Location: Les Saintes, Guadeloupe
Today marked the start of our fourth student-led passage. Student skipper Patrick took us off the mooring before breakfast as deck officer Julian led his crew in slipping lines and raising our staysails. Chief navigator Ashley and her team had charted our course from Roseau to Bourg the night before and stood by to advise while chief engineer Natalia prepared our machinery for departure.
By midmorning, we were sailing in the lee of Dominica with only the barest puff of wind to keep our sails full. In spite of the difficulties of light-wind sailing, our student crew persevered, pushing through a few difficult tacks before our wind filled in as we reached the Dominica passage.
Right after lunchtime, we got our promised gust: 20kts of wind that inspired a snappy flying jib strike, after which we made course on a close reach. We sailed throughout the rest of the afternoon even as our wind faded, approaching the northern entrance to Les Saintes. Patrick and the student crew put in a great gybe to get us into the channel before springing the news on the whole crew: we would attempt to sail onto the anchor.
Given the number of vessels in the anchorage at any given time (and restrictions on anchoring due to shipping channels and mooring fields), sailing onto anchor is no mean feat. Yet the student crew rose to the challenge, getting our headsails ready to drop. Once Patrick picked our spot, we were in it to win it, maneuvering in close quarters with our jib, staysails, and “fisherman” still up. As soon as Argo turned into the wind, the order came to dump our headsails. We lost the jib and forward staysail in seconds, followed by the main staysail. The fishermain stayed up and centerline, helping to keep our bow pointed high as we dropped our anchor. Two shots and a skip later, and we hooked solid, just a stone’s throw from the boundary of the allowable anchorage. We couldn’t have picked a better spot even had we “cheated” with the engine. Fired up by our success, we put up our SeaMester flag with pride and leaped into put-away and cleanup.
Argo’s student crew has every reason to be proud of this passage. They tried sail handling in difficult conditions, pushed through setbacks, and ultimately pulled off one of the coolest maneuvers I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of in a long time. Not only did they lead a successful passage, but they also chose to challenge themselves along the way, keeping their spirits up and rewarding all of us with an awesome entry to the anchorage outside of Bourg.
Ultimately, Nick said it best:
“This is the coolest thing I’ve EVER done in my life!!!”
Today was a good day.