Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Author: Monica Catalano
Location: Underway to Singapore
Happy Halloween from the crew of Argo! We had another exciting day at sea again today, complete with Halloween candy and festivities. After our normal day of lunch and classes we all met on deck in our Halloween costumes for a friendly Costume Competition. When I'm at home for Halloween, finding a costume is hard enough, but throwing one together out here in the middle of the ocean is much more of a challenge. However, the crew stepped up to the challenge and came up with some of the most creative costumes I have ever seen. We held a costume competition, and it was definitely a challenge for the judges to come up with a winner. Some of the costumes included a blind man, Michael Jackson, a hobo, a bearded lady, Argo herself, and a traveling backpacker, to name a few. It was quite a sight to see, and I'm sure it would have baffled any passing boaters to see such a diverse crew. Michael Jackson (Nick) walked away with the prize for Best Costume. Melissa and Zander took home Most Creative for their interpretation of a Large Tug/Small Tow (complete with the proper lights). Court won Most Original for his impersonation of one of our fellow shipmates, James. Best Presentation went to Sam H. who dressed as a traveling backpacker (his attention to detail was unparalleled). The final category was one we like to call Ownership. This went to the person who was the most convincing in his or her costume, and stayed "in character" for the entire competition. This award went to Coulter for being a Redneck, complete with a freshly cut mullet. After the costume competition we started trick-or-treating Argo style by handing out candy among the watch teams. James did a great job of carving our Halloween Jack-o-lantern, which we lit to celebrate the rest of the evening. Not many people can say they spent Halloween out at sea, somewhere between Borneo and Singapore. It is certainly one I will never forget!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Preparation/Leaving Borneo

Author: Hannah Hartley-Shephard
Location: Underway to Singapore
It being 2 days past the middle of the trip, it has flown by so fast. The strong friendships that have formed between everyone are starting to be really apparent. It is amazing to me to be living with 26 other people in such small quarters and to be so close, after this trip these people will be the closes friends I have had in a long time and will have them for life. Every single person that boarded this boat in Cairns had to immediately put their life in the hands of every shipmate on board. The trust is so strong and I think it has to be because if no one trusted anyone we would get nowhere. Although we have as a group been through our rough spots, I feel as though we have gotten past them. Everyone is very excited to get to Singapore and to be leaving one place that is so different such as Borneo to be going to Singapore where they have everything you could possible need from a water park to and indoor ski area. Although, Borneo has been one of my favorite places so far. Seeing orangutans five feet in front of me was mind blowing! Tomorrow is Halloween and everyone is preparing their costumes, I am very excited to see what people come up with, with such small resources.

Oct 30 Argo Update

Brian brings us up to speed on the activities abaord Argo during their time in Indonesia. They have made stops in Bali and two locations in Borneo, where that spent the night off the vessel while visiting a research station and orangutan reserve up the river from Kumai. The crew is now underway north to Singapore and will post more updates soon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cold night, hot tea

Author: Nick Herman
Location: Kumai, Borneo
As we nestled down in our mosquito net covered beds we all donned our usual sleeping attire, the bare minimum required clothing. As the night progressed, however, we began to awake. Not because someone was waking us up for watch or even because the anchor was dragging, but because for the first time over the 45 days we have spent on this trip, we were cold. We began to cope with the cold in our own way. Some put more clothes on, others had blankets. Those of us less prepared, however, went to greater extremes. We disassembled our beds and slept under the sheets that covered our mattresses. The less ingenious of us (i.e. me) simply curled up in a ball all night. Once we all awoke once and for all, it was a simple matter of taking down the mosquito nets and putting away the mattresses. We then sat there looking around, half enjoying the sights and sounds, half waiting for orders to do something. Luckily, our cooks had gotten up early and made us a fantabulous breakfast, oh yes, it was fantabulous. It consisted of scrambled eggs, banana fritters, toast, coffee, tea, and a delicious jam, oh and let's not forget the condensed milk. After the fantabulous breakfast we motored downriver to the second site. We got to the camp and hiked right to the feeding area. Here we had our first encounter with a dominate male, Doyo. He was a massive orangutan who displayed his dominance by hoarding all the bananas for himself. The females keep their distance and waited for him to get his fill before approaching. Once he left we all got a little apelike. Some of the group climbed up some smaller trees to imitate the orangutans, but it was a little too real when one of them started getting angry and thought we were encroaching on its territory. We quickly backed down and moved on. We moved to the third site and found that we had some time to kill. We watched the locals build a canoe and then played an intense game of soccer with our tour guides. The teams were a lopsided four on six yet the game was still competitive. We then moved to the feeding area where we had a quick encounter with another dominant male, whose name escapes me. After some quick pictures we retreated to the boats. On the way back we armed ourselves with some souvenirs. Once aboard we had a delicious lunch and continued on to a small village. Once at the village we all dispersed. Two of us, Aaron and Chris, ended up at a woman's house who was making palm frond roofs. They both helped out and got some nice rice cooker bags. We then effectively bought all the food from their little house stores. Once back at the boat we had one last tea time and headed to Argo. Once back we had our first dinner down below, due to the severe rain storm unleashing its fury on us. We all needed a little fresh water rinse, including Argo. All of this fun came on the half way point as well. Today was day 45 on our 90 day voyage. It seems like only yesterday that we were all standing wide eyed on the dock at Cairns, and now we are playing with orangutans in Borneo. It doesn't get any better than this.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day One of Orangutan Adventure

Author: Sam Higgins
Location: Kumai, Borneo
Waking up on Argo, the usual morning yawn, coffee drinkers trying to get their fix. None of that happened today. Everyone was so excited to board our boats people came up from the companionway ready for an adventure. And so we were off. A three to four hour boat ride up the Kumai River would bring us to Orangutan country. The boat ride was amazing. Everything was complimentary. For example, an afternoon tea, or more food cooked for us that we could imagine. Some people even helped gopher (slang term used on Argo for cleaning) the plates for our tour guides. The first stop that we had to see the Orangutans was camp known as Camp Leakey. This camp was made so that orangutans hurt or born in captivity could be let out into the wild but also cared for by Dr.Birute Mary Galdikas. She lived with the orangutans for most of her life studying and keeping care of them. Anyways on to the fun stuff. We actually saw the orangutans, it was afternoon feeding and these guys were hungry. One almost tried to bite Xander he was so hungry; or she was accepting him as a male. It was a great experience, and the funny part is these ones were only the beginning. Once we were finished with this fascinating creature of or past, we went back down the river to anchor up. That's when Argo bonding started to come out. A taboo game got going, which was by far the funniest game I have played in a while, and then we pigged out again during dinner; the only commotion being the voices of people asking other people for something. Pass me the rice, or pass the chicken thingy. Now being the skipper of the day I decided to have some fun with people, so once the bug nets were up I decided to prank the second boat and tell them that the tour guides said there was some mischief going on at night, and that the staff and I agreed that we should have watches. Everyone was confused, but that confused way that they believed me but were trying to figure out why. Anyways I had to give into Melissa's face, which looked as though she might rip me to shreds. All was well and another successful day on our adventure had been wrapped up. Now all was left was the sounds of the jungle, and the snores of us.

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's raining, it's pouring!

Author: Kate Sundquist
Location: Underway to Kumai
Most of us awoke this morning at barely civilized hours for night watches and were greeted by an altogether unfamiliar sound aboard our vessel. While we have become accustomed to the low growl of the engine on windless days, to the clang and clatter of harnesses being pulled across the jacklines in the dead of night, and to even the joyful whistle of the wind as it dances through our rigging, one noise that's been decidedly absent is the pitter patter of raindrops as they fall upon our deck and hatches. In this part of the world, where the temperatures vary only slightly between seasons, the year is divided in two. In Australia, we learned that they call May to October "the dry" and November to April "the wet". So here we are, on the cusp of "the wet" and already the decks are freshly rinsed. The crew has been excited at the change; for with little wind, the scorching of the sun becomes somewhat monotonous as we motor along the south coast of Borneo. But today was welcomed with a steady downfall, slowing to a drizzle by morning and the day remained overcast for the most part. We enjoyed chicken noodle soup for lunch, then had a pair of classes before ringing in the new season with a bit of southern hemisphere spring cleaning down below. The watches will continue through the night; tomorrow we will greet the dawn with an arrival to the Kumai river.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Floating Fruti

Author: Garrett Jacobs
Location: Banjarmasin
Ha ha Sun, we beat you again, 4:45am and our feet meet on dew drop decks as we attempt a second try for the Venice of Asia. Bags packed and raingear ready for another floating tack down the Sumai Banto. By the time the sun struck our faces we were already 15 minutes down river surrounded by rusty tin can homes, speeding lawnmower banana boats and bathing families. It's good to be on the move after a day of class. Some tired faces fall as the excitement of others drops jaws. I drop my camera, these scenes are too special to capture, besides every blink could be a candid cover for National Geographic. An hour into the journey we pass Banjarmasin and continue to see the edge of the industrial giant, but we stick to the river and its very modest shore dwellers. Here daily life means learning to walk on a slant and fin new ways of patching leaks. Rooflines matching waves lead our eyes down river. One hour and a half, two hours and a half, then finally we slow, as the towns shrink and become more rural. We spot small canoes bobbing colored heads. Our boat dwarfs the single merchant ships and our white skin commands attention. At first we linger and no one approaches. Confused and feeling like intruders at a back ally block party. The market is smaller and more intimate then I imagined, about 40 women in boats selling oranges, pineapples, prickly pears, coconut, banana, mangoes, papayas, ram butam, syrup saturated rice cakes and much more alien to our eyes. Finally, we are approached, than swarmed asa the merchants realize how much we are willing to give away. Really a win win situation of charades. 50,000 rupiah for 50 oranges - even Safeway couldn't beat the equivalent 5 box. The market is huge when we are surrounded. A boat of fruit and shuggery bellies later it's time to turn back. But here it's not about fancy jewelry, cell phones, expensive cars or manicured front lawns, human interaction is business, is pleasures, is life. Sure they may lack running water but they gain a family who bathes together and neighbors who share a wall. A disturbed run in with a floating advertisement crew and we are back down the river. By now it's only 3 hours passed the orange sun and we are worlds away. Then the sugar high peaks our excited prattle muffles even the loud guttural engine. But the crash followed shortly with the flat bottom boat coating with exhausted bodies. A few remain in the back munching away on Borneo's mysteries. Back to Argo through the black mound barges and hurrying to move as another passage begins. Farewell Banjarmasin, we're off for the orangutan nation. We navigate the difficult and narrow river channel back out to sea. An excited 200 miles and the start of another nascent experience tucks us in while it rains on the way to Kumai.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Journey Up River

Author: Kevin Johnsen
Location: Banjarmasin
7:30 am I find myself sitting in Argo's cockpit, sipping my coffee (it was a good mug this morning) looking out over the Sumai Banto. The morning started early with a 4:40 am wake up call. Our mission is to take a water taxi up river to a floating market that is supposed to be quite the experience. Our taxi boat arrives and we all pile in along with an Indonesian family already aboard. The vessel is a long canoe type boat common in this area with a very low roof on it. As we cast off I find myself sitting in the middle of the boat with my knees to my chest looking out wide eyed along with the rest of the crew. The plan was to return to Argo by around 9:30am. By 7am we are back. Apparently, within minutes of our departure our water taxi driver deemed the boat unriverworthy, pulled alongside the banks and we all hopped into another water taxi which shuttled us back to Argo. A typical audible out here on Argo. No worries. The late morning turned into an even more exciting experience for six of the crew. With a desire to show our thanks for the generosity and helpfulness of Ahdijah (the local school teacher) who helped so much with provisioning the day before, a small group chosen from a hat set up river once again in our two dinghies. They met back at the school where Ahdijah once again welcomed them with open arms. As a gift we brought Ahdijah a crew shirt, couple of pictures of Argo, and the kids some small balls from our ball bag. The children were all smiles for the camera as the crew were equally eager to take the pictures. Again the crew assembled inside for a combination of food/drink and song/dance. There was an encore request for "little tea pot" but now "hokey pokey" and "Old McDonald" made the list. Afterwards the crew was invited to a party down the road for someone who was leaving for Mecca. Along the way children formed a mob behind the crew waving and yelling loudly purely for the occasion of following a small group of white people (I think it's safe to say this is not a normal occurrence in this area). At the party, again the crew was welcomed inside their home and offered local food and drink. The reports are that the food was delicious! After visiting for awhile it was time to get back. The local mob of kids followed all the way back to the boat waving and shouting. They said our final thanks to Ahdijah, a most wonderful and hospitable woman. The rest of the day was back to the books for the crew with three classes and two subject videos. We also made Argo ready for passage and plan to set out with the high tide. We have one more stop in Kalimantan, which I'm sure will prove to be even more amazing.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Floating Down a River

Author: Coulter Lenhart
Location: Banjarmasin
As we awoke on the Banto River we sat and ate our breakfast to the sounds of local fishing boats chugging along the river and a mosque on the river bank playing the call to prayer over the loud speaker. We finished our meal and continued to do our daily jobs and then do a boat appreciation. Everyone was very eager to go ashore and explore the amazing cultures of Kalimantan, Borneo so the BA did not last long. Two of our shipmates and a staff member went up river to provision for the boat and were helped by a local school teacher and were brought into the school, got to meet the school children and perform a rendition of "I'm a Little Tea Pot" for them. The rest of us hailed a water taxi and made our way up river. The ride was amazing. Driving past all the houses on the river side up on stilts and seeing people swimming in the brackish brown water. We made it to the main city. All explored for an hour or so in the rain. We all were amazed at the culture of these people. Could not wait to go to the market in the morning.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The journey into Borneo

Author: Viktoria Low
Location: Banjarmasin, Borneo
As the sun rises this morning so did the number of extremely large Indonesian tankers. We did our best to steer clear and pretty soon we found ourselves surrounded by small Indonesian fishing boats circling us. Argo was like a majestic unicorn at a grungy rodeo. These extremely long and slender boats sounded like helicopters. At first we thought they were surrounding us with hostile intentions but they were trying to sell us their goods. We were offered live chickens, crab, fish, squid and pineapple. The captain finally was suckered into buying some pineapple. Onward we motored into unknown waters. The charts were off so we were forced to send one of the shipmates up in the bosuns chair to the top of the mast to look out. We ended up running aground like six times but with the extreme skills of our captain we eventually led into deeper waters and up the Sumai Banto river. We passed a monkey island and a tug boat with another monkey running wild on it. As we steamed up the river we finally hit the town of Banjarmasin. Increasing numbers of little shacks on stilts lined the river. We almost made it up the entire river until we hit some low-lying power lines that were too short for Argo's tall and slender masts. We headed back down the river and found a suitable anchorage. As customs boarded Argo we were greeted with a warm welcomes as the immigration officers personally went around and shook everyone's hand. The evening ended with another beautiful sunset and the never ending sound of the helicopter-like sounds of the fishing boats buzzing past. The uncertainty of tomorrow lingers before us with the excitement of some possible shore explorations. Would like to make a quick shout out to my family and the "Friday night crew". Miss you guys. One love.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Java Sea

Author: James McMahon
Location: Underway to Borneo
The watches continued unbroken, the people are feeling a little of what we call the "Bali bottom". It seems the tropics and Bali have gotten to the stomachs of some of the crew. The day's heat is testing and the night only a tad cooler. Kalimantan is drawing nearer as the blue and black rifle past. The wind is blowing light and the engine roars on.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Christmas day came early this year

Author: Kirsty Nash
Location: Gili Trawangan, Lombok
Close your eyes. Now imagine you wake up in your bunk, it's a little on the warm side so you wander up on deck to get a bit of breeze and a breath of fresh air. Stretched before you are miles of flat calm turquoise waters backed by two low islands, and then as the early morning haze clears you see the dramatic mountainous slopes of Lombok rising precariously out of the sea, in the distance. There is no way to describe a day like to day other than to compare it to Christmas morning aged 6. You know that Santa Claus is on the way. Once the stockings are opened, the fun is only just beginning; soon there will be a ridiculously large lunch and more presents to tear through. And so my morning proceeded about Argo. The beautiful daybreak was quickly followed by a short transfer to shore and a dive with one of the local operators. We headed to a site called Manta Point at the southern end of the island and as the heat of the day really started to kick in we plunged into the crystalline blue waters. This is the coral geek in me talking, but the coral cover was phenomenal, beautiful stands of branching Acropora spp. mixed with beds of foliose Echinopora sp. and the odd bommie of Porites sp. And I wasn't the only one appreciating the marine life, although maybe the only one so excited by the corals, a passing white tip reef shark and pirouetting manta ray ensured all the shipmates jumped out of the water grinning from ear to ear. How do you round up a day diving in Lombok? Well you sail to Borneo of course. We set off after lunch with our first sail for quite a while. The wind felt fantastic after weeks of hot motoring, and there was a festive feeling aboard, as if the good times were only just beginning. We rounded out the day with a bit of poetry as the crew recited sections of their favourite poems. Dr Seuss won hands down. As for what's next, roll on the orangutans!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Author: Courtland Noyes
Location: Undeway to Gili Islands
For all the landlubbers out there . . . Imagine. Imagine being slowly lulled and then awakened by the steady rocking of a huge boat at anchor next to the Great Barrier Reef off of the coast of Australia. Realize that for all the wonders of imagination, the mind cannot understand what it will be like before the experience. Visualize a tiny airplane toilet but instead of a flusher there is a pump that must be pumped 50 times in order to work effectively. Like a large bike pump, only really noisy. Think back to when you were really young and had bunk beds at sleep away camp, or perhaps at home with a sibling. Now shrink down the bunks to about the size of a bench seat in a medium sized van, and stack them three to a row. Put two rows on two walls of a luxurious sized master bedroom closet. That's six men to a closet sized cabin, with the bunks touching at the ends. Imagine rising in the middle of the night to the smelly, salty hand of your shipmate who desperately tries to bring you out of the netherworld of blissful sleep that you have managed to catch before the night watch at 0300. That's 3am. Humor the idea of walking through the companionway, or tiny hallway, up the hatch and onto the deck to a cloudless, full moon night. Remember the way the sea breeze feels on the face. Salty, yet pleasantly refreshing. Think of an hour of alert scanning and watching the surroundings. Not for the night sights, bur for a slowly dragging anchor, God forbid it should come loose. Remember how it feels to go to sleep (what you wish were a deep sleep) after a tiring day of work. Imagine then waking up at 0630 to start making breakfast. Simple pleasures, simple pleasures. Think of groggily getting ready for a day of both school classes and households jobs, as well as the daily duties of a sailor. The exhausted body wants to sleep yet you arise anyway to greet the morning light. Imagine shaking the dried salt out of your hair, and embracing the day. For it will be a day full of wonders and wind and beautiful views. Oceans that are every shade between turquoise and blue and sails that extend high overhead. Try to think of what it is like to be at sea. Try to imagine.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bali Hai

Author: Melissa Phillips
Location: Bali
Bali is the first place I've been to that has truly lifted me. I am sure that each shipmate will agree that Bali has been amazing. Toady we got a chance to hit the waves and get surf lessons. For anyone who does not know, Bali is one of the best places in the world to surf. So for us to be a part of the surfing world here was big. After a couple of hours on a surf board we hit the town. Each street I walked down was more priceless than the next. Street vendors yelled, scooters screamed by and honked their horns, life was busy and so were we. I still feel like I have not had enough time to take in all there is to experience in Bali but hopefully this will not be my last trip here. As of right now the air is thick with excitement. Tonight is our night out! Se la vi Bali.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

Author: Jack Pincus
Location: Bali
This one will be a long one, so for those of our readers that are in a rush, here are the cliffnotes: (1) unreliable men disappeared with our passports, (2) a monkey stole Garrett's glasses, (3) Brian was physically coerced by a man wearing a mask to dance in front of hundreds. A fairly standard Sea|mester day. For those of you not in a rush, here goes: All twenty six of us sat under a baking sun on the hot deck of Argo looking longingly at the shore we were still forbidden to explore. As soon as the tropical sun comes up in Bali, it is like an oven being switched on, especially on a day like today where the air is lifeless and still, not even the slightest hint of a zephyr. It was that much more painful because just at the end of the pier that we were docked on lay the marina restaurant that we could see with our own eyes, cold drinks and exotic foods served with a smile. Beyond that we couldn't see, but we were guessing that it had refrigerators full of cold drinks just waiting for the crew of Argo. Not to mention, there was a lot of Bali to explore, and we had too little time to do it, and here we were sitting and waiting. We were waiting for our group of perpetually late customs officials to return with the stack of our passports that they had disappeared with earlier in the day. Until they gave us the go ahead, we were not allowed to set foot on land. They had told us that they would return around 1 p.m., but that just meant after lunch. Judging by when the officials returned, lunch ends at around 2:30 in Bali. We were finally cleared to wander out into this foreign new land at three in the afternoon. Four or five hours later than originally planned. The original plan had been to take care of chores and customs in time to walk off the dock and into a restaurant for a 12 o'clock lunch and then have the rest of the day to wander around on our own with eyes widened and jaws dropped. That plan walked right out the door with the customs officials and our passports. We were bummed to say the least. Luckily a new plan walked in when the customs officials brought back our passports. The translator that we had hired to help with the customs process suggested an excursion for us. We weren't quite sure what it involved, but to the best of our understanding it involved driving to a temple to see some sort of sundown ceremony or dance. We would have to leave the boat at five, so that would give us a little bit of time to fan out, guzzle cold drinks, change dollars to rupia, and poke our heads around the harbor neighborhood. It sure beat doing nothing at all. Once freed from the boat, Garrett and I wandered off down a side street in the harbor neighborhood. The street was lined with shops of all kinds; there was a diesel mechanic next to a used clothing store next to a pool hall and general store. In front of the shops there were scooters and bicycles lining the sidewalks. There were Balinese men lounging about in whatever shade could be found smoking clove cigarettes, the sweet smell of which is quite pleasing in contrast to regular cigarettes. In front of one shop an impromptu barbecue was taking place over a grill made from cinderblocks and rusty metal scrap. The main course was fish. The marina we were staying in was near a working fishing dock, in other words, it was not a tourist zone. As we made our way along it was clear that we were a bit of an oddity. Dozens of pairs of curious eyes watched our progress down the street. Shopkeepers got up from the TVs in the backs of their shops and walked out to the sidewalks to get a closer look. We were strange men walking through a strange land.
At the end of the street that we had chosen lay the fishermen's docks. Hundreds of fishing boats of all sizes lined the docks. Many of them were stacked up four or five deep, so to get the boat on the inside out to sea, four or five others would have to be moved first. As we walked along the dock, we realized that this was no Atlantic City boardwalk. The docks were made from a rough cut heavy timber, they were uneven and rickety. We had to be looking down so as not to put our feet through the holes where planks had broken away or gone through. The place had its own sort of beauty to it. Everything was built for function but was still given aesthetic consideration. The boats were all painted bright colors, and had ornate decorations in unexpected places. One boat had a balcony above the bridge, the safety railing was held up with intricately carved columns, that made the boat seem that much more foreign and exotic. Garrett and I were still in a deep state of shock. This was the kind of stuff that you see on the pages of national geographic. You can look at the pictures and acknowledge that it is real and it does exist easily enough from the comfort of your living room chair. But actually having the panorama spread in front of us as we dodged trucks loaded with hundred pound tuna forces the senses and processing centers into overdrive whether or not you are ready for it. The foreign smells of a working Indonesian fishing dock wafted around us. It was equal parts diesel fumes, trash fires, fish guts and more clove cigarettes. I exchanged a look with Garrett. We weren't sure what we were getting ourselves into, but we weren't about to turn around now. We walked down the dock snapping pictures along the way. On one boat, one of the deckhands took a strong curiosity to us. He came up and, in broken English, asked us where we were from. We spoke with him for a while, and then asked to take his picture. He was quite happy to have his picture taken. Once the captain saw that there were visitors he hopped up to a deck on level with the dock, and began smiling for the camera. The fishermen invited Garrett and I aboard their boat. They showed us the hold where they keep cool the tuna they catch until they can bring it to market. The showed us the cockpit which was about the size of a closet in a dorm room, and very disconcertingly provided no view forward for whoever was steering the boat. Then they showed us the galley which was about the size of one of Argo's refrigerators, I couldn't even begin to think about jamming my six foot frame into the space in any comfortable manner, let alone slaving over a hot burner. When I asked where they slept, the fisherman guiding us around pointed proudly to a small hole in the corner of the galley. I inspected the small hatch that the man was pointing to. It was an opening about two feet square that looked dark and unpleasant. I think that Argo's bilges might be a more luxurious space. The best part of it all was that these fisherman were content. They were proud of what they showed us. They joked and laughed as they worked, and grinned for the camera when we pointed it their way. They expected nothing from us. It was a magical experience. As we wandered back to Argo to get ready for our temple tour, I remembered that I had a date with a cold drink. We stopped at a store that had a refrigerator full of cans. I opened the refrigerator door and scanned the selection. There were a few different cans that were very foreign to me, and one that just about everybody recognizes, the coke can. I stared for a moment longer before reaching in and choosing one of the strange ones. It had a picture of a rhino on the side and it tasted like flat orange Fanta. It was cold and that was the important part. We arrived back at the marina in time to have a little wait before the taxis arrived to take us to the temple outing. As we all congregated at the rendezvous point, each group of people had a different story about what they had done with their short shore leave. One group had gotten a taxi to take them to a shopping area filled with fake outlet stores, fake Gucci, fake Bulgari, fake everything. Another group had found an arcade filled floor to ceiling with blinking lights and electronic games. Bali was most definitely new territory. When the two small vans that were going to take us to the temple arrived, we packed in and got on the road. Driving in Bali is a largely improvisational game. If there is an opening where you need to be, then you go for it. This goes for all vehicles of all sizes. There are no hard and fast rules, except maybe that the larger your vehicle, the more likely you are to have the right of way. The horn is as essential as the headlights in Bali, actually it seemed to be more essential judging by the numbers of vehicles driving around at night with burnt out headlights that were still able to honk at us. The horn in Bali is very useful since at can be used to indicate anything. Drivers seemed to honk it whenever they were about to do something, whenever someone around them was doing something, whenever they wanted someone to do something, or whenever they forgot what their own horns sounded like. Our van drivers made their way into the central part of the city weaving through the slower traffic as small scooters passed us by whatever means possible. The scooters in Bali seem to possess some magical qualities: There seems to be no passenger limit, it was not at all unusual to see a whole family riding on a single small scooter. The kids sandwiched between the parents, or in some cases standing on the front of the seat bracing themselves on the handlebars. The scooters are also able to fit through gaps that are smaller than the scooter itself. It was astounding, our driver would be busy passing a truck in a lane that did not exist. To someone used to driving in the United States' large and luxurious roads it felt like I was closer to the truck driver than I was to my own shipmate jammed into the seat next to me. Just as I was waiting for the crunch when our vehicle would be unceremoniously joined at the fenders with a large truck, a scooter came buzzing in between the two of us. Violating the laws of physics by creating space where space did not exist a moment before. We wound our way past a central junction where a massive and detailed statue of a man doing battle with a dragon dominated the center of a free-for-all style roundabout. We made our way out of the city onto meandering secondary roads. The roads twisted and climbed over hills alternating between wild jungle and small shops selling everything, including gasoline in glass bottles. The traffic was no more orderly than in the city, and the road only had one lane in each direction. Passing often involved pulling into the wrong lane and forcing oncoming scooter traffic to the shoulder while hoping that a truck wasn't about to come barreling over the top of the next blind hill. There was something exciting and new and fresh about all of this to me. There was clearly a strong western culture influence here, shops peddled Nokia phones, Marlboro cigarettes, Coca Cola and Pringles. But underneath it all there was still a fundamentally eastern and original culture. Cows, considered sacred in the Balinese Hindu culture, grazed on odd patches of grass, entrances to courtyards had traditionally decorated entrances, there were small shrines everywhere, and, everywhere we went, small square trays made from banana leafs held flower petals and small offerings with an incense stick burning out. These small offering trays were placed everywhere, in the middle of streets, on the edges of walls, in small nooks and crannies and even one atop another. I never had the chance to find out the significance of these offerings. We finally arrived at the parking lot for the temple. It was jammed full of cars parked wherever convenient. There was a market full of stalls selling tourist kitsch. I had the sinking feeling that we had been taken to a false attraction designed to separate us from our money without giving us any actual Balinese culture. Our handler had the vans drop us off at the edge of the market and pointed us in the direction that people of all nationalities were funneling towards. We approached a large entrance gateway where men tied brightly colored sarongs around our waists.
At the gateway there was a large sign warning us that we should remove all jewelry, hats, glasses and anything else shiny, or else risk having them stolen by monkeys. There were thieving monkeys here? This was definitely something new. I reached up and played with the shiny studs in my newly pierced ears that could not be removed without risking the piercing closing up (The piercing is a whole different Sea|mester story). A risk I would have to take. Besides, how could a monkey move quickly enough to take something from me without me stopping it? Still, I stuffed my sunglasses and hat into my bag before moving on. As we made our way down a wide path winding beneath a canopy of trees we spotted our first monkey. He was about two feet tall and a creamy brown color. The monkey barely glanced up at us, before directing his attention back to the ear of corn that he had been nibbling on with an unnerving similarity to the way that a human might be eating the same ear of corn. We dubbed the monkey Jabba the Hut in honor of his voluminous gut. This monkey clearly led an easy life. We wandered on. At the end of the path we came to a stone-block wall in front of a sheer cliff that ended abruptly hundreds of feet down in the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. The wall ran along the cliff, up a hill that ended with a spectacular temple sitting on the top. A single building with a square, peaked roof, it sat at the edge of the cliff, and the top of the hill, contrasting strongly with the pink sunset behind it that was outlining it's shape. The golden light from the setting sun reflected the pinks and golden yellows of the sky on the ocean dotted with small fishing boats and gently lit up the green foliage growing on the cliff face. Again, National Geographic incarnate. We didn't have enough time to take a look at the temple before the start of the dance. We headed the other way along the wall towards the stage that the dance ceremony would take place on. There were more of the same monkeys perched at intervals along the wall. Tourists reached out towards the monkeys with peanuts in their outstretched fingers. The monkeys would trot up, take the peanut and then retreat quickly to eat their food. As we made our way along the wall, Garrett approached a perch where a monkey was watching the traffic pass below him. With amazing fluidity and grace the monkey sped down the wall and snatched the glasses from Garrett's face. Dumbfounded, Garrett gave chase while trying to reason with the monkey. The monkey was unpersuaded by Garrett's pleading, "Come on man, I really need those!" The monkey watched as Garrett grew desperate and the rest of us watched with a mixture of shock and amusement (I fell mostly on the amusement end of the spectrum). Garrett reached out and tried to snatch the glasses back from the monkey, who at this point was doing his best to devour the glasses. The monkey held his ground, and bared his teeth, which were large enough to put a check on Garrett's plan of physical altercation with the monkey. A local man who had been watching this then jumped into action and ran up with food in hand. The monkey quickly took the food and dropped Garrett's glasses. These monkeys may be thieves, but they know that glasses don't taste nearly as good as the local fruit. Garrett was only too happy to give the man a generous tip for his help. We made our way into the area where the dance was to take place. It was a large circle, paved in stone. In the center sat a large carved candelabra with four lit flames. The seating was arranged in a semi-circle with the audience of hundreds of camera toting tourists, a category that we fell squarely into, facing towards the cliff and the ocean, and the performance area in between. As we took our seats, I looked back along the wall that wound its way gracefully back, and up, towards the temple at the peak of the cliff. This was real, we had just crossed an ocean and to find a new land, and here was the glorious proof.
The dance started when dozens of men all wearing nothing but a black, white, and red Sarongs filed out, chanting in time. They sat in four distinct groups around the candelabra. The men in the back led each group in a different chant. Each of the chants came together to form a hypnotic rhythm that the men swayed back and forth to. In time two women dressed in elaborate Balinese costumes came out and began dancing in and amongst the men. The women retreated to behind a wall serving as the backstage area and more characters came out and danced among the chanting men. There was a story being acted out in front of us, but I lost it fairly quickly as I was too busy alternating my gaze between the setting sun, the temple on the hill, and the performance beneath my nose. Each was equally breathtaking, and choosing just one was impossible. Eventually, the chanting men filed back out and two of the characters from the storyline came back in. They were both dressed head to toe in fancifully embroidered cloth. They had on a sort of Balinesian fat suit underneath, that looked like a large ball had been stuffed down the belly and the backside of their outfits. They wore handpainted masks complete with gnarled hair coming out of the top. They began dancing around the circle and playing with the crowd. The characters somehow seemed to have a special interest with the Sea|mester students interspersed randomly in the crowd. First, one played with Xander's red beard. Then, to everyone's great amusement, one of the characters pulled Brian by the hand to the center of the circle, and mimed for him to dance. Brian stood there dumbfounded for a moment before quickly inventing a dance move that approximated what the character had been doing with just a slight modification of his own. It might have been named, "The dance that takes me quickly back to my seat." The character was having none of it. He intercepted Brian's beeline dance to his seat and dragged him back out to center stage to try and encourage more dancing before he finally allowed a red-faced Brian back to his seat. The climax of the show was when the a man dressed as a white monkey, who I understood to be the villain of the show, was placed in a ring of five or six bunches of dried grass. The chanting men then filed out and formed a circle around the outer edge of the stage right in front of the audience. The bunches of grass were then lit on fire. The white monkey character disappeared in the center of the ring of flames. Quite suddenly, he then sprang out of his ring of fire, skipped his way to the edge of the stage, took a running start, and using his bare feet, booted the flaming ball of grasses across the stage. The burning grass flew in all directions, including right at the chanting men, who were now being used to block the audience from third degree burns. The white monkey character repeated this for all of the bundles of grasses until the stage was littered with the burning remnants of the grass balls. As we filed our way out of the arena we were all chatterboxing about what we had just seen. Were we really living this? If something is going to top this, and that doesn't seem unlikely, what is it? Will we survive the drive back? If it is ever appropriate to use this phrase, now is the time: We aren't in Kansas anymore.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Welcome to Bali

Author: Torsten Reischmann
Location: Bali
This day is the last of our long passage to Bali. It's exciting and sad at the same time to know we'll arrive at our destination during late afternoon. Exciting to see land again after days of 360 degree ocean views and sad to leave that calm, impressive environment again to face civilization. Living with the watch schedule has become routine and everything is going smooth. The sea is calm, nearly no wind and we are motoring at a good speed and we expect an early arrival in Bali. However, nothing is set when on the ocean which we learn right after lunch: light waves and a strong current reduce our speed to 50% questioning our arrival before dark. Nevertheless we suspend watches and start BA (boat appreciation). As we have already some practice everyone gives 100% effort and we finish ahead of schedule - though we encounter an amazing interruption: 50-100 dolphins are suddenly all around the boat, swimming and jumping around us as to welcome us to Indonesia and Bali! This really makes a great story! About the same time the current becomes weaker and we speed up allowing us time to arrive in Bali nearly on schedule. It is still a long way through the harbor area which allows us to get a good impression of the surroundings. We drop anchor and cover the sails in order to have dinner. Then again a change in plans. Simon learns that we will be on the dock from the harbor officials. Anchor up again, getting dock lines and fenders ready and there we go. Arriving at the dock it seems impossible to fit in our assigned spot - but Simon handles this challenge impressively. Finally we really are at our destination. After the squeeze, dinner and a class in OCB about sharks everyone is happy to get some sleep, actually 90 minutes more than normal as we are in a different time zone now. Looking forward to getting ashore the next day when we are cleared from quarantine.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

His Name is Pilot

Author: Chris Uyeda
Location: Underway to Bali
A lone Pacific swallow just landed aboard Argo. His name is Pilot. Most likely a juvenile, Pilot is a dusky grey-brown with a neck of faded chestnut. His feathers are weathered, his eyes weak, and he could comfortably fit in the palm of a child's hand. I've already overheard a number of rumors and speculations about the folklore behind a bird landing on a sailboat. I'm not a sailor so I don't know what Pilot means to Argo, but as somewhat of a naturalist I know what Argo means to Pilot - precious refuge and rest in an otherwise indifferent and open ocean. We've spent the better part of the late afternoon trying to gain his trust. The crew has put out bread, water, and dead insects in the hopes that this sustenance might prolong his life and to their delight, Pilot now responds to our approaches with increasing acceptance and familiarity. While I'm sure the crew would like to attribute this domestication to their Franciscan care, the scientist in me knows that Pilot's behavior is driven more by exhaustion than friendship. But at the end of the squeeze - a nightly event where all the crew gathers in the cockpit, joins hands, and takes a collective moment to share their daily thoughts - Pilot poignantly flies to the hand of our Captain. It's a moment filled with so much unexpected meaning that I suddenly see new significance in this rare vagrant bird. Alone and tired, Pilot is a single traveler amidst the Indian Ocean. Far from land and his fellow kind, he has been traveling day after day pushed by instinct, survival, and wonderment. He is exhausted and hot but duty and the promise of land compel him forward. We can't help but sympathize.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Trammy Day

Author: Beau Silver
Location: Underway to Bali
At twelve my watch team storms the cockpit to take over and relieve watch team three. We did this with style we had a set of battery powered speakers and we were jamming out to watch team one theme song called 'Thunder Struck.' It was risky it had never been done before. Turns out the speakers were not loud enough but it was still a great success. Then our fabulous watch leader Kate told us that we needed to be training for the Argo Olympics which consisted of us chugging water, who can hold the best heading, etc. So we were pumped our watch is now over and we go to bed. Around lunch we were eating then we started getting briefed on the day. Soon we learned the Argo Olympics were postponed because of us students having too much academic studying to do. So we were happy and sad all at the same time. So it was just a regular passage day. Which consists of people going to classes, working on papers and going to sleep.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Author: Abbey Stern
Location: Underway to Bali
It is now our third full day on passage to Bali. Wind is low but spirits are high as we motor along. Today we saw a plethora of brown boobies driving for fish and a large pod of dolphin passed us by. Unbeknownst to us, while we were in class, some of the staff were putting something called "Argo Olympics" together. Evidently, we'll all be participating in this exciting event together. The watch teams will be competing against one another in competitions. These challenges include: hydration station, trivia, jib racing, and a number of other equally cleverly named events. But that's all tomorrow. Today was simply a day of good motor sailing.

Oct 14 Argo Update

Captain Simon and Abby call in from Argo's second day on passage north to Bali from Darwin.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Times Are A Changin'

Author: Xander
Location: Underway to Bali
Argo met Australia. The majestic islands and the massive mainland can no longer offer Argo and her crew its beauty. She opened and entered through Australia's door into a room. This room was filled with knowledge, reefs, open oceans, sharks, crocodiles, sea snakes, excitement, starry nights to wonder, challenges with each other, and ourselves. Aboriginal cultures and arts, and this room was occupied by changes. As all these things flash before Argo's eyes so does another door of perception. It's a big steel door with black letters that labels "Passage." With this door closed in front of her, it is evident that yet another inevitable change is to come. Experiences turn into what is known so now Argo and her crew can transfer the knowledge through whatever lies behind the PASSAGE door. The crew is anxious and has questions for what's to come and what's around the bend. The answer is blowin' in the wind. The wind must be elsewhere. If it was here it would be easier to get there. Nevertheless we're making a progress with no care. That is for the propelling air. We have a journey to embark and the destination is Bali. Today we faced a shark his intention was to eat me. Who knew he might of wanted you, or he might have been curious and just checking out the crew. He's intentions were unclear we should have asked. Instead, as sure as Argo has a mast we were out that ocean fast. The line it is drawn, the curse it is east. The slow one now, will later be fast. The first one now, will later be last. And the present now will soon be past for the times they are a changin'.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Untitled underway

Author: Simon Koch
Location: Underway to Bali
Though the temperature has eased from a scalding cauldron to a slow sizzle, the wind remains light and variable. Argo continues her westward voyage one nautical mile at a time. Highlights of today included muffins made by Monica for breakfast, identifying a strange craft with gear extending 1.5 nautical miles from it in the middle of the night, catching four very small tuna, and a scheduling meeting. As the watches rotate small dots on the chart indicate our progress to a new port.

Oct 12 Argo Update

Argo calls in as they make their way north between Darwin and Bali. Argo is one day out of Darwin and is motoring in the mostly calm but hot weather.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Goodbye fair oil rig!

Author: Molly Ashkenas
Location: Underway to Bali
Our day in haikus:

We're leaving Darwin
Today, and I'm not too sad.
Bali, here we come!

Last shore leave. We snuck
Into a hostel to bathe.
Fresh water equals awesome

And dinoflagellates blooms.
Marine bio test

Ouch, the deck is fire
Searing my feet. Now I think
Wearing socks was smart.

Sunset, orange fire
Watching is a ritual
That never gets old.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chillin in Darwin

Author: Thomas Belk
Location: Darwin
Today was a great day in the industrial city of Darwin. It started out with a morning of classes and Australian customs. Then we had shore leave all afternoon. Tomorrow depending on whether the fridges get fixed we spend another day in Darwin. I think everybody is getting pumped up for the seven day passage to Bali. Overall I thought it was a good day and everybody enjoyed taking in the city like culture of Darwin.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Night Out

Author: Blake Cannino
Location: Darwin
Starting the day off with an intensive boat appreciation (BA) was challenging especially when the skipper leads the BA as well. However, we were done by 11:30am giving the majority of the students enough time to take showers in the head. Each person had 5 minutes to take the shower and once again I had to regulate it. After the showers everyone went their own separate ways. Aaron, Court, Nick, any myself went as a group. We helped cast off the dock lines so that Argo could move to Stokes Hill Wharf. What took our place was a giant oil rig. The day went smoothly and we had our squeeze in a grass yard just outside of the Bazaar as I would call it. Some bought clothes, others just food, and a few even tried the whips. Everyone signed out after that for our first night out. High spirits had everyone nice to everyone else. It was magical to say the least. Can't wait for our next port!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Truck Stops of The Sea

Author: Sam Englender
Location: Darwin
Having spent the previous night's anchor watch searching out growling nearby crocs, most shipmates groggily made their way up to the deck for an early departure from the Tiwi Islands to Darwin. We spent another windless day on passage listening to the motor and dancing our roasting feet across the scorching decks. In hopes of impressing the Darwin pilot (a local official who boards the ship to direct it into port) and any customs officials, staff and crew spent off watch hours tidying up both personal and public spaces. We drew near Darwin at around 2:00pm, at which point we spotted the pilot boat making way and quickly threw on shirts in hopes of making a good impression. While none of us knew quite what to expect, seeing a man covered head to toe sporting a 6 inch beard and a ninja-like headdress (crafted from a t-shirt, of course) cruise up to our boat was definitely not on the list. The "ninja-man" helped another, much less burly man onto the boat and we headed for the dock. We knew that we were heading towards an industrial marina and that we would likely be docking behind an oilrig or something of that nature. En route, we had fantasized about the marina being an "oceanic truck stop" with brawny boats, husky men and maybe even a greasy diner. The actual marina, however, turned out to be much more tame. Aside from a fortress of a customs ship, and a dock height generous enough to accommodate 8 meter tides, the marina seemed normal-even disappointing-in its lack of showers. However, nature did not disappoint and as we put the finishing touches on Simon's parallel park job, a downpour officially welcomed us to the City of Darwin. We head to bed tonight trying to forget about the more terrible scenes of White Squall (the class video of the night) and instead dream about tomorrow's day full of boat appreciation, provisioning and the much anticipated, long awaited: night out.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Glimpse into the Past

Author: Aaron Flaster
Location: Bathurst Island
I don't even know where to begin describing this epic day. With four days of anticipation and excitement building up over passage, I half expected to be greeted by half-naked Aboriginals brandishing drums and spears when we got ashore. The island is inhabited by about 1500 people, mainly Aboriginals who have transformed to modern day technology. They love rugby (footy), aren't afraid to show off century old dances, and many still hunt and gather local fish and game even though there is a small grocery store. I also didn't meet one person who wasn't skilled at some form of Aboriginal art like paintings, carvings, and baskets. The island is simple, but full of culture and smiles where English is the second language. We were transported around town in small buses, and our first stop was a small museum that was filled to the brim with history about how their way of life has changed over the past century when the first missionaries came. Only one century ago the story about how Tiwi's first came to Nguiu (the name of this town, and Tiwi Islands refers to Bathurst and Melville Islands) is that an old woman sprung from the Earth with three children, two girls and one boy, and when she found a suitable place to leave the children (Tiwi Islands) she left them and when the kids became adults, one sister wanted to have a baby so the brother searched the island and found a man who said he would send a spirit to his sister in two days, and low and behold she became pregnant. This is just my touristy summary, so ask your child for clarification. There were tons of other cool facts and pictures covering every inch of the walls, like old fighting sticks, photos of dance rituals, and random stories like the Aborigine who had a heart attack the first time he saw a car. Morning tea is a daily routine here but consists of baking bread by burying the dough under hot ashes, which actually tastes really good, and hot cup of tea to add to the existing hot air. The three local guides that lead our tour for the day and two older, local women painted their faces and did several traditional dances. Each Aboriginal is given an animal nickname that they use in old rituals, and each animal name comes with a specific face-paint pattern. These names are also passed down from generation to generation from the person's father's side. We were all given good spirits by being rubbed with a certain bush, which also got rid of all the bad spirits we brought from the mainland. Next we stopped at several arts and crafts shops where we got to watch the locals make carvings and paintings; one local told us how Whoopie Goldberg bought one of his pieces back in the States. We stopped at an old church that was built by the missionaries that had art all over the inside walls; then we went to a billabong (aka swimming hole) where one of the guides caught a huge lizard. Lastly, we drove by the cemetery which is one of the most sacred places on the island. It was awesome seeing everyone chat with the locals and share stories about home and SeaMester. If the day wasn't full enough already, the night ended with a huge lightning storm (off in the distance) which was more spectacular than any fireworks show I've seen!

Monday, October 6, 2008

How Do I say in Aborigine "It's hot and there is a croc chewing on my leg?"

Author: Brian Gamble
Location: Bathurst Island
The staff tell us that this is "croc country." Yet, we have seen only one croc. The crew is more worried about sunburns and stopping the buckets of sweat from streaming down our faces. Basically, it is hot, REALLY HOT. To give you a sense of the extreme heat, today Kate cooked an egg on deck. The crew was skipping from shade to shade to cool their hot feet. Yet, the crew is not fazed by the heat. We are instead excited for our tour tomorrow of Nguiu. Nguiu is an Aborigine town in the Tiwi Islands. We are all excited to see how tomorrow unfolds.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Dip in the Pacific

Author: Monica Catalano
Location: Underway to Darwin
Although we are all aware that Captain Simon is a man of many talents, I never would have guessed that bread making would be among those talents. We started off the day with a nice warm slice of homemade bread, compliments of our fearless leader. Delicious! It was another scorcher of a day today as we made our way across the Northern coast of Australia. The temperature was so hot that many of us were huddled in different areas of the boat trying to find a small slice of shade. Early in the day we had a visit from two dolphins who found enjoyment in swimming just underneath the bowsprit. After lunch and an OCE and MTE class, Simon hove to so we could all take a quick swim in the ocean to cool off. The water was a beautiful shade of blue and has never felt so good! Everyone was feeling 100% better after our dip and was ready to continue on our journey westward. Although we are a bit sweaty and sticky, the crew remains happy and healthy!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dead wind and Nothing but Engine

Author: Hannah Hartley-Shephard
Location: Underway to Darwin
With no wind in our sails we have been slowly motoring to Melville Island, and then on to Darwin, Australia! I have still not wrapped my head around that I am on the other side of the world and in a total different climate, to think it will soon be snowing at home (Morrisville, VT) and if being about 100 degrees in the sun with no wind to speak of anywhere Simon actually had to turn on the air conditioning in the salon during classes to (a) keep everyone awake and (b) so no one would pass out from the heat. As I sit here in the salon/galley listening to Queen and having the gophers sing along with me, I think about the day and how the things that we see are so amazing and beautiful. The squeeze question for last night was my favorite yet. It was "What is your SeaMester moment?" (see yesterdays blog). I said that my moment was when we were in Thursday Island and all of the locals were very kind and always wanting to have a conversation with anyone who walked by. But the actual moment was when I overheard two of the women talking about Argo like she was the most beautiful thing they had ever seen. It just made me feel so lucky to live aboard her and I am happy that she takes care of us all.

Oct 4 Argo Update

Hannah calls in from the passage from Thursday Island to Darwin. Not much wind but they have had luck fishing and are making their way west.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Just Another Day

Author: Nick Herman
Location: Underway to Darwin
Today, as the title implies was just another day sailing around he horn of Australia, if there is such a thing, I believe that we are all starting to get a better appreciation for what we are doing. We all take for granted what we are doing and today we all became familiar with what I like to call a "SeaMester moment." It was a part of our word of the day and means, "a moment that leaves you in awe and dumbstruck with disbelief and what you are doing." At dinner we all went around and shared our "SeaMester moment." It made us all, even the staff, realize and appreciate what a magnificent journey we are on and how lucky we all are to be doing with these wonderful people. On a personal note: I love you Mom and Dad. I could never thank you enough for this opportunity.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Reeling in the Big One

Author: Sam Higgins
Location: Underway to Darwin
Waking up at the crack of dawn; not really my cup of tea, but what are you going to do. Anyways I poured my extra strong espresso coffee and went on with the day. It was sunny out but not much wind, and you could hear and see the morning hustle and bustle over on Thursday Island. I don't know about everyone else on board but I was itching to get back underway. Looking at the weekly schedule I felt that my day of being skipper would not be too eventful. All we had to do is go to class and start our voyage to Darwin. Simon had told us the previous day that the wind would be blowing 25 to 30 knots and that we would be smooth sailing, all the way. It turned out to be a little less. In order to reach Melville Island and go on our tour of the aborigine culture we had to make a medium pace of 6.5 knots. We ended up making that, but with the help of our slow turning cat engine revved up to thirteen hundred rpm's. So it was slow sailing and hot as an oven, but I was optimistic. After a while everyone started to joke around and enjoy the 360 degrees of ocean that only a fraction of people on our planet earth get to see. With fishing lines in the water and some fun classes the day paned out to be another great day aboard Argo. It wasn't till after dinner when everyone was trying to clean up that I had to catch a three-foot Yellow fin tuna on my hand line. Everyone basically stopped what they were doing to come watch me real the thing in. It was hectic everyone was fascinated with Simons filleting capability. Chris got some cool pictures of the fish that we could talk about in class. After that ordeal watch teams started up making sure that the boat was on the set course. One thing that I noticed was that our group of twenty seven was starting to connect and laugh, making our "working group", become more of a team.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Wednesday on Thursday Island

Author: Kate Sundquist
Location: Thursday Island
I emailed my mom last week and told her that we were bound for Thursday Island. She promptly responded (as she always does) and wondered why it was thusly named. After some research, I discovered that it's actually a pretty interesting little piece of history. Well, Mom, apparently it all goes back to Captain Bligh. For those of you who aren't familiar, Bligh was the captain of the Bounty, which stopped in Tahiti to gather breadfruit. When it came time to leave, some of the crew decided they would rather stay in Tahiti for a bit longer than head for Manila immediately so Bligh left them behind. I suspect there may have been some unmentioned aggravating circumstances. In any case, this sparked a mutiny the result of which saw Bligh and any of his remaining supporters cast adrift in a seven meter boat. Bligh made his way through a narrow opening in the Great Barrier Reef and named the first island he spotted Restoration Island as its fruits helped to restore the spirits of his crew. As he headed north and then west over Cape York, he named each of the next islands by the calendar. This would explain the close proximity of the Tuesday Islets and Wednesday Island to the east, and of Friday Island to the west. Here on Argo, we are nowhere near mutiny and while each crew member has enjoyed time ashore seeking out the comforts of landlubbers, we are now ready to set sail again, this time to Melville Island. Tonight we are watching a video of Captain Irving Johnson rounding Cape Horn on the massive bark Peking, and tomorrow we too will venture back to the blue.

Oct 1 Argo Update

First Mate Kate calls in from Thursday Island after an exciting passage up from Cairns. Argo will depart in the morning for Darwin.