Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cairns play day

Author: Troy
Location: Cairns, Australia
With no anchor watch last night, we were all rested up for a great day. After breakfast we explored town, went on a great run for about 8 miles to the airport (me), ate tubs of ice cream, and other activities associated with civilization. The night before we got a nice surprise night out, which was a fun occasion mostly spent at a place aptly called "Little Aussie Bum." We're all looking forward to tomorrow's Mega BA!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Marlin Marina

Author: Boomer
Location: Cairns
We lifted anchor at 0730 in order to arrive at Marlin Marina at 10 a.m. with the tide. The wind was still howling at 25-30 knots when we entered the marina and we worked our way into the final port of the voyage. After we squared away the boat, some of the crew went exploring while others stayed back to give Argo's stainless a little love. We ended the day with an evening of "Argo Trivia." Great day. Monica would just like to add (since she is the one that types these up) that she had a fabulous birthday in Cairns with Argo and her crew!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Last day in Fitzroy

Author: Mike
Location: Fitzroy Island
It was our last day in clear water as Cairns was just around the corner. Today was a very important day on Argo. It was our chance to show the crew and Boomer that we knew what we were doing with sailing. We took our final MTE exam, but everyone was confident. We also had our last test for OCE and OCB, which also went well. Some of us are starting to notice that it is almost the end and it is a sad thing to notice. But we still are excited to be in Australia. Peace.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fitzroy

Author: Jesse
Location: Fitzroy Island
Today was a good day. Since our Marine Biology logbooks were due first thing after breakfast we all added our finishing touches. Due to the excess amounts of coffee being made, everyone was up and ready for the day to start by 0600. After everyone handed in their logbooks on time, the day was free to dive the reef, jump on the Fitzroy Island trampline, or study for tonight's VHF Radio exam. Most of the crew studied while some of us went diving and drove the dingy. We saw whales today and it wasn't even a surprise. We are used to it by now. I hope I will continue to see whales 50 feet off our beem when I return home to Arizona!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fitzroy Island

Author: Becky
Location: Fitzroy Island
Fitzroy Island National Park. We're approximately 15 nautical miles from Cairns. T his sweet island paradise symbolizes our last days cruising the South Pacific. Even with the roaring winds you can feel it in the air. Water trampolines, nature hikes, no-so-hidden beaches, boulders and basketball made the afternoon fly by. Our adrenaline high, our desire for exploring satisfied, we settle into the evening of final exam studying, Oceanography/Marine Bio labs and our marathon squeeze question to date; 40 minutes. The sunsets everywhere we have been have been noteworthy, however, the sunsets over Australian mainland during dinner are worthy of professional watercolors. Beautiful.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things

Author: Tessa
Location:
With just one week left of the program, the realization is setting in that most likely none of us will ever set foot on Argo again. With that in mind, we are savoring every second left. The morning started out with an early departure from Orpheus, making our way to the Hichinbrook Channel. We had to leave early so we could make it through the channel at the first high tide. As we were preparing to enter the channel and cleaning up from breakfast, we spotted 5 humpback whales off to our starboard side. This is by far the closest Argo has come to whales thus far with them being only 75 yards away. This is a moment I will not forget. For the first time on deck has it ever been that silent. Only the sounds of the whales breaching could be heard. All shammies set aside, we slowed down and the nature took us in. We eventually had to head into the channel so we had to say goodbye to our large mammal friends. Once in the channel, the sights were breathtaking. Mountains and salt marshes surrounded us and we all enjoyed it with sun beating down on us. After lunch we spotted dolphins off our port bow. Finally, once out of the channel, it was time for some serious sail raising. Knowing that it was going to be one of the last times raising all 6 sails, we had to put all we had into it. We put the main sail, main stay-sail, AND the forward staysail up all at the same time! Never have the sails gone up so efficiently. As soon as we got those bad boys up, we were ready for the jib, fisherman, and finally the flying jib. Man, did Argo look good! The sun was shining and the sails were full. Tonight is our last passage with our watch teams and we should arrive sometime in the middle of the night. With the sun just setting, a full moon shines across the sky. Soon we will be missing the squeaking heads and 3 a.m. wake-ups. Who knows, maybe we'll even miss that certain smell coming from the cabins.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Living the dream

Author: Travis
Location: Orpheus Island
Well, as Graham would say, today was a good day, which it was. We started out the day with our final OCE paper turned in by 0800. Then after lunch we went to a pass between two islands that had some beautiful soft corals and a 3 knot current, so we had a speedy drift dive. One of the best parts of the dive was on the return ride in the dinghy. ON our way back we were about 30 yards from a group of humpback whales that were surfacing. It was awesome. The day ended with us giving our final presentation for OCE. All in all, I would have to agree with Graham. It was a good day

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another beautiful day

Author: Oliver
Location: Whitsunday/Orpheus passage
We leave Townsville on one of our final passages. There is a pain in my heart as I know we have very little time left with these people that have become family. We left Townsville last night and after 11 hours of motoring into current and waves towards the Whitsundays, we decided to turn around and head to Orpheus Island. This happened because of time. It would have taken 36 more hours to reach the Whitsundays and that would have left us with no time to enjoy the islands before our passage to Cairns. With clear blue skies we about-faced and raised all sails, turned off machinery, and made extremely good time. Boomer enforced a mandatory watch team Alpha, meaning everyo9ne was on watch, but I don't think he had to force anyone on deck since the weather was so nice. Whales became an hourly occurrence and we could see them frolicking in the water all around the ship. We arrived in Orpheus about an hour after lunch and proceeded to anchor and clean the ship. After dinner we prepared for a two hour OCE/OCB class. We watched a film, the original March of Penguins. This film was all in French, with English sub-titles. IT was really interesting documenting 3 emperor penguins. There were voices for each individual penguin and really amazing footage. Once the film was over we all retired to our bunks for a needed night of sleep.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The coolest aquarium ever!

Author: Lisa
Location: Townsville, Australia
Today was another awesome day in Townsville. We spent the morning at the Reef HQ Aquarium, where not only did we see awesome aquatic creatures and learn tons about the Great Barrier Reef, but we also got a behind-the-scenes look at the aquarium. The behind-the-scenes tour had to be the best part, seeing how such a large aquarium functions opened our eyes to just how balanced ecosystems need to be. We had the afternoon off, some went to town, some went swimming and others chilled on the boat while studying for oceanography. That evening we departed for the Whitsunday Islands and wrote our OCE final. We're all excited to dive the GBR and see some of those awesome creatures from the aquarium.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kangaroos and Koalas

Author: Chantale
Location: Townsville
Still fresh and new on the Australian continent, today we got to witness biogeography first hand as we got familiar with the common Australian wildlife. We spent the morning at the Billabong Sanctuary, an area just south of Townsville where one can wander around and interact with native wildlife. We saw cassowaries, kangaroos, wallabies and crocodiles, and after months of talking and dreaming about it, George finally got to hold a wombat and a koala. Back in Townsville in the afternoon, some went to the museum of northern Queensland while others checked out town, hiked Castle hill or came back to the boat for some studying. After dinner we had a night out and enjoyed the Olympics on large screens.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Arrived down under

Author: Dane
Location: Townsville, Australia
We woke up this morning in beautiful Townsville, Australia. It's a bit colder here then previous places we have landed, but still absolutely glorious clear skies and cool breeze. After breakfast we did a little boat appreciation to make Argo look shiny and clean. Then we ventured to town. Strolling down the amazing boardwalk, you can find coffee shops and delicious eateries. People here are very friendly and are willing to point you in the right direction towards a good beach, or some good shops. We are all excited to be here in Australia and are looking forward to exploring the Great Barrier Reef and the east coast of Australia.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Australia is a continent

Author: MT
Location: Arriving in Townsville, Australia
Today was full of excitement. We saw land early in the morning and as the day progressed it became very clear this was not one of the small islands we had been visiting so far, it just kept growing! Argo kept up her amazing pace as we sailed towards land giving us many moments of excitement, especially eating lunch and doing clean up on a 30 degree keel at 10 knots. Another exciting moment came during OCE. A group of whales were spotted off our port side and gave us a nice 10 minute display breaching and slapping the water with their flukes and fins. For MTE class we did a heavy BA (boat appreciation) while we sailed and got Argo prepped for customs in Townsville. We finally motored into the marina around 8 pm and got inspected. We passed with flying colors of course. After finishing up with docking the boat, we all went off to bed eager to explore tomorrow.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Time

Author: Chris
Location: 100 nm east of Townsville
If your children tell you they never think about time out here, they're lying (I use the word 'children' since I assume that 95% of the readers right now are parents of the students on board - the remaining 5% are probably the parents of the staff, hi Mom). They think about it all the time, right down to the second.
We live a pretty simple life when on passage. Eat, sleep, don't sink the boat. But those things all happen with militaristic punctuality. We change watches every 3 hours, on the hour. Show up for watch at 3:02pm and you're late. Dinner is scheduled for 6pm everyday. How many dinners have we missed due to wind, rain, or a 25 degree tilt in the boat? Zero. If there is a community out there that analyzes the ticking of a clock with more scrutiny than we do I cannot think of it (maybe the people in charge of timing the ball drop on New Year's, if that job exists, which I like to think it does).
Now that's not to say that there isn't a sense of 'timelessness' on passage. Days weave together seemlessly and it's hard to tell where one day begins and another ends. This is because in normal life we define days by our sleep. At night, when the land is dark and the day is over we go to bed and when the sun rises and a new day begins we awake. That doesn't work out here. Last night I went to bed when it was dark (9pm), woke up when it was dark (3am), went back to bed when it was dark (6am) and then finally woke up when it was light (7:30am) - I might add that as I write this blog (8:15am) I'm contemplating another rest in my bunk before my watch begins at noon. So out here we don't abide to the diurnal sleep schedule most humans are use to, instead we subscribe to an extended napping program. And if a napper uses the 'sleeping and waking' method to measure time, then they'll tell you two days have passed in less than 12 hours. Ask any shipmate on board what day of the week it is and none will give you an immediate and confident answer. But ask them what time it is and the response is hardwired into their existence. In fact, there is one student on our watch team (Tyler James Hartley-Shepherd) who can regularly guess the time within 5 minutes without consulting his watch.
This is the irony of time for the crew of Argo. I have known no other place outside of sailing the tropical Pacific, where time has taken on such a bipolar existence. And like most things out here, the uniqueness is most welcome.


Aug 9 Argo Update

The day 66 update is called in by Chris. Lots of details provided as Australia draws near to her arrival in the next day or so.

Friday, August 8, 2008

White Lightning

Author: George
Location: Two days out from Australia
Today has been the best sailing all semester. The morning finally brought a break in the clouds and some beautiful blue skies. With the sun came wind, and lots of it. By 9:00 we were reaching high speeds again. The increase in speed forced us to reef the main sail to slow us down a bit, but we were still at an incredible 10.5 knots. By 3:00 we had broken our own record and hit a 228 nautical mile day. We hope that tomorrow will be another record-breaking day.

Aug 8 Argo Update

George calls in with the update confirming a day that had Argo do more that 250nm in the last 24 hours.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Making great time

Author: Tyler
Location: Passage to Townsville, half way point
This marks the third day out on Argo's passage from Vanuatu to Townsville, Australia. Our longest passage so far, 1100 nm, and our last passage this summer. This is also our third 200 mile day, and we are averaging 10 kts. By the end of the day we hit 12 kts again! As a note, the fastest that Argo can sail while displacing water is about 14 kts so we are cruising at nearly the fastest that Argo has recorded since her first departure from Thailand nearly two years ago. The cloudy weather has subsided and we had a beautiful blue sky. We expect to arrive in Australia on the 10th just after passing through the Great Barrier Reef.

Aug 7 Argo Update

Argo continues across the western Pacific.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Great sailing

Author: Graham
Location: Vanuatu to Australia
Today was another great day at sea. Argo has been sailing fast for us on this passage with a total distance cover of 395 miles in 48 hours. With average speeds around 9 knots the crew is learning how to sail downwind. For lunch Mike prepared some interesting chicken dogs from Vanuatu and we are all excited for his famous meatloaf. That's about it for today and we are all hoping to keep up this pace all the way to Oz.

Aug 6 Argo Update

Argo continues her passage to Australia and is making great time as the crew nearly recorded back to back 200 nm days.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Powerful winds

Author: Monica
Location: Vanuatu to Australia
The first day of our last passage has proven to be an unforgettable one. By 3 pm this afternoon we covered 200 nautical miles, a program record thus far. With speeds up to 12 knots, the sailing has definitely been an adventure. But this passage is bittersweet because in the back of everyone's minds is the realization that this is our final offshore passage. It is crazy to think about the miles we have covered in such a short amount of time. As the team worked together to raise the Fisherman this afternoon, I sat back and watched in awe. I'm amazed at how far this group has come. I know everyone is looking forward to Australia, but secretly hoping that this passage never ends.

Aug 5th Argo Update

Monica calls in from Argo's passage from Vanuatu to Australia. A 200 mile day was achieved so all are in great spirits.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Departure

Author: Kiernan
Location: Port Vila, Vanuatu
Today we began our final passage of the trip, the 1200 mile sail from Vanuatu to Australia. The day began with a wet boat prep as the sun we enjoyed over the past two days was replaced by rain. After Argo was ready for a long passage, all the shipmates were allowed some last minute shore time in Port Vila. Everyone used this time to stock up on watch team snacks and send last second emails. By lunch time we were all back aboard Argo and raising sails as we left the harbor. The wind looks like it is going to fill in nicely and we're hoping for some good, fast sailing over the next few days.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Diving

Author: Anne
Location: Diving
We started the day off early at 5:30 a.m. As I woke everyone up, they moaned and groaned but got up quickly to be on time for our sunrise dive. Getting ready, we were a little apprehensive about the cold, but the excitement about the dive was stronger. In the water by 6:00, when all the fish were still calm and unafraid of us, we all broke up into our buddy groups to test our navigation skills. Me and Travis saw a big eagle ray, a tiny brittle star, a big nudibranch, and a weird spider-looking crab among other things. The coral was awesome, and everything looked a little different with the morning rays just starting to penetrate. After the awesome dive, we were surprised with a rescue scenario and we had to save Maximus and Chris. This being our first "real" scenario, we messed up some stuff, but we learned from our mistakes and will do better the net time we are surprised with missing unconscious divers. W motored back to Port Vila and did another dive. We dove a huge wreck that was 100 feet deep and saw some pretty crazy stuff. As we were descending we saw some spadefish, and when we reached the wreck we were surprised by tons of fish. A big school of jacks swam around us, and we saw a three foot snapper. It was the best day of diving in my opinion and although we didn't see any sharks in Vanuatu, our dawn dive and wreck dive made up for it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Another day at Happy Island

Author: Troy
Location: Happy Island
The day began with some beautiful sunshine (sunrise for others). We organized 2 dives, exploring a new wreck on Mele Reef and observing local marine live. PSCT had an arduous assignment: a leisurely walk/swim to Happy Island and a run time on the resort's catamaran and volleyball court. The dives were some of the trip's best. I look forward to more sun and diving in Vanuatu.


Friday, August 1, 2008

Happy Island

Author: Boomer
Location: Happy Island
We woke up early today and moved Argo out of Port Vila to Hideaway Island which we dubbed "Happy Island." After a Marine Science lab, which involved a bottom clean for Argo, the crew did a dive on Mele Reef. Here we found a wreck in about 70 feet of water and some amazing coral on the reef itself. Tonight will end with a night out ashore. Good day in Vanuatu!