At Sea Bound for Dominica

Mar 16, 2018 - Sea Cloud

The sun rose at 6:07 a.m. as we were approaching the entrance to the St. Lucia Channel which separates Martinique and St. Lucia. The temperature was a balmy 82˚F. We had a fair wind of 20 knots and were making 5.8 knots over the ground before we went to sail. The crew went aloft at 9 a.m. to set sails. Expedition Leader Tom O’Brien gave an informative and detailed introduction to the sails and the mechanics of sailing a square-rigger. The Sea Cloud carries almost 28 thousand square feet of sail (2650 meters). You can imagine the strength of the sails, as they have to withstand gale force winds and move a 2500-ton vessel through the sea at 10mpg. The very durable sails are made in Poland and and can

The St. Lucia Channel is 17 miles wide. The trade winds funnel through it and thus provide reliable winds. After our staff introductions our naturalist Ian Strachan gave a very helpful introduction to photography in the tropics. At 11:30 a.m. we changed course slightly to a more northerly tack and set the “spanker” sail, which is a gaff-rigged sail. This is a complex maneuver and typically requires seven to eight sailors being supervised by our Boswain, Mamicon. We were doing 6 knots under sail. It was exciting to watch the sailors pit their strength against the wind.

Our historian Tom Heffernan gave a lecture on the economics of sugar and slavery showing how the demands for sugar created the triangular trade of the “Middle Passage.” At 4:30 p.m. we sailed by the famous “Diamond Rock” on our starboard. The basalt sea plug is almost 600 feet high and was the site of a famous battle between the English and French in May of 1805. The rock has the distinction of being the only rock, which was commissioned as a sloop. The English Admiralty granted it the status of a ship and it was named “HMS Diamond Sloop” and under the command of a commodore Maurice in February of 1803. Today if a British naval vessel passes the rock, the sailors come to attention and the bridge salutes a sister ship!

Tonight, we had the great pleasure of formally meeting Captain Evgeny Nemerzhitskiy and his officers. Our captain has a distinguished career and was captain of the famous Russian naval training ship the Kreuzenstern. We adjourned from the Lido and had a lovely Captain’s Dinner. The sea was gentle and rocked us all to a welcome rest. Tomorrow morning Dominica, the “Nature Island.”

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About the Author

Tom Heffernan


Tom, a native of New York City, who has had a life-long passion for travel and exploration, is the Kenneth Curry Professor of Humanities at the University of Tennessee and the founding Director of the university’s Humanities Center. His areas of interest are anthropology of religions and historical linguistics.

About the Photographer

Ian Strachan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

One steady constant in Ian’s life has been the ocean. Born by the rocky shores of mid-coast Maine, his family repatriated to far north Queensland in Australia early on in his life where he became a dual-citizen and sparked his passion for exploring new environments. Living only an hour away from the Great Barrier Reef served to direct, if not focus, the exhilaration of discovery and set him on his current path. Returning to native soil for education, Ian was fascinated by altogether too many subjects, leaving him with a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Psychobiology, focusing on animal behavior and perception, and with minors in Astronomy, History, and Environmental Science.

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