Sunday, January 31, 2010

To the West we Go

Author: Leah Shopneck
Location: Underway to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean
'10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1...Welcome to the western hemisphere" cheered the crew, as Argo returned to the western hemisphere for the first time in over a year and a half. Cups of tea and scones in one hand and cameras in the other, we hovered over the helm station watching as we quickly motored our way toward the Prime Meridian. After a bit of English trivia and a toast to the Queen it was official Argo had finally passed 000 degrees 00.0 minutes longitude. Since crossing over the International Dateline the crews of Argo have gained a lifetime of experiences. They have dove in the crystal clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef, held hands with Orangutans in the jungles of Borneo, Indonesia, sailed for over two weeks straight across oceans and even celebrated the crossing of the equator four times. For those of us that have been lucky enough to participate in such journeys the eastern hemisphere is a place we will never forget. But as we sail west, new windows of opportunity are opened up to this crew and future crews: races in Antigua, trips up the Amazon River, ancient ruins in Greece, penguins in the Galapagos and so much more. Let the adventures continue.

Jan 31 Argo Update

Argo is back in the Western Hemisphere!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Life on Argo

Author: Cammie Burke
Location: Underway to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean
Today was another great day at sea which started off at the early hours of 00:00-3:00 for watch. This particular watch we did not see any boat traffic but we did have plenty of flying fish to pick up off the deck of Argo. My watch teams new goal is to get a sequence of pictures of a flying fish leaving the water, we have not had any luck yet. Our watch team has also started chatting about what St. Helena is going to be like, we have discussed everything from a colony of vampires, to sky rise buildings and robots, I guess we will just have to see in a week! Later on in the day for lunch we had a great meal of enchiladas made by the chefs Brain and Stephanie. Following lunch we had two classes which were Marine Biology, and Basic Seamanship. In sailing class we learned to tie a variety of knots and in Marine Biology we learned about microorganisms. My brain is on overload from all the new information we have been learning but it all has been so interesting and I cant wait to learn more!
After classes finished it was time to take showers, which were extremely cold but very refreshing. After showers you could find people on watch, doing homework, or taking a nap before there next watch. Dinner was a great meal of potato curry and it was followed by an amazing sunset. Life on Argo is becoming a natural routine, and everyone is enjoying being surrounded by 360 degrees of nothing but ocean!

Jan 30 Argo Update

Day 16 update from the Atlantic

Friday, January 29, 2010


Author: Kevin Johnsen
Location: Underway to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean
A more than pleasant day today. I am in a particularly good mood today because we have finally been sailing, not motoring, for the past 24 hours. Unfortunately it doesn't look like it will last but none the less it is nice to turn off the engine for awhile and to listen to the sound of the boat riding through the water. We have also been making descent time and have now sailed over 1000nm. It is a little unusual to have such a massive ocean crossing take place first thing in a semester but I will say this crew has taken to it well. Passage life is a unique and special experience which the crew has fully embraced. That's especially good because there is still plenty more to go.
My particular favorite part of open ocean passage is night watch. The beauty and variety of the night is inexpressible. From full moons so bright that it's a second day to no moon nights when more stars come out than anywhere else in the world. Each and everyone aboard is captivated each night by the pure beauty. Then there is the random mysteries of the sea. A few nights ago we sailed through what is believed to be a patch of bioluminescent jellyfish. Glowing green orbs trailing in our wake stretching off towards the horizon where they merge with the stars. Some night we chatter and laugh together and other nights we simply sit in silence consumed by our own thoughts. Either way the peace out here is unparalleled.
And so Argo keeps rolling along, north and westward.

Jan 29 Argo Update

The wind is back! Sails are drawing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thumbs Up!

Author: Ariana Tobias
Location: Underway to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean
My fourteenth day aboard Argo began with the 00:00-3:00 watch. Watch Team One informed us they had taken down the Fisherman sail, which accounted for the sudden, dramatic increase in rocking from side to side as we moved forward. 'Its amazing how much the Fisherman does for stability," I thought I heard the watch team leader remark.
A nap and some Dramamine later, the day progressed much like the previous days of passage, with lunch, class (Marine Biology and a seminar on scientific writing), showers, and dinner (delicious pesto pastatry saying that five times fast!). Of note, however, was an impressive display of knowledge from Joe Spanier, who correctly named every single line on deck on his first try. Im proud to announce that makes Joe the first member of the 100 Club on Argo Spring 2010! I tried my own luck later in the day, but I still have a few lines to learn.
Before dinner, I asked if anyone had any cryptic codes they wanted to transmit to the folks at home saying all is well out at sea, so Ill do my best to relay those messages here. (My own secret message can be found in the subject line.)
One, four, three
The eagle has landed
No one but Robin Hood could have made that shot
Im watching the stars and I miss you, kitten
The day ended with the appearance of a huge tanker of some sort, who we radioed to ask to steer clear of a three-mile wide radius of us (some of us are still perfecting our helming skills, after all). I also learned that the well-known phrase 'over and out" is actually bad radio etiquette, because 'over" means youre waiting for a reply, and 'out" means youre signing off. Thats just one example of how the teaching never ends here on Argo, and Im excited to continue learning everything I can!

Jan 28 Argo Update

Just over 900 nm to St. Helena.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Flying Fish

Author: Catherine Buckley
Location: Underway to St. Helena in the Indian Ocean
I have found myself falling into the rhythm of the 'sailors life." The night watches, looking out over miles and miles of a vast, empty ocean, keeping a look out for passing boats in the night, trying to catch up on sleep in between watches and class and finding time for a good conversation in the midst of it all. And no matter what waking up excited for what the day ahead has in store. This morning was especially eventful for watch group 2, we had a startling encounter with a flying fish that was bound and determined to stay on deck. After the little guy was returned to the ocean, we enjoyed another beautiful sunrise and calm seas on our voyage to St. Helena.
Following a delicious lunch the crew headed down to the galley for our basic seamanship and oceanography classes, both were entertaining and enlightening as usual. We learned a bit about the rules of the sea and about the true meaning of science. Some of us then opted to have a much needed bucket shower or get started on a bit of homework. I however, was able to help empty out 'King Kong," our diesel reserve into the fuel tank. I found this job to be quite relaxing as I simply got to lay on the giant bag of diesel to help keep the flow going into the new tank.
Day 13 is now coming to a close with what is bound to be another breathtaking sunset in the middle of the Atlantic under full sail, with amazing people. This is the good life!
P.S. Mom, Dad I can now solve the rubix cube in 3 minutes flat AND have memorized the phonetic alphabet (Papa, Hotel, Oscar, November, Echo, Tango, India, Charlie)! Just another couple of reasons to be proud of your daughter!

Jan 27 Argo Update

Argo continues north on day thirteen on the Spring voyage. Katherine reports all is well aboard as the sun sets and Argo continues north and west.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mid-Atlantic Swim

Author: Dwight Churchill
Location: Underway to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean
'Get up! Time for watch man, get up there you need to get briefed", these are words that are becoming more and more familiar with me since Ive been aboard Argo, definitely a lot different then what I hear when Im in the states at college. I started the day with the 00:00-3:00 watch and watched the moon set on the horizon of the open Atlantic Ocean, I sat on bow watch and watched the bow wake glow from the bioluminescence, one of the coolest sights that Ive ever seen. I traded off from that to checking the boat inside and out, to taking the helm, after our 3 hour watch was over it was time to pass out! The day number seems to becoming less and less important and I dont really care what day it is because it's too beautiful out here in the middle of the ocean, Ive only dreamed of being out here. The day continued with watches every 6 hours and lunch at 12, then Dan announced that were going to get briefed for swimming. Swimming? Were in the middle of the ocean dude, what are you talking about? Argos propeller came to slow halt and we got to take saltwater showersin the middle of the ocean. It was one of the coolest experiences Ive had in my whole life. So we reminded everyone to please refrain from using the head as we did not want to find any new marine life during our showers, and then we jumped right in. Epic. We even caught a female Mahimahi, too small for eating though, Joe wasnt too pleased. As for now all we have is calm seas, sunshine, and blue waters. Hopefully well get some more wind in the sails tomorrow but Im not complaining of the weather!
P.S. Mom, when you read this, thats my bad for not calling! Oops!

Jan 26 Argo Update

Dwight calls in the Jan 26 update from day 12 of Argo's 90-day Spring Sea|mester. I mid ocean swim call was a highlight of the day as the vessel sails about 200nm off the coast of Namibia.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Stars Above and Below

Author: Jason Chodakowski
Location: Underway to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean
It is impossible for me to describe how incredible night watch at 3 a.m. can be. For three hours you share the deck with the seven or so members of your watch team, and if the sky is clear of clouds, as it has been these past evenings, the stars above are a true marvel to behold. In no place on terra firma have I seen a sky as full of dazzling points of light as on the open ocean; it is over-brimming with them, and the Milky Way truly does look like a galaxy spilled across the sky. But being on night watch has something to offer below as well as above, for as the bow of the Argo dips and crashes into sea, bioluminescent organisms are stirred from sleep and glow greenish-blue in protest. With each dip of the bow one witnesses a fireworks display of sparkling, flying lights. If any fish happen to be nearby, their sudden scurrying away disturbs the bioluminescent organisms still more and you see the fishes path through the water as glowing lines darting erratically away from the ship at night the sea responds intimately to our vessel. To see so many stars above is a sight to behold; however, to see them above and below in the deep hours of the night is majestic.

Jan 25th Argo Update

Jason calls in from day three of Argo's passage west to St. Helena en route to Brazil.
No fish caught but science and seamanship courses provided great opportunities to interact with the marine environment.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fresh Fish

Author: Sean Blaise
Location: Underway to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean
Fresh fish. Have you ever had any? I mean really fresh fish. As in swimming one minute, sitting in fish tacos less than 20 minutes later. Thats what happened today thanks to Joe and assorted helpers. We caught 2, roughly 20 pound yellow tails while trolling underway. I have to say, the tacos were spectacular! I think the whole boat is hoping that Joe has started off a hot fishing streak for the Argo. Hopefully we can keep catching fish every few days during our crossing which will not only please our palates but also add some variety to our diet underway.
We also had some great sailing today. For at least a few hours we maintained speeds in excess of 8.5 knots while under sail power alone. Unfortunately, we are too far south still to experience the steady trade winds, but soon enough I hope that we will be flying along under the calm and steady power of the wind. Our day concluded with a spectacular sunset to top off a wonderful day at sea.

Jan 24 Argo Update

Sean calls in the second podcast from Argo's passage west from Cape Town to St. Helena.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Have You Heard of St. Helena?

Author: Chris Uyeda
Location: Underway to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean
Take a look at the southern Atlantic Ocean and smack dab in the middle is a tiny island called St. Helena. If youve never heard of it, that doesnt surprise me. When I first heard the name I think my reaction was 'You mean the mountain that exploded in Washington?" Its anonymity is not coincidental. St. Helena has been called the most isolated island on the planet. Not so much in terms of geography but in accessibility. St. Helena is about 900 nautical miles away from a continent, which, as far as islands go, isnt incredibly impressive. Hawaii for example is many times that distance. But Hawaii has multiple international airports with hundreds of flights arriving daily. St. Helena has none. You can book a luxury cruise to Hawaii. In St. Helena, you have to get on the mail boat that leaves every week from Ascension Island (probably the second most isolated island on the planet). Aside from its remoteness, the island is most known for being the exiled home of Napoleon, rare stamps, and the oldest animal alive today. It is also happens to be where we are currently headed. The journey will take us the better part of two weeks which leaves plenty of time to speculate on what this place is going to be like. Our lone British compatriot onboard informs us that arriving will be akin to visiting 1950s England. I never went to England in the 50s, so I dont know what that means but the words 'charming", 'slow-paced", and 'really, really expired tea" immediately come to mind. As with everything, well just have to wait and see.

Jan 23 Argo Update

Skipper of the day Chris Uyeda calls in with the update from Argo as she departs South Africa for St. Helena.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bon Voyage Cape Town!

Author: Ned King
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
This morning had started out like every other morning aboard Argo so far, we woke around the time of 0630, prepared for the day and made our way to the deck for breakfast cereal. Only this morning we had received the news wed been anxiously awaiting for the past couple of days, when we were to leave Cape Town and begin our voyage across the Atlantic. Our captain, Dan, informed me this morning that today was our last day in Cape Town and that we were to gather our dock lines and make way for Antigua tomorrow morning, not long after first light.
After breakfast, we had a class introducing all the equipment we have on board for doing Intellectual Student Projects (ISPs) during our semester on the sea.
Following class, we set out on a trip to a local aquarium, which turned out to be much larger than we had expected. Previously estimated to wander the aquarium at our hearts desire for roughly an hour, we found ourselves and our curious minds intrigued and entertained till we finally had to leave for lunch. Due to defective refrigerator issues, some of us had sandwiches aboard while others wandered for lunch ashore.
Though I can confidently say that Ive enjoyed my time in Cape Town and appreciating Argo for all her splendor, Im glad that we are finally starting our long journey on an adventure we are surely not soon to forget.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hoist the Sails!

Author: Brian Snouffer
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
The day started a bit differently as most people, aka not the coffee drinkers, woke up to the soothing sound of the fire alarm. The drill went fairly smoothly, but most of the crew just looked a bit sleepy. After a delicious breakfast of French toast, the crew went to work prepping Argo for our first trip aboard her. It took about an hour and a half and then our ship cruised slowly away from the dock under power from the engine. I should point out that the weather was at its absolute finest, clear skies and just enough wind to learn how to sail on. After waiting for a freighter to pass, we powered out to Table Bay. Once out, we began hoisting the sails for the first time. Initially, we raised five out of the six sails. Now we got our first taste and lesson in sailing. We tried our hands at performing some tacks, turning by moving the bow of the boat through the wind. Everyone got to perform every task of sweating on the lines to steering Argo.
Soon, the wind started to pick up and we were able to turn off the motor. We were sailing, truly sailing. What a feeling it was to know that we were moving purely through Mother Natures good graces and our hard work and sweat. At one point we were even able to hit nine knots. Its hard to describe the wind blowing on your face, the sun shining off the ocean, and sailing across the backdrop of Table Mountain. Words just wont ever do justice.
Unfortunately, the wind did not keep up and we were forced to 'de-sail", or turn on the diesel engine. However, the excitement didnt end because soon someone was yelling man overboard. Dont worry parents, the captain threw a floatable over so that we could drill the scenario. We did successfully recover the floatable in case you were worried.
This day was not done giving goodness, as we received the news that our visas for Brazil went through! We will be departing across the Atlantic within the next couple of days. I will leave you with the view I see out the porthole of the tablecloth, dense clouds, spreading down over Table Mountain. Over and out from the Argo.
Oh and in case anyone wants to send cards, my birthday is in five days!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Becoming Sailors

Author: Joe Spanier
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Our 6th day aboard Argo, the crew once again began at 6:30am. Today consisted of much learning and training of particular tasks aboard Argo, which overwhelmed everyone very fast, but will soon begin to soak into everyones minds. The tasks consisted of learning the nomenclature of everything: every line (not ROPES) on Argo, which consists of thousands of feet, the names of all the different sails, block and tackles, and most importantly where is port, starboard, bow and stern. Oh and we also learned the correct procedures for beautifying Argo.
After lunch, was probably the most important part of the day because we learned about the three most important parts of boating, fire, abandon ship, and man overboard. Our captain and his expert crew of five professionally trained crew, talked and explained to the students about the correct procedures for each. Hopefully we will never need to us this knowledge but Im sure everyone is prepared.
After all the serious discussions were over we got to have a little fun by playing a couple games. I believe everyone enjoyed the 'Gumby/Emersion" suit races the most. Which consisted of two even teams, and one person from each team would run out, and try and put on a Gumby suit as fast as possible and then take it off as well, in a relay form which everyone enjoyed. Im still not sure what team won!
Well we just finished dinner and are now getting ready for our first MTE (Basic Seamanship) class to start. Adios Amigos! P.S. Everyone is all amped up for tomorrow, because we are taking Argo out on our first day cruise around Table Bay.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In Which the Argonauts Brave the Cape of Storms

Author: Gabriel R.R. Cohen
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
I awoke at 06h15 to discover a thick pall of fog blanketing our vessel and surrounding the harbor. The air was damp with both the precipitation of the mischievous elements and the anticipation of the crew. Though it was my charge this day to rouse my fellows from their dreamful sleep, I found the effort to be entirely unnecessary; everyone was promptly out of bed by 06h45. We broke our fast upon puffed grain and sweet tree fruits, after which I briefed my comrades on the course the day would take. We filed into the horseless coach that had been hired, and set off for the Cape of Good Hope. We were met early on with a troublesome obstacle: the dense fog of the morning had yet to subside. Deciding to forgo the scenic coastal route, our driver blazed a trail through the savage mainland, where frolicking simians and mysteriously patterned horses roam about as you or I would traverse a city street. At last we reached our goal. There it stood, in the moist, gray haze, the magnificent promontory that had claimed so many lives and even more minds. I could not help but reflect upon the bravery and confusion of the many sailors before us who had been dashed against the jagged rocks below. This was the cape that innumerable explorers and romantics had dreamt of for hundreds of years. I felt humbled.
We hiked across the strangely-vegetated cliff-sides, and stood a while in contemplation atop the Southwestern-most point of the African continent. Upon returning to our coach we discovered, to much consternation, that we had completely and unwittingly bypassed a meeting with a renowned troubadour of the Realm of Internet. He was to film himself in joyous dance upon the rocky outcrop we had not so long ago been standing. With our high spirits slightly disappointed, we set out for a place called Simons Towne. Upon arriving, our merry company enjoyed a peaceful lunch followed by the perusal of some local street bazaars for exotic trinkets. After we satisfied the desire to meander, we encountered a colony of the most curious birds I have ever seen. They are shaped like the result of a fish, a cormorant, and a cannon shell bumping into one other in a crowded hallway. Their feathers are more like the slick fur of an otter, and are arranged in a pattern of darkest black and pearliest white. The locals call them 'pingwens," or some such odd name. Several of our crew noted a mating pair in the midst of a lovers quarrel.
We returned to the vessel at roughly 16h30. At 1800, we speculated over the more unsavory sorts of magical powers, and supped upon the juicy meats and savory vegetables of the orient. We also celebrated the passage of one shipmate, Dwight, into the glorious double digits of age twenty. Following a straightforward and efficient clean-up, the shipmates and I were instructed in the study of the magnificent fishes and beasts of the seven seas by our scholarly naturalist, Mrs. Beaker. I then sat down to write this log.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Author: Spike Stone
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
The South African morning sun bathed Argo in yellow light as we all rose for a 7 am breakfast. With dreary, crusty eyes we gorged our salivating food holes with scrambled eggs and other general breakfast items. After a raging clean-up session we began walking at a brisk pace to the Robben Island ferry. We were met at the station by a line and following a 20 minute wait we boarded the ferry and headed towards the island. The ride was windy, crowded, and wet- everything one would hope for from a ferry ride. Upon arrival we all filed out of the boat and straight into a bus for a sitting tour of the entire island. The tour guide pointed out all the sights and gave a brief history of everything with some sharp wit. The bus dropped us off at the prison where we were met by a former prisoner of Robben Island. Though we all tried to stay cheerful, being in such a gruesome jail was very sobering. Our guide walked with us recounting his experiences of the human rights abuses and explaining how he was able to stay alive in such a horrible, morally desolate place. Around 1 we jumped back on the ferry and ate lunch back on Argo. It took a hearty lunch, trip to the head, and a nap to drain the lingering gloom. At 330 sharp we started the first OCE class with a delectable dinner following. Argo is getting scrubbed and beautified now before our next class starts.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Author: Stefano Pagliai
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Today we woke up around 5:30 and gathered the whole crew for our morning safari. We took a van on an 80 minute drive which ended up being more like an hour and a half of beautiful amazing scenery, we finally arrived at a big 5 game safari park. The whole group went in had an amazing breakfast of all sorts of variety of meals to choose from, everybody seemed very content with what they had to eat for breakfast. We later gathered up and climbed up on this big green tractor car and started our safari through the park. In the beginning we saw the two elephants that the park had we kept running into them everywhere we went. Later we saw some ostriches and a couple water buffalos as well as baboons, giraffes, zebras and one of my personal favorites just because of the name a zonkie, half zebra half donkey. We were also fortunate enough to see a white rhino which I was very happy to see personally we also ventured off a little bit in to the back part of the park where their was a big natural river pool and a bunch of the crew went in and said it was amazing.
After that we headed back to the lunch house where we had a lunch that was better than the breakfast we had in the morning. After lunch we headed back to our boat that we all love Argo some of the people on the boat had to go get passport photos for the Brazil visa after some of the people arrived from getting the photos Dan and Kevin told us that we where going to turn the boat around. Of course everybody got very exited so we all went to work and did what we where told and turned the boat around successfully, and all learned a little bit. I can tell you that everybody was jumping up and down with excitement. When we had successfully turned the boat around we did the thing Chris introduced to us called the squeeze. The topic of the squeeze today was what was your first impression of Argo when you saw her? When everyone finished giving the little tale we all began the feast of dinner. The chefs did very well tonight in my opinion. After dinner clean up occurs and is currently going on. The day was great and I have a feeling they will only get better and better.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Table Mountain

Author: Dan
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Today marked the long awaited beginning to Argos spring semester complete with a full compliment of students and staff, we started our day with a pancake breakfast and a program meeting. Throughout the day staff members shared tips with students about living in their new home and the crew began building the bonds that will see us through the voyage. After lunch there was some free time for students to explore the VandA Waterfront area where Argo is docked, some enjoyed ice cream while others relaxed on board, taking in their new home. Later, after the hot southern summer sun dropped a little in the sky, we headed up to a local peak called Lions Head, which was summited after a 1 hour hike each way, culminating with a short chain climb to actually reach the summit. Lions Head boasts some extraordinary views and we could not have picked a better day to hike. After returning to the base, taxis shuttled us the short distance to the famous Table Mountain Cable Car where we reached another peak in a very different way; by riding the cable car to the top. Once at the peak the plan was to watch the sunset and have dinner, but alas the fickle cape weather piped up and the wind began to blow, clouds covered the mountain and the siren sounded so off we went to ride the car down before it stopped running due to heavy wind. Luckily there were pizzas waiting when the hungry group reached Argo. Now its time for showers and sleep as tomorrow will be an even earlier morning the safari starts at 0600.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Arrival Day

Author: Leah Shopneck
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Argo is once again a flurry of activity. Bags are being passed down the companionway on a regular basis, wandering eyes can be found inspecting each nook and cranny as the new crew begins to learn about their new surroundings and voices can be heard throughout the entire boat. With two continents, one ocean and a sea ahead of us, the smiles crossing our faces from ear to ear show the world that this is only day one of program and we can't wait for this journey to begin.