Friday, May 02, 2008

Olde New England

For lunch today, I ducked into a local eatery in the whaling city of New Bedford, Massachusetts. What a wonderful surprise. I was greeted by walls filled with Red Sox photos and truly swallowed up the New England aura of the place. Clam chowder--thick enough to hold up the spoon and too thick to soften the Vermont-made oyster crackers--with New England coffee was a perfect lunch on this chilly and drizzly day. Even better, my waitress Denise called every single customer at the counter "Honey."

Here in New Bedford, just 11 days from the end of this four-month program, it is hard to believe that only a month ago I was still sweating and snorkeling down in the Dry Tortugas. More incredibly, it was only two months ago that I was in Central America! Since Spring Break, the trip has really been flying by. Our first stop was Dry Tortugas National Park, amazing in its birding, fort exploration, snorkeling, and people. With so few overnight visitors to the area (there are two ferries that come from Key West filling Fort Jefferson with folks for four hours each day), the park rangers and masons that live in the fort were friendly and eager to socialize with us.

Our next stop was Fort Clinch in northern Florida, immediately followed by Cumberland Island National Park in Georgia. Discussing either in the few moments I have right now cannot possibly do them justice. Hopefully I will be able to catch up more once the trip ends. We continued on to Charleston. Charleston was like homecoming for me. I got a full day off, allowing me to catch up with many of my friends (actually they are more like family) and prepare for my impending return (May 16). I also got to experience aspects of the area I had not last year. The best activity, however, was an Ocean Classroom traditional Charleston Scavenger Hunt. Unlike any scavenger hunt I have ever seen, this one not only included learning bits from locals but also begging and borrowing things such as forks, spoons, bumper stickers, manikins, etc. One group even succeeded in bringing two Citadel Cadets back to the ship for points!

From there it was St. Machael's in the Chesapeake Bay. I have never seen a town or museum (we docked at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum) bend over backwards to be that helpful and friendly. At the museum, they extended membership benefits to our entire crew (student and professional), gave us a free guided tour, and even fixed our fore boom jaws for free!!! In town, we were devastated to learn the ice cream shop was not opening until after we left...until the owner opened especially for us, allowing two of the students to scoop. Since the shop is under new ownership, the twenty of us were her first customers and (due to the students' ice cream obsession) her first hundred dollars too!

We left the Chesapeake bound for NYC and Mystic, however, engine trouble got in the way. After one of the most incredible and exilerating sails of my life, we are sadly leaving the Harvey Gamage. After our arrival in New Bedford, we learned it would be a few weeks before the engine would be running with mostly new parts. Thankfully, Ocean Classroom owns more than one incredible schooner and conveniently Spirit of Massachusetts had just ended their college program here in New Bedford. Tomorrow, we will be moving aboard and bound for sea. From here we are completely inwardly focused. Academics end in six days and then we can all simply enjoy sailing and each other (and for the educators...grading!). What a fantastic way to end four months together.

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