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Recovery, Renewal, and Rejuvenation

Jul 21, 2009

Location: Nevis
Author: Mystral Echavarria
Today we were meant to make out on another 24 hour passage to Dominica at 6:00 AM. After some of us got up at 5:30, and didn’t see anyone about ready to make sail, we learned that because the winds were so strong we’d have to delay the passage another day. So with half of us having gotten up at 5:30 and still half asleep, breakfast was almost comical to watch as everyone stared into their bowls of oatmeal and spoke not a word. Finally, with some nourishment, we started picking up the pace a little bit with the help of Chris and his 3rd Chemical Oceanography lecture at 8:30AM. While some might grimace at this prospect of a science class at 8:30 in the morning, it is essentially impossible to find this of all courses boring, tiresome, or tedious as Chris is the most energetic, enthusiastic, passionate and engaging teacher I have ever come across. So despite being tired and a little queasy, in no time we were learning why it is that without very nice and rather expensive equipment, underwater photography always come out in shades of green and blue. If you want to know the answer I’d suggest asking your shipmate when they return home. As a photographer, myself, I found this to be particularly informative. We then made our way up to the deck for MTE review with Al. This was a nice concise review of many of the topics from our sailing textbook in preparation for our midterm in a few days. As 10:30 rolled around, all the former and newly certified Open Water divers met to embark on their Advanced Open Water Diving Certifications. This means the next time we dive, we’ll all be diving together. After lunch, fed, and with much more energy we made our way to “Barb’s Marine Lab” on shore. Barb, we learned is essentially an older version of our lovely, informative, and entertaining dive instructor, Kristina. She runs a Sea Camp in Nevis for both locals, as well as vacationing and ex-pat children. She gave us quite an entertaining recap of marine life phylums and some of their major families and species. We even joined in chorus at one point to sing the Sea Camp rendition of The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea.” Then we made our way along white sand beaches and palm trees, the beauty of which, while the norm down here, still manages to take my breath away in disbelief that I’m actually here living this life. We found ourselves at Barbs’ mini-aquarium. There was a turtle tank with Hawk’s Bill Turtles. There was a baby, that was oh so cute, and his older brother, who when picked out of the water, would cover his eyes with his fore flippers – also very cute. Then there was the no touch tank, with some small jelly fish and a super adorable baby balloon fish that swam around the tank with the ferocity of one of those little wind up toys that we all played with as children. The best tank, in my opinion, was the one with snails, starfish, anemones, crabs, lobsters and urchins. The snails weren’t like the snails you sometimes find in the back yard. One of these was a Queen Conch which was big and heavy enough to hold with two hands. Luckily these conchs were relatively used to human interaction and proved to be quite curious and willing to come all the way out of their shell. These big ones have a big foot that if you put your hand underneath it you can actually feel them hop, which is apparently what they do to get around. I never really imagined slimy, slithering snails hopping, especially with that hefty shell they lug around with them everywhere. We also saw that sea stars have little legs they use to move around. When holding a sea star upside down it was amazing to see all these little white feet wiggling around, and when you put them back down on the sand, they actually move quite quickly. The urchins and anemones also have tentacles and spines that act as little feet. Up until this trip I honestly never thought of much of this marine life as particularly mobile. To me, they always seemed to just find a rock and stay there filtering out food. While they do do that at times, these little creatures are far more agile than I had previously imagined. The urchin actually managed to walk his way off my hand into the water because I definitely didn’t expect him to move that fast. One of the cooler looking animals was the Brittle Sea Star. While it also has a 5-star shape, each arm is much thinner and covered in these black, spiky, little hairs. Unfortunately, as their name implies, their arms break off fairly easily, and so were handled with extra care. Now, everyone’s huddled below watching White Squall, which, while a very good movie, probably not the best to watch before going on passage. But hey, maybe it’ll give us even a greater sense of adventure as we head off tomorrow morning bright and early and ready to go. Fair winds and following seas to all.