Location: Underway to San Salvador, Bahamas
The past few weeks have gone by in a blur. Our time in Cuba was amazing. Together we had the chance to visit a country that, considering its geographic location, we knew very little about before our arrival. We explored Cienfuegos and the keys off the southern coast of Cuba — a part of the country that few tourists get the opportunity to see. We got to try authentic Cuban food, see flocks of flamingos and practice our free diving while navigating the reefs of Isla de la Juventud. We arrived in Havana after a three-day passage during an incredible moment in history: we bore witness to the first visit to Havana by a US president in decades. During some of our shore explorations, we even got to see the presidential motorcade drive past.
Cuba is in the midst of a period of transition. Perhaps the most valuable thing that we got to experience — shipmates and staff alike — was Cuba as it is at this very moment, hovering on the precipice of great change. In Havana, we got to soak up centuries of Cuban history in the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana. We spoke to locals as we navigated the city, visiting landmarks such as the Cathedral, the Museo de la Revolucion, and the Bodeguita del Medio. We even got to take a salsa dancing class and practice our newfound dancing skills out at a restaurant with our teachers. As staff, we feel lucky to have had such incredible experiences, of course, but the most rewarding part was getting to learn about Cuba, its history, and its people alongside our students. Getting to speak with locals about their culture and history certainly taught us more than any textbook ever could.
In the end, we were sad to leave Cuba but slipped our dock lines knowing that we have many more amazing experiences to come in the Bahamas, the BVI, and back ‘home’ in Antigua.
We switched up watches for the recent passage to Nassau — something we do with students at least once a semester. The five or six other crew on your watch team become some of your closest friends on the boat; it’s hard to describe the sense of camaraderie and community you feel for your fellow watch team members. We rely on one another to keep the boat safe, to help us when we’re feeling seasick, to keep us entertained on long nighttime stretches, and (of course) to share the watch snacks that everyone picks up during shore time at various destinations. While we prize this closeness, it’s nice to get the chance to know and have deep night watch conversations with more than just a small subset of the crew. For that reason, we rolled out new watch teams for our passage to Nassau, and it was tremendous fun getting more one-on-one time with new faces.
One of the main reasons we as staff were so keen to switch up watches was knowing that, in a few short weeks, we’re all going to be racing Argo together in Antigua Classics Week. It’s important that students and staff learn how to work together as a single cohesive unit in order to put in a good showing for the race. To that end, we didn’t just switch up watch teams, but we’ve also started stepping back and letting the students grow into roles of greater responsibility during the passage. Students have started learning boat systems and are now able to turn on and off the generators, main engine, watermaker, fridge & freezer, etc., without staff intervention or help. These systems aren’t as simple as the ones back home and involve a lot more than pressing a button or turning a key (and, if used incorrectly, can be damaged quite easily). We hope the shipmates are as proud of themselves for learning these systems as we are of them; it’s rewarding to see them step up and take command of the vessel that has been their home for the past two months.
Today we woke at the usual time to a delicious breakfast prepared by Oscar and his sous chefs. It felt like a luxury to have fresh fruit for breakfast again after going so long without it while we were in Cuba. After cleanup, the students rolled into OCB with Steve, during which Carolyn ran around the boat (assisted by Ian, Eric, and Ben), hiding all of the Easter eggs and Easter candies we smuggled on board the vessel in Grand Cayman. After getting out of class, students split up into their new watch teams and went for an Easter egg hunt, following scavenger-hunt style clues that sent them all around the boat — including down into the engine room, into our canned food supplies, and even aloft in the bo’ sun’s chair all the way up to the spreaders!
After a quick but delicious lunch of BLTs (and, let’s be fair, no small amount of candy), our students took the reins (under Audrey’s leadership) and got passage prep finished, the anchor up, sails raised, and our bow pointed towards San Salvador — the first place Columbus made landfall in 1492. Not only are the students running the deck while their (staff) watch leaders take a step back, but all of the navigation, passage planning, and contingency plans were student-led and operated. All has gone smoothly so far, and we’re looking forward to seeing how they do over the next day and a half.
We’re back on passage where life is simple, and we have time to reflect on the past two-thirds of the trip, remembering all of the incredible things we’ve seen and all of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities we’ve had. We can’t wait to see what the next thirty days have in store!
Wishing everyone back home fair winds and following seas (which, granted, we’re not going to have — but don’t worry! we all took our seasickness pills),