Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Welcome to a Thursday Island treat

Author: Garrett Jacobs
Location: Thursday Island
Latitude 10?35.38'S, Longitude 142?13'E, with these words I display my first glean of a new language - we are learning the tongue of the sea. A rough translation into a position places us about 400 yards away from the customs dock of Thursday Island. As we awake with an eager excitement to go ashore the tedious chore of our first 'Boat Appreciation' hangs over our heads. During morning muster at a cockpit breakfast the staff tries hard to convince us of the fun ahead, but I cay cleaning will always be cleaning, and an overhaul of Argo didn't seem to ?. After the first meal the rush began and I went to town to help provision for the next week's passage to Darwin. In a quaint but surprisingly well stocked supermarket we still managed to clean some shelves of veggies - don't worry parents, we are eating very well - and I even snuck in some loaves of wheat bread. But I will express how ecstatic we all were about stuffing our faces with candy and ice cream. Five shopping carts later we swang the food from the dinghy and swiftly stored it in the many secret compartments of the salon. Finally, civilization, a minor relict of our still young cabin fever. It turned out that while boat appreciation was cumbersome many found Argo's shimmer and shine rewarding, but not enough to keep them onboard. So we scrambled to Boonrod and Nopodom (our dinghies) and flung ourselves onto the dock and scattered to the Laundromats, public phones, restaurants, grocery stores, and open fields of Thursday Island. With a local population of mostly Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders we stuck out well. But we stuck together, we ate, did many overdue loads of laundry, meandered a bit, played a sweltering game of soccer, and some even called home. After 5 hours we all gathered our gorged sugar filled bellies to the docks. A quick communal deck shower from the raging fire hose then a steak dinner. I am glad to hear the enthusiastic chatter before mealtimes, the comfort level is rising with the temperature as we near the equator. We are passing acquaintanceship and moving on to what I call best friend strangers. While our characters are now unfurling we still have much to learn about what's inside us all (candy!). I know I have a lot to digest at the days end from all the conversations I've had with new friends. Another spectacular sunset and a quick lesson on sail physics nestles us right to bed in the calm swaying bay waters just outside Thursday Island. (P.S. On a personal note - Ehag Samach Mom and Dad, love you, Garrett)

Monday, September 29, 2008

The dance continues

Author: Kevin Johnsen
Location: Thursday Island
We dance along with Argo as she sails up the eastern coast of Australia. We began our dance again, last night around 1900 so that we could time our arrival to match the tides. It was a smooth sail despite the numerous reefs and shallow rocks that we had to navigate around but then again Argo always dances well. We arrived to our destination, Thursday Island off of Cape York, in the early afternoon. After a quick deck shower for the crew we gave Argo a fresh water bath and we are all happy to say, that she is looking very sexy now. There is something to say about making a boat look its best. After dinner the crew had class and then settled in for the night anxious to go to shore on the morrow.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Croc Hunt

Author: Coulter Lenhart
Location: Cape Grenville
Today we woke up around 8am and all gathered in the cockpit and enjoyed a warm bowl of oatmeal. The skies were partly cloudy with the occasional rain cloud. Swimming was not an option because the water have been known to harbor saltwater crocodiles. So instead we decided to go ashore to explore. The first mate Kate read us a passage from a book about salt water crocs and how they are not to be messed with. After everyone got ready the captain shuttled us to shore. We all raced to the top of the hill with James leading the way. Xander and Jack raced down the back side of the hill to go look for crocs from the ridgeline. We took some beautiful pictures of Argo from a rock face and then returned to the boat. When we returned our captain told us that he had saw a 15 ft crocodile! We had lunch and watched a slide show right after on invertebrate animals and crocs, sea turtles and sea snakes. After the slide show we readied the boat for passage and after dinner we sailed off into the

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Straight Up Sailing

Author: Viktoria Lowe
Location: Cape Grenville
Somewhere between yesterday and today, the morning came, along with it the sun and some more sweet sailing. Operating on Argo time, my fellow seasoned sailors guided us through the night and into another day, each doing our parts sailing the boat and keeping our vessel afloat. During my watch sometime early in the A.M., we passed the 200 nautical mile mark (in less than 24 hours) and we silently celebrated being careful no to disturb those trying to squeeze in a few hours of some valuable Z's that are hard to come by. At around 11 o'clock we finally reached our destination, Cape Grenville. After taking down the sails and anchoring it was time to get some lunch - quiche. After filling our bellies to contentment, we decided it was time to fill our brains (with knowledge of course). We had two classes and then started to realize that we weren't feeling so fresh and wanted to go for a swim. Then we were urgently informed that that was out of the question, since we were in crocodile country. So instead we resorted to setting up "the shower", which really consisted of a hose, pump and the great big blue ocean. We lined up and took turns standing under it and attempting to get clean. During the midst of all this we laughed at the madness on deck, we caught two or quite possibly three sea turtles in "the act" off our port side. Somewhere along the lines, we all started to laugh at what a bonding experience this whole moment was. After cleaning up our bunks, which were destroyed by the heavy waves of passage, we had quesadillas for dinner and now quite possible a movie night. Just another day in the life . . . of Argo.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Sea Day

Author: James McMahon
Location: Underway
We awoke at 5am and set our sails and our eyes out to sea. We succeeded in raising the sails and getting underway. Our plan was to sail through the day and arrive in the evening at the Flinders Islands where we would anchor for the night. The next day we would raise anchor early and depart for Cape Grenville. As we made our way north the winds and seas were on our side and we found ourselves cruising at an amazing 10 knots! A question popped into our captain's mind: should we keep going, pass the Flinders, and sail through the night directly to Grenville? We mustered the crew and decided to go for it. Changing the plans and preparing for our first 24hr excursion at sea. With the ship fairing well and our speed still sustaining at 10knots, we all had a smile. The day tapered on with watch teams shuffling. We all did our best to stay on course, and when the night came again, we all braced again for the sea was restless and the winds howling.

Sept 26 Argo Update

James calls in from Lizard Island near the Great Barrier Reef with the update from the 90-day Australia to Thailand Sea|mester voyage.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Island Endeavours

Author: Kirsty Nash
Location: Lizard Island
Every morning as most of the crew slumbers peacefully below decks, the sun peeks over the horizon and bathes Argo and the Coral Sea in a warm orange glow. Today was no exception, and the early risers enjoyed a fresh breeze and clear light as they went about their morning routines of yoga, stretching, circuits or just enjoying a cup of tea. With breakfast finished, the boat became a hive of activity. Some crew members hiked up to Cook's Look, the perfect way to stretch the legs and get the heart pumping before our upcoming passage north to Cape York. At the top we checked out the view of the turquoise lagoon west of Lizard Island and took photos of the Ribbon reefs stretching far into the distance at the edge of the continental shelf. Meanwhile the certified divers donned wetsuits and SCUBA gear and headed below the surface to get a closer look at the coral, fish and critters that inhabit the watery edge of the island. The all action day continued in the afternoon. The new divers completed the last dive for their Open Water Course certification, showing great buoyancy control underwater as they floated effortlessly over the bottom. The rest of the crew busied themselves aboard, removing sail covers, topping booms, laying jacking lines and generally prepping the boat for tomorrow's early morning start for Flinders Island. Now with dusk approaching the crew is looking forward to a hearty meal and an early night.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sick at Lizrds Island

Author: Court Noyes
Location: Lizard Island
I've changed my mind. At one point I thought my greatest tangible fear would involve drowning, getting lost scuba diving, getting hypothermia, or getting attacked by some underwater monster. Now my eyes are opened to a new possibility: That I will stay an invalid forever aboard Argo. Yes, an invalid, stuck in my bunk. You see I've come down with a bit of the sniffles. Amidst my tiredness, however, flows at least one coherent idea. I'll try to express this new perspective I have about the 90 day passage. Let me set the scene. Actually, you can probably look at one of the photos, but in case they are lost in the digital realm somewhere, I will divulge the basics. We are currently anchored off Lizard Island, home to a research center for marine biology, an airstrip, a 5 star resort, and home of Captain Cooks famous lookout point. Two nights ago, sitting at my night anchor watch with Xander the Great, I noticed I had a sore throat. Arrhh, I thought, noticing the sailor in me, 'tis nothing but a dry throat from all the salty air, and with the moon rising I clambered back down to my bunk. Then yesterday, I arose and, feeling slightly under the weather, decided to trek to the Research Center with the rest of the crew (see 9/23/08 Blog). Along the way I noticed my condition begin to worsen. However, I pushed onward up the sandy trail, explaining to Chris how I previously learned to be aware of over-exerting myself. If there was ever a walking contradiction and hypocrite, I was it then. By the time the journey was complete, I was not feeling well. I made it back to Argo, and, fortunately, had Captain Simon to make sure I got my needed rest. And rest I did. I awoke later in the evening and was feeling well enough to partake in Mexican Night, with all the beans, rice, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, and tortillas anybody could crave. It felt great. Now I am on the road to recovery, and I realized something somewhere between a bite of beans and rice. And it is not only that my fear of staying sick forever has subsided. As long as you have people like the crewmates and sailors aboard Argo to care for you and help you when you are down, nothing is truly impossible. As long as you can sleep, eat, and remain somewhat mobile you are lucky. Realizing how much I had relied on the people around me when most ill, I felt a surge of gratitude and friendship. Despite his or her own exhaustion each shipmate helped by covering my watch, telling me to sleep, taking my temperature, keeping track of my drying cloths on deck, and, well, generally keeping everything shipshape. So there you have it. My few coherent thoughts jumbled in a long tale of a sick sailor. Who knows if it makes any sense. Perhaps time will tell.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Land Lover

Author: Melissa Phillips
Location: Lizard Island
As the sun rose so did my fellow shipmates. With each day their faces become more and more familiar. On this day in particular their expressions were ones of anticipation. It was time. Time to stretch our legs, time to explore, and above all, time to bring this journey of ours to life. After breakfast we headed toward the beach. No matter how many times I encounter picturesque scenes like the ones today I never fail to be blown away. As if on cue, we stormed the beach and headed down the path that would eventually take us to the Lizard Island Research Station. Once there we were breifed on the purpose and the history behind both the facility and the reef. As it neared lunch time our interest was waning and we all wanted to get our blood pumping again. The hike back did the trick. The hunger set in and we were grateful for the food Monica and Simon had prepared for us. Lunch was done but our day was not. The open water divers started their second dive and the advanced divers prepared for a hike. Having not done either I can not tell you exactly what happened but that they all came back with tales to tell of the sights they had seen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Long Night for a Short Passage

Author: Jack Pincus
Location: Low Isles
Today we got out first small taste of what life will be like on Argo under passage. As the clock struck midnight local time, all hands were called to deck, the anchor was weighed and the sails raised. Argo slipped silently into the night and away from the Low isles. Seven crew and two staff of Watch One took over while the rest of us went below to sleep until our watch was called up. When my watch, Watch Two, was woken up at 02:40 to relieve Watch One the weather had clouded over and Argo was moving along at a good clip; around 8 knots. As Watch One made their way down the companionway and into their bunks a line of squalls caught up with Argo and began pelting us with rain. It was not entirely unpleasant, I wrote in my own personal journal, "The wee hours of the night had a certain calming pleasure to them that I could certainly get used to." Then again, my bunk certainly has a calming pleasure that I could get used to. As our three hour watch bore on we rotated through the different positions. The helm, boat checks, bow watch and making tea since it wasn't the most pleasant weather. The thing about our watch (the 03:00 to 06:00 watch) that was great was talking with watchmates. There is a definite intimacy to the watch when you must talk about anything and everything in hushed whispers just to stay awake and make the time pass faster. I can't say that I am eagerly awaiting my next 03:00 to 06:00 watch, but I certainly don't dread it. Once the sun rose the rest of the sail was relatively uneventful, with the only items of interest being the students learning to do all of the daily activities with the boat heeled over ten degrees. As we make our way up the coral coast of Australia we find ourselves in more and more remote waters. We have passed Cooktown, which is the last town until Darwin which is still more than a thousand sea miles away. We pulled into an idyllic bay, Watson Bay, with white sand beaches and clear waters. So here we sit, the crew of Argo, a cohesive team and group of friends eagerly awaiting the next moment to come along that will change our lives. Enough for now.

Sept 22 Argo Update

Jack calls in from Lizard Island offshore of the mainland near Great Barrier Reef.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Preparing for the first passage

Author: Torsten Reischmann
Location: Low Isles, Australia
Today was the second day we spent anchoring at the Low Isles. The day was very different from the days before as we were getting ready for our first real passage which will start at midnight. In the morning, the second part of the diving certification took place. When the divers returned we learned how to drive the dinghy which was a lot of fun. Then we started to get Argo ready for sailing. First, we removed the sail covers and ran the jib sheets. Thanks to the small teams working hand in hand this was done very quickly. Having recharged our "batteries" during lunch we then went through some important safety routines for a fire, man overboard, and abandon vessel situation. We also divided into watch teams and learned the watch schedule. The day is divided into 3 hours blocks, with watch teams on for 3 hours and then off for 6 hours. This took some time but was of utmost importance and everyone was paying close attention. The rest of the afternoon was spent making Argo ready for the passage. Conducting over 20 people to get all of this done was harder than imagined, especially as we are all still learning the boat. Nevertheless, we worked though the list and everyone lent a helping hand. We had an early dinner at 5:30pm so that we were all finished eating and cleaned up by 7:30pm and ready to get a couple hours of sleep before our midnight departure.

Romanticizing

Author: Chris Uyeda
Location: Low Isles, Australia
One of the current shipmates, Abbey Stern, is reading a book titled "Two Years Before the Mast" by Richard Henry Dana Jr. If you've never heard of it, don't worry. If you have, you're probably a sailor. The story is a first-hand account of Mr. Dana Jr.'s experience sailing aboard the brig Pilgrim from Boston to California via Cape Horn. Published in 1840, the book did something unique for its time - it told the truth about sailing. While other authors (many of whom had never sailed a day in their life) were writing romantic tales of perfect sunsets, magical seas, bold adventures and other such rubbish, Mr. Dana described sailing as it was - dangerous, uncomfortable, and painfully monotonous. "Two Years Before the Mast" demystified life on the high seas and became a classical piece of literature. Today, however, I would like to re-romanticize the experience. Argo is currently anchored off Low Isles, two mangrove lined, sand islands that you could practically throw a rock across. Coral reefs fringe the two isles. The water is a welcoming temperature, the winds a comfortable 15 knots, and the seas are just strong enough so that when you lie in your bunk you think you're being rocked to sleep. We spend our days diving, laughing, and eating meals to the rising and setting of the sun. No commutes. No malls . No high fructose corn syrup. In short, a very romantic world.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Setting Sail

Author: Abbey Stern
Location: Upolu Reef
Today was full of loss and gain for us on Argo. The loss was because a crew member, Al Stern, had to leave for personal reasons. We can all assure you at home that the reasons are quite respectable and that Al and everyone onboard are quite well, although saddened by Al's departure. The marine biology and oceanography classes went to some mud flats at the edge of the Marlin Marina as Al and his sister prepared for his leave. Anyway, after Al left and we returned from the mud flats, we made way. It was about 10:30am, when we left the dock. Shortly thereafter, we hoisted sails and left our land troubles behind. As we learned the ropes of tacking, jibing, and what to do in a man overboard situation, we all got a real feel for sailing. Very exciting! Overall, it was a very meaningful, eye-opening day. Goodbye Al! We hardly knew thee. P.S. Then we did CPR/First Aid training at night then had our first anchor watch shifts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gandolf the dragon

Author: Xander
Location: Cairns, Australia
There are things known and things unknown and in between there are the doors. Everyone on board feels the static tension as we wait anxiously for these "doors" to unlock. We commenced the day by rising with the sun. We gathered on deck surrounded by the mountainous tropical forests. However, at this point none of us strangers realize what the forests have to offer, but that will soon change. We then took about an hour bus ride to our first destination which was a savannah wetland where we saw kangaroos, emus, colonies of termites, and a snake. Next we moved on to a fascinating bird show given by an enthusiastic Aussie. The group had the privilege to see an all white barn owl and a peregrine falcon plummet downward at a speed of roughly 200 miles an hour. Shortly after we finally experienced the rainforest with a brief hike to a mammoth hole in the ground we like to call "The Crater." Also, the group took a swim in the waters under a waterfall. It was literally breathtaking, due to the cold water. Then we ended the day gazing at a gargantuan curtain fig tree, and another swim in a glistening lake surrounded by rainforest. After today we all can sense the change to come. The only thing constant in life is change and we all wait for this inevitable change. Cairns was discovered by Captain Cook and his crew, and 132 years later it is rediscovered by Captain Koch and his own.

Sept 17 Argo Update

Captain Simon calls in the first podcast for Agro's Fall 2008 semester. Argo will depart Cairns int he next day or so and head out the Great Barrier Reef on her way north to Thailand via Darwin, Bali, Borneo, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Author: Simon Koch
Location: Cairns, Australia
The crew of the fall 2008 Global Sea|mester assembled over the last two days to make their new home aboard the 110' schooner "Argo". Last night we barbequed together and got to know each other over a feast of burgers, sausage, fish and kangaroo. Today was spent reviewing the policies and procedures that we all agree will govern the ship on her journey back to Thailand over the next three months. This afternoon the first mate Kate and second mate Kevin introduced the crew to the basics of line handling and directed a game to help the new shipmates learn the location and use of all the running rigging. Later, after a chili dinner, more of Argo's intricacies were covered in an effort to bring all hands up to speed in preparation for the sailing to come. Many jetlagged sailors are turning in early as we will be up early tomorrow to tour some of the inland areas just to the west of Cairns.