written by Program Director, Jen Borderud
Today, the Delta crew got the most out of a long day at the Bitter End Yacht Club and Resort. Everyone headed ashore this morning and began the day with a beach volleyball tournament with the Charlie and Bravo programs. The rest of the day was spent doing some small boat sailing on 420’s and Hobie Cats, wakeboarding, tubing, and just relaxing on shore at the beach and shops. After some fun and relaxation, the crew headed to the east end of the North Sound to learn about mangroves and their importance to many ecosystems. After the lesson, everyone did their part and spent some time collecting any trash and debris that they found in the mangroves.
After some showers, the crew then went to Saba Rock for dinner and dessert with some of the Bravo and Charlie crews at the Saba Rock Restaurant.
Today was all about preparing for the overnight passage to the Leeward Islands. The Delta crew got the chance to sleep in and had a late breakfast of French toast with bananas and Nutella. They then got to work and hit the water and fuel dock at Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda. After prepping the boat for the overnight passage and doing some re-provisioning, the crew practiced moving around the deck with their harness and tethers that they would be wearing while they were on watch.
After navigation was squared away, Grand Plaisance III and her crew set out at about 4:30 pm. Emma, skipper of the day, was confident at the helm as she led her crew out of the north sound and eastward as we exited the British Virgin Islands. The crew was divided into 3 watch groups with each of the staff members onboard. The full moon made things even better as the sea and sky were well-lit by the moonlight.
“Land Ho” was called at about 6a.m. when Cass’ watch team was first able to make out Anguilla and St. Martin. Cassidy, the new skipper of the day, took the helm as we approached the anchorage at Lagon Marigot at about 10:45a.m. Though the wind picked up, Cassidy expertly navigated the many boats in the anchorage and successfully anchored GP3 on the very first attempt. Pablo timed the entire passage at 16 hours and 8 minutes. Though the crew was a bit sleepy, they were exhilarated to explore new lands. They tidied the boat, had a good brunch, and eagerly headed ashore to explore the many bakeries, cafes, and shops. We stayed on shore and explored all that Marigot had to offer before heading back to the boat for dinner.
The Delta crew headed back to land this morning to hike the 400 year old ruins of Fort Louis. The old stone steps and cannons that line the trail are now brimming with iguanas and tropical foliage. From the top, the crew took in the view of both the French and Dutch sides of the island. After hiking down and having some lunch, the crew of GP3 made their way towards the island of Tintamarre with Sam, the skipper, at the helm. Tintamarre, a flat, isolated island is home to many reef fish species. Getting away from the bigger islands made for top-notch star-gazing. The afternoon was spent hanging out, floating and chatting in the sea about the many adventures ahead as well as the journey thus far.
For our last day in the French Antilles, the Delta crew explored the streets of Gustavia and capitalized on their last opportunity to enjoy freshly baked French pastries and crepes. After some shop time in the morning, the crew made their way to the idyllic Shell Beach in the afternoon. In lieu of the typical white sand beaches of the Caribbean, this beach is composed of tiny shell pieces that give the shore a pink and orange hue.
Hawkey, Dylan, and Jen went for a snorkel around the east end of the bay to find some rope ladders that lead to some amazing spots from which to dive into the turquoise waters. Pablo, Madison, Chloe and Emily all joined to snorkel the reefs and explore the cliff side before seeking a little adrenaline and jumping into the ocean below.
After Shell Beach, everyone hit the showers and began winding down for the evening. The day ahead would bring a much longer open-ocean sail that would require a well-rested crew for a safe and successful passage!
GP3 and her crew left Gustavia this morning, before the sunrise, to head toward Saba. The almost 30 nm passage took just over 5 hours, getting the crew to Saba with plenty of time to eat lunch and prepare for diving in the afternoon. Hawkey, Chloe, and Kricket went into town to refresh their Discover Scuba Diving Skills while Pablo, Elvira, Sam, Stephanie, Madison, and Emily jumped onto the Dive Boat at Fort Bay to check out the underwater world of Saba.
After just a few minutes, it was clear that the marine environment of Saba was very different than that of the BVI’s. The dramatic coastlines of Saba drop off into very steep and deep ocean floors. The deep boulder reefs are abundant and thriving with many of the same fish species that one might find in the BVI, but also many different or less commonly found ones. After just minutes of descending beneath the surface, our dive instructors from Sea Saba pointed out a nurse shark, a scorpion fish, and a group of magnificently colored queen angelfish. The highlight of the first dive however, was a yellow long snout sea horse that was no bigger than a pinky finger.
The second dive didn’t disappoint either. After a 70 ft. descent, the Open Water group encountered a massive adult male green turtle cruising through the coral reef. Not long after, we found a vibrant green moray eel, a handful of nudibranchs, and a few southern stingrays lurking in the sand patches.
Today, the Delta crew took to exploring the friendly, hilly, misty island of Saba. In the morning, everyone headed to Fort Bay to jump in a taxi van and journey up the steep hillsides to the town of Windwardside. The quaint little town is the heart of the island. Everything from the local supermarket to the many dive shops to the trailhead for the famous Mt. Scenery is available within a short (though steep) walk.
Students got to taste fresh-off-the-tree passion fruits and mangos and even got to make their own glass bead at Jo Beans’ jewelry and glass studio. After a big pizza lunch, the students teamed up with the Saba Conservation Foundation by cleaning up the Crispeen Trail. The group hiked up and down the lush, green, jungle trail picking up trash and debris as they went.
By the time everyone got back to the boats, it was time for showers and dinner prep. Pablo DJ’ed while Emily and Dylan made BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes, Caesar salad and garlic bread. Everyone excitedly recapped the highlights of the day at boat meeting before getting ready to sleep under the stars at Wells Bay, Saba.
This morning was the last morning in the Leeward Islands for the Delta crew. In preparation for the long day and night ahead of them, everyone slept in and had a leisurely breakfast before getting to work on setting up the boat for the night passage. Everyone tidied their cabins and helped secure gear above and below decks. After preparing some sandwiches, the crew headed ashore to enjoy their last day on Saba. Emily, Hawkey, and Trevor ambitiously made their way to the Mt. Scenery Trailhead to hike to the highest summit on Saba. The steep rainforest-like trail was well worth the time and sweat as the trio got to enjoy brilliantly colored birds, lizards, and foliage along the way. Cass took the rest of the crew to check out “The Ladder”, a set of almost 800 steps that was built by hand by Dutch Fisherman 400 years aago. Sam, Emma, Elvira, Chloe, and Cassidy went back to Jo Beans to make some more glass jewelry and beads.
Everyone met back up at 3:30p.m. to catch up with each other and head back to the boat for final preparations. Cass announced the watch schedule and briefed everyone on the journey ahead while Hawkey, Sam, Pablo, Emily, and Jen worked on hoisting the dinghy and lashing it to the bow. By 5:30p.m., Grand Plaisance III was off the mooring ball and headed Northeast towards Virgin Gorda.
Conditions were perfect and really quite mellow compared to the sea state that the Delta crew had been sailing in for the last few days. Kricket kicked us off on the helm and lead the crew through sail raising and trimming to a broad reach on a starboard tack. Jen and Cass made pesto pasta with broccoli and parmesan for everybody while the crew settled into the cockpit and got into their harnesses and tethers. After everyone ate their fill, the first watch took over on helm and navigation while the rest of the crew tidied up down below.
As the night sky got darker and the stars became visible, the whole crew decided to hold off on starting the watch schedule and spend a little time together in the cockpit looking at the stars and sharing stories and facts about constellations, stars, celestial navigation, or the solar system in general. Hawkey pointed out Ursa Major and spotted a few satellites while Trevor talked about Scorpio, Cassiopeia and the international space station. Cass talked about the Big Dipper and a little star named Elcor that was once used as part of a vision test in Ancient Rome. Just about everyone spotted a shooting star or two and relished the opportunity to sit in silence under the stars and listen to the sounds of the wind in the sails and the waves pushing us along our 90 nautical mile journey. Conditions stayed mellow through the night and just about everyone got a chance to helm Grand Plaisance and pick a star or constellation to steer her by.
At about 4:30 am, a pod of dolphins decided to tag along as Chloe, Emily, Cassidy, and Pablo were on watch. The crew watched excitedly as one curious dolphin soon turned out to be 4 or 5 dolphins playing, surfing, and jumping through the waves next to GP3. Moments later, as if that wasn’t cool enough, a blazing meteorite tore across the sky before disappearing after a whopping 10-12 seconds. The crew was almost speechless as The British Virgin Islands came into view after such an eventful watch.
The crew made it to the Sir Francis Drake channel after 15 hours of sailing and made their way to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda where they anchored and celebrated the passage with a pancake breakfast while they waited to clear into the country. Though the crew was sleepy, they were happy to take some down time to write letters to self and begin preparing for the ASA exams that they would take in the afternoon.