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Friday, January 18, 2008

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Aah Caribbean breezes, warm salty air, beautiful, lush green hills and mountains emerging suddenly from the deep blue. Here, in St. Thomas, a smattering of buildings standing out, their whites, yellows, and pinks bright against the green hills.

After a two-hour delay on Monday, in Boston, thanks to a little blizzard, I left for Miami--where I nearly missed the flight for St. Thomas. As we touched down in St. Thomas, I could see the Harvey Gamage from the plane's window. Having last faced fresh air in frigid and snowing Boston, it was startling to reach the plane door and feel the the warm, humid Caribbean air against my face.

This week has been busy with new experiences and heavy prepping. We're currently anchored in a bay. Everytime we need to go to shore, we jump into the small boat and motor to the closest beach. Once there, we all splash out, sometimes to our ankles, sometimes to our thighs.

Yesterday we took a "break" from St. Thomas for crew training. We sailed off the hook to an island only a few miles away. Once securely anchored, we had an "educational research excursion" to the island for snorkeling and beachcombing before all hands sundowners back aboard the vessel.

Don't misunderstand, it has not been all play. We've had hours of meetings to discuss policies, students, etc. I've actively read at elast a book a day to fine tune lesson plans. We hauled back the anchor twice in about twenty hours, with less than a dozen people aboard. And perhaps, the most work of all has been trying to get to know a completely new boat and crew.

Adjusting to the Gamage has been a challenge. Compared to SoSC, Gamage seems like an old duck. There is something awesome about her age and miles, something beautiful that only comes with that age and the experiences of the hundreds of crewmembers she's seen. Each crew--from the original, Plank-holders, to those just leaving after my arrival--have made small and large improvements. The majority of the rough edges have been worn smooth in a way that counterbalances the leack and lack of shine and polish.

This afternoon, the mates and educators sat down. Together we discussed watch and bunk assignments . Tomorrow will be a final provisioning run as those of us aboard have a field day-cleaning the ship-in anticipation of the Sunday arrival of our eighteen students and all their many belongings (students are even more prone than I to overpacking!),. As of Sunday afternoon, the concepts of relaxing, sleeping through the night, and evening beach snowball fights complements of the bartender's icecrusher are done. By Monday, we'll be underway, bound for Trellis Island, BVI's Full Moon festival on Tuesday.

Captain Smith has made it clear that we are never going anywhere. We may be bound for somewhere, but that doesn't mean we'll go there. Itineraries are merely lists of possibilities.

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