in abandon ship. I had the job of staying with one of the injured (she lost a thumbnail). I was reminded of my winters stuffing toddlers in snowsuits when it came time to help her into her life jacket!

Found a week old Vancouver Sun (possibly my favourite paper) and Globe and Mail in the crew mess. It was probably the most excited I've been to see a newspaper! There was an Olympic section which was fun to read even though I'd heard all the Canadian results. 

We caught our first fish this sail. First a barracuda which bio used for dissection and then a mahi which we ate for dinner the next day (everyone got a bite). 

In other wildlife news we had a pigeon on board for the last bit of the sail but no plans to eat it. 

The last night before we reached Havana we were at anchor within swimming distance of the port. We had a BBQ and  no power hour after but it wasn't quite as peaceful as the first one due to the light and noise from the city and the dance lessons taking place on deck! 

Arrival morning was quite exciting as Havana is a parent port and most of the students had family waiting for them on the quay. Although we didn't have far to go from our anchorage we did it in fine style with students dressing the yards and singing sea shanties. Another safe docking and we are in Cuba!