Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mega BA

Author: Leah Shopneck
Location: Antigua
As the sun rose this morning over the 150 foot yacht docked off our stern, the smell of Ned and Kira's breakfast wafted from the galley: a smorgasbord of pancakes and other delicious foods was on the menu for our last breakfast as a crew. After a quick clean up we kicked off a BA unlike any other BA. Usually during our routine post passage boat appreciations we clean out the fridge, cover the sails and wash the deck, but today we went beyond our past check lists. We also made every pin sparkle, the haul shine with a little elbow grease and every cabin and bunk look like it was cleaned by a professional. Despite the rain showers that we endured throughout the day, Argo now looks like a mega yacht ready to race in a regatta. As the last deck brush was put away the smiles and watery eyes of the crew showed the pride that they had in their beloved vessel. This may be the last day the Spring 2010 crew of S/Y Argo is complete in order to recite our well practiced count off, but this only begins our journey down the 'road less travelled." From this point forward we have chosen a path that will be full of adventure and a group of friends that are always there to share those adventures.

*To the crew of Argo: As I write this final blog entry, I'm sitting at the chart house table thinking about how Argo already misses the businesses of a full boat. It may be only 7 o'clock in the morning but usually by this hour 24 people are laughing in the salon or on deck sipping their coffee. The quietness is almost deafening. So for one final time, thank you to the Spring 2010 crew of Argo and the people that made this adventure possible for those 24, these past 90 days were one for the record books*

Monday, April 12, 2010

Exploring Antigua

Author: Cammie Burke
Location: Antigua
Today was our last free day aboard Argo so we had the day completely open to explore Antigua. In the last two days our world has taken a 360 degree turn, where we went from being on the open ocean to now being surrounded by the ritziest mega yachts I have ever seen. The staff took some of the crew around the docks and talked to them about the various boats while other people explored the town. It is strange to be back in civilization and words cannot describe the feeling of knowing that I will be leaving Argo in a day.
Although it is heart wrenching to think of leaving Argo, I kept the squeeze question light and asked everyone their funniest moment aboard Argo. It was absolutely hilarious to relive the hysterical moments we have had the last 88 days and by the end of the squeeze my stomach hurt so bad from laughing. My 23 Argo family members have made this a trip of a lifetime and I will keep these memories with me forever.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thank You Leah

Author: Kevin Johnsen
Location: Antigua
I have good news and bad news. The good news is we have just arrived in Antigua, our final destination. The bad news is Im not going to tell you about it. Youll have to wait for tomorrow. Today I want to talk about Leah Anne Shopneck. Leah is one of the staff members onboard. Shes responsible for a number of things, but I basically think of her as a keystone take her away and the whole program collapses. Included among her duties is bringing you this blog. And although youve never met her, for the last 87 days shes been tirelessly working for you. Shes the woman behind the camera, always remembering to take pictures while the rest of us are busy playing in waterfalls. Shes the one that motivates and reminds each of us to write our skippers blog. Shes the one who always somehow manages to find internet no matter how remote our location or how slow the connection speed. And she is the one that courageously battles the technological problems inherent in the process. Its an incredible amount of work and if youre reading this, youve obviously been following them. If the blog is a window into our world, Leah is the frame. And since, unfortunately, you cant thank her in person I thought Id do it for all us.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

If this were a country song, IÕd have my wife back, my dog would be alive, and IÕd be rich

Author: Ariana Tobias
Location: Deshaise, Guadeloupe
Forgive me for writing this log in reverse, but I have to start with a description of our last passage prep. Our plan is to leave Guadeloupe in the middle of the night tonight, to ensure a mid-morning arrival in Antigua, our final destination. After a bittersweet pep talk from Dan, reminding us that these last 40 miles deserve the same high performance standard as the previous 6,200, we rolled straight into passage prep from dinner cleanup.
I wish words could describe how proud and impressed I was by the flawless execution of the 'Pre-Cruise Check List." As skipper, it was incredible to be able to watch the flurry of activity as we hauled up the dinghies and secured them on deck, prepared the sails, re-coiled the lines, put all the dive gear away, got the laundry off the lifelines, filled the day tank with fuel, ran the jack lines, and secured our personal belongings down below.
It was like (if youll excuse the clich simile) conducting a symphony every player in place, every note perfectly played. I want to give a huge thank you to the staff for taking a rag-tag group of teen- and twenty-somethings, land-lubbers and pollywogs, and using the past 85 days to turn us into a professional crew. And of course, kudos to my fellow shipmates, who are the best group of people you could ever hope to cross an ocean with, en route from South Africa to the Caribbean.
I had to start with that, but the rest of the day was no less remarkable. In the pouring afternoon rain, we set up the 'boomswing" (which is exactly what it sounds like). A dedicated group of eight took charge of raising the boom and securing the lines, and the whole group had a blast launching themselves off the boat, swinging across the water, and dropping (some more gracefully than others) into the water. We ended the day with more than a few bright red bellies and backs, and Stephanie the undisputed champion of the backflip.
Lunch was a delicious Mexican feast of quesadillas, and the morning consisted of an optional river hike in Deshaise for those of us not retaking any exams. Breakfast was cereal at 0730, preceded by wake-ups at 0700 by yours truly. Phew, reliving a day backwards is hard work, but I couldnt have asked for a better last day as skipper.

Friday, April 9, 2010

End of Finals Week

Author: Cat Buckley
Location: Deshaise, Guadeloupe
Today was another fantastic day in Guadeloupe. We awoke to some scrumptious breakfast muffins and cereal. After clean up, we all split to go a few different places. Some chose to go diving, others to shore while a few hung around the boat to study. At lunch we all traded places. By the time dinner rolled around most everyone had had a chance to explore the underwater wonderland and the enchanting little town of Deshaise. It was a nice relaxing day, wandering around town, eating ice cream, swimming, studying, reading and diving; a much needed day of randr as our 'finals week" winds down. As usual, at six we all gathered together for our beloved squeeze and a hearty dinner of chili and rice. A few eating contest and boxes of Salticrax later it was time for the Marine Biology fish identification quiz. Now we are all scattered around the boat, chatting in the bunks, watching movies or spread out in the salon cramming for our last big exam. Its hard to believe our time on Argo is going to be over so soon; it feels like just yesterday we were all moving on board, meeting each other, learning about the classes and the parts of the ship. Though I will no longer be here physically come the end of the trip, Argo and the people and experiences I have had will remain with me for years to come. This has truly been an inspiring, revitalizing and live changing ride, for that I thank Argo and her crew. I am grateful to all of you for livingfor living lives unimagined!
-Always Cat (Skip of the Day)
*This blog contains pictures from the previous day's diving at Pigeon Island*

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Next Stop, Antigua

Author: Dwight Churchill
Location: Deshaise, Guadeloupe
I am writing my last skipper's log aboard Argo here in Deshaise (day-hay). It is the second anchorage here in Guadeloupe that we have visited and due to the winds making themselves known we only had a brief stay at Pigeon Island before this. I asked my last question at the infamous 'squeeze" tonight. It was asking where or what you thought the person to your left would be doing in 10 years. It was aimed at the future purposely because thats what everyone on board has to look forward to. For most on board these are the last days on board, for some its just the beginning. Wherever we do end up, which apparently for me is living in a pretty nice shack straight out of the movie Into The Blue all the while diving and sailing (sounds good to me), Argo will forever be in our memories. I think, I speak for most saying that she has brought us some direction in our lives and if this is true, it could only be an epic adventure filled with too many tales to tell and too many experiences to share. I say thank you to everyone on board for showing me the best time and adventure of my life and to my family back home, Ill see you in May!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Last Stops Before Our Final Destination

Author: Jason Chodakowski
Location: Guadeloupe
Just a moment ago, fulfilling my responsibilities as Skipper of the Day, I took down the ensign from the stern, and realized that on this voyage it would be the last time I would do so. As we lay anchored off the western coast of Guadeloupe, gladly finishing our remaining final exams and assignments, many of us have similar bittersweet thoughts about the coming last days, mostly disbelief at how quickly time moves. But how wonderful it was spent! And though we still have much yet to see and dives to complete, I must give my acknowledgments to those responsible for this incredible journey that I have been so fortunate to take part in. To my mother, father, and brother I give infinite thanks and love without them nearly all the incredible things I have been able to see and do would surely have been impossible. Endless thanks to you and all my family! And to my friends Stanley, Mark, David, Roger, Joan, Al, Dan, and Donna I am looking forward to seeing you all soon! Until then, however, we have a precious schooner to safely deliver to Antigua. Go Argo!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The End is Near

Author: Sean Blaise
Location: Les Saintes
Day 82, its hard to believe. As a new Sea|mester employee I think that I am in many ways feeling similar to the shipmates as our journey nears its end. In 8 days they will be parting ways, and returning to the real world. For me, it is, in the words of Shakespeare, going to be 'such sweet sorrow" to watch these students depart. While the end of a Sea|mester represents loss, it also frames the depth of accomplishment that these students have achieved.
Not only, have we crossed an entire ocean, nearly 6200 nm miles of it, but these students have formed relationships with 23 other strangers in doing so. They put aside personal differences, disparate backgrounds and ideals, and they pulled together for the common good of their fellow shipmate. On a small scale, they represented what is best about humanity.
Some of these relationships will be life long, others may be weathered by the smooth hands of time, but all will have mattered profoundly. All will have fundamentally affected each person that was involved in a positive way. It is the hope of this humble crew member that our Sea|mester 'moments" will live on forever, in the hallowed halls of memory.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Two Stories from the Saints

Author: Chris Uyeda
Location: Les Saintes
Despite the fact that weve been in the Saints since Friday, today was our first day ashore. Which is an inconvenient coincidence for me, since it means that Im now responsible for answering the question: 'What are the Saints like?" This is no small task. For me, its a challenging question because (a) describing any place to someone who has never been is difficult and (b) I have very little information since I spent most of the day doing my taxes.
That said, Id like to share the following two stories that will hopefully help paint you a picture.
Early this morning, the science department (ie. yours truly and Beaker) jumped in the dinghy to go on our usual pre-breakfast run. Beaker is quite familiar with the island, so before we got to shore I asked for her advice on which way to head. I mentioned that I preferred the direction which would let me run the farthest and that I wouldnt mind a road that took me to the beach. Her response: 'You cant run too far here in any direction, and every road ends at the beach." So off I went. It wasnt long before I was on the top of the nearest hill, running past a fort that is probably older than America and enjoying the sun rise over the Caribbean Sea. But before I got there I had to make my way through the narrow streets of town. It was during this time that I attracted some attention. This isnt uncommon. I tend to get looks from the locals when running in foreign countries. But normally its because Im up at far too early an hour, being far too productive, in far too hot a climate. But this morning none of those distinctions held. I passed plenty of people who were up and moving about and the temperature was an inviting 75 degrees. Why then did I feel awkwardly self-conscious? Because I was the only one not carrying a handful of freshly baked baguettes.
Following my run, I returned to Argo and spent the rest of the day battling with my Form 1040. So, unfortunately, I have no more personal stories. I did, however, pick up this gem from Dwight Churchill, Ned King and Joe Spanier.
Apparently, this afternoon, while eating lunch ashore, the waitress of a particular beachside dining establishment gave Joe a mouthful when he attempted to order only desert. Never mind that Joe had just finished eating lunch at another restaurant, that he was simply meeting Dwight and Ned, or that he couldnt translate the expletives coming from this womans mouth. No. Apparently, to go into a French restaurant, with the intention of ordering anything less than the chicken filet in coconut cream sauce with a side of squash and fried plantains (thats what he got) is nothing short of a personal insult. Its also worth mentioning that even after Joe recovered from his faux pas, the waitress didnt warm up to them until Dwight ordered the coconut pie with vanilla ice cream (French vanilla, obviously) 'murdered" in chocolate sauce (Dwights quote). But harassment from the waiting staff aside, it was one of the most delicious meals theyve ever had. Now in the case that youre envisioning a 5-star dcor based on the quality of the meal and the high ordering standards, let me just share the following. First, the restaurant would be more fairly described as a shack with four walls. Second, it didnt have any doors. And third, the waitress wasnt wearing shoes.
Thats what the Saints are like.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

SLD Olympics

Author: Ned King
Location: Les Saintes
Today we were all faced with a challenge of competition, Argo knowledge, and tolerance for various physical handicaps in an event that can be described as nothing less than extraordinarily epic..... the SLD Olympics!
After moving Argo this morning from our dive site to the main anchorage not 10 minutes away, we were all called to muster in the cockpit with the only other instructions being "bring your PFD, and anything you think you might need..." leaving the details up to the imagination. Once all seated we were split up into either the Red Port Team or the Green Starboard Team. We were all given a specific handicap to make the scavenger hunt race a bit more interesting; some of us became deaf, others blind, mute, adjoined at the ankle or lost the use of an arm. The first event was called Hydration Station, followed by a hunt for a series of clues placed around the ship, each leading us to the next clue. It was a hectic hunt for clues and various items as the two teams raced past each other in the narrow hallways of Argo. Though no serious injuries occurred, a member for the green team jumped out of one of the dinghy's to help tow it around Argo, forgetting that his PFD would inflate once he jumped in, and two others wrestled over the inventory log to locate various items. After all the mayhem subsided, and both teams were once again back in the cockpit with their collection of canned goods, etc. we brought the battle to arena of intelligence and answered various trivia questions regarding Argo and general Sea|mester knowledge. This evening, after all the points were tallied up, I am proud to announce that the Green Starboard Team reigned awesomeness over the inferior Port side and dominated these SLD Olympics aboard Argo's Spring 2010 Sea|mester!!! It was a good day indeed, and although Starboard may have walked away clean, the Port side did not go down with out a fight.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Diving Galore

Author: Brian Snouffer
Location: Pain de Sucre, Les Saintes
Today was a fun filled day with all kinds of diving, but before that all students had to attend the last day of MTE class. This consisted of a review for our big navigation exam that is to happen on Day 82. Afterwards, students had the option to go on a fun dive or studious students stayed on the boat to study for the mad rush of exams and projects that our due in the next 5 days. Also, students on deck could entertain ourselves by watching the Dive Masters in training, Dwight and Marina, complete their swim test.
After lunch there was more diving to be had as the students trying to get their Advanced Open Water set out in buddy pairs and perform navigation tasks. This included calculating an average swim speed, navigating a line and finally navigating a square, which didnt always end up looking quite like a square.
Finally, the diving concluded in the evening with the second half of students getting their chance to take the plunge into the dark. And let me tell you. Joe was putting it lightly when he said night diving is 'pretty epic." I can honestly say it is one of the coolest things I have ever done and the only way for you to truly understand is to go night diving yourself.
After diving, students were split amongst a variety of activities which included studying, sleeping and my personal favorite, lying on deck looking at the stars.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Night Dive

Author: Joe Spanier
Location: Pain de Sucre, Les Saintes
Today we left the gorgeous island of Dominica and set sail for Pain de Sucre, an island in Les Saintes. Upon arrival we navigated our way through two towering islands to where our new home would be (our anchorage). This new anchorage entitled us to a new type of anchoring style called Mediterranean style docking/mooring, where we dropped the anchor off the boat as we backed up to the shore where we ran a stern line to the island and pulled tight. This would allow us to not go farther from the island or closer and would give us primo locations/safety spots for scuba diving. Once we where all secured the crew went into a little Boat Appreciation and started scrubbing and polishing Argo. Let me just say she looks mighty FINE!
This new location for us permitted us to do our first night dive off of Argo, which was pretty epic. Most of the students have barely ever dove before let alone diving at night. So the experience was very new and exciting for most of us. Half the students went tonight and the rest will continue to go tomorrow night due to the amount of flash lights and safety protocol. One of the coolest creatures that was spotted on the dive which was an Octopus, which excited shipmate Spike Stone, due to the fact that he has a sick (cool) tattoo of an Octopus on his torso. Well time for bed, since everyone is so tired from a full day of excitement.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An Educated Guess

Author: Gabriel Cohen
Location: Dominica
Today was our last day in the magical and absurd paradise-like island of Dominica. While in our previous two days here we had explored the wonders of the dark, moist, and sketchy jungle, today we reaped the plentiful ecotourism bounty of the surrounding sea. Indeed, today the crew of Argo was fortunate enough to go diving in Dominica. Why was this dive different from all other dives, you ask? Well, in the words of our own dive instructor, Jessica 'Beaker" Wurzbacher, it is the single greatest dive in the Caribbean. Perhaps the world. Maybe even the whole universe. We dont yet know what the diving is like on other planets, but based on this testimony, it probably isnt nearly as good as in Dominica. I would also bet that a dive shop on any of the moons of Saturn would be terribly overpriced, especially considering that there isnt any liquid water there.
But I digress, and in my digression, I digress even further into branching paths of self-perpetuating digression. Today, we dove the greatest of dives. Well, most of us did. I was one of the few who chose stay behind. I was slaving all day over a boiling hot practice chart, for in my exuberance for experiencing the other wonders we had travelled to, I neglected much of the work required to keep up my grades and get my captains license. And so I stayed behind while the others went and had their minds repeatedly blown asunder. Since I was not there, I can only make educated guesses as to what transpired. And so I will.
The first thing I assume ,the shipmates must have seen upon submerging was a small but organized army of squid. They were all swimming in formation, flashing different colors that can only be understood with the help of 3-D glasses. The local mermaids had constructed a magnificent castle, with coral-covered towers and archways. There was a parade all through the streets of the ocean pixie village, with a band of crabs that could only march sideways. They walked into several anemones, but the calypso music never stopped. All of the fish were wearing matching t-shirts, but no one could read them, as t-shirts dont fit fish very well at all. There was a single octopus selling popcorn and minestrone soup. Occasionally, the soup would get caught in an upwelling and float out of the pot, while the octopus scrambled to keep it all in one place. None of the Argonauts were able to taste the soup, as they were too busy breathing, but a local parrotfish said it was far too salty. Gangs of sea stars lurched around the reef, terrorizing hapless blennies with their obscene language and shocking yet slow aggression. Several humpback whales stopped by for coffee before returning to their long journey to nowhere. All of the turtles were swimming upside down.
This is probably what happened. Unless it didnt, in which case, never mind.