Location: Underway to St. Helena

Hello, friends and family at home! I get the pleasure of writing to you as the first staff skipper of the trip. If you don’t know what that means, let me explain. Here on Argo, we organize all of the chores and tasks using a job wheel. For the first portion of the trip, the staff and students are on separate wheels, which allows a staff member to be at all of the major clean-up stations to help teach the students what to do in their various jobs – like galley crew, deck squad, headmasters, stewards, etc. But today is a momentous day because we upgraded to the mega wheel, which has every crew member mixed together on it. So no students have jobs like head chef (Thanks, Tim, for being the first student head chef today!), bosun (in charge of the deckies), etc. And that also means that staff will rotate through the “skipper” job as well. As skipper, I get to help the schedule of the day move along by waking people up for meals, reminding them what comes next in the day, and leading count-off each time we muster. I also get to lend support wherever it might be needed during clean-up, take photos, and write our daily blog – just like I am doing now.

I am a member of Watch Team 3 (along with Ben, Katie, Zoe, Audrey, Nick, David, and Tim), and this morning our watch shift was 0400-0800. Now normally, this is my favorite watch shift in the rotation because you get some stars to begin with, then first light, sunrise, breakfast, and most of the time, a nice nap afterward. Today was a little different, however, because when we came on deck for our shift, the sky was covered in a heavy layer of clouds, obscuring the stars and any residual light from the moon. When I say it was dark, I mean it was DARK. So dark, in fact, that helming was made an extra challenge since you could hardly tell if the boat was turning against the flat gray expanse in front of us. But we pushed through nevertheless, telling stories and listening to music to pass the time. Three days ago, when we had this same shift, we had first light around 0500 and sunrise around 0600; but today, all was still dark at 0600. This was due to the clouds but also the fact that we have been steadily sailing NW for the last several days since we left Cape Town, so the sun seems to rise later and later, and the days are getting a bit shorter as we head to lower latitudes. Finally, at about 0700, we had a dim sunrise with some tiny rays fighting their way through the clouds, and we knew the day had begun.

When our watch team finished our shift at 0800, we parted ways with Watch Team 1 (Gabe C, Elisabeth, Emma, Nat, Gabe D, Beau, Max, and Peter), who was taking over, and we headed down below for some breakfast, homework, or some rest before lunch. But not everyone rested because Tim was our first student head chef, so he, Elene, and Gabe G took over the galley at 1000 to make us some tasty and filling food. The sun made an appearance for a few hours in the late morning and early afternoon, and we enjoyed its warm rays. The wind had died down a good bit, so we dropped the jib and mainsail, and we turned on the engine for some motor sailing. Watch Team 2 (Claire, Amanda S, Elene, Ellie, Brina, MG, Will, Gabe G, and Nolan) helm us safely through lunch and clean up before the students headed down below for Oceanography class with Amanda S. They were learning about the layers of the earth, so Amanda had made yellow cake and brownies to represent continental crust and oceanic crust, respectively. They did a (very tasty) lab called “Cake Tectonics” to see how the two types of crust interact, and of course, everyone got to enjoy some yummy treats afterward. When Oceanography was finished, Amanda S, Ben, and I did a scientific reading and writing workshop to help the students get ready for their literature review and essays coming up soon.

The clouds gathered in again around 1600, and the day once again turned chilly. We had another tasty meal cooked by Tim and the sous chefs, and my squeeze question was, “Why are you here?” There was a variety of answers, and it was really great to hear everyone share their motivations for being here aboard Argo this semester. Every group is unique and different, and we are having so much fun getting to know each other as we form a floating family of sorts. During our final cleanup of the day, the sun blazed brightly through the clouds for a few minutes, signifying the end of another great underway day on Argo.

Lunchtime group photo