At Sea to Dominica

Feb 13, 2019 - Sea Cloud

The golden Caribbean sun rose at 6:21 a.m. We had a fresh breeze of 20 knots from the starboard quarter and were making 6.2 knots over water under power. Late last night, a beautiful and large red-billed tropicbird landed on the bow of the promenade deck. There it remained, resting until this morning. It sat waiting for the right wind, and when a gust came, it was aloft and flew off into the horizon. Freedom!

At 8:45 a.m., the expedition leader gave his informative introduction to the sails and the complex rigging of a square-rigger. Imagine a ship more than 360 feet long and displacing 2,600 tons, moving effortlessly, by wind power alone, at 8 mph. Our sails are made in Poland of a very durable, synthetic material and have an average life of about five years. Sea Cloud carries almost 28,000 square feet of sail, and its main mast is 180 feet tall Although built in 1931, it was designed to reflect the square-riggers of the 1880s.

Staff introductions and a photography presentation came next, followed by a lunch of flying fish sandwiches—a specialty of Barbados.

In the afternoon, we heard a talk on the history of slavery and how the vast economic wealth generated by cane sugar farming accelerated the use of Africans in the Americas. Approximately 12 million Africans, chiefly from West Africa, were sold into slavery in the West Indies and the continental U.S. beginning in the 1540s.

At 4 p.m. a scrumptious tea was served, just before lowering the sails in the most spectacular and surprising setting that we could imagine: under the iconic Pitons of St. Lucia at sunset! It was an impressive and memorable sight to finish the sailing day.

Finally, at 6:30 p.m., the captain hosted the welcome reception. After cocktails, we adjourned from the Lido Deck and for a lovely dinner and finally, 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

Alex Krowiak

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

A childhood surrounded by the woods and streams of Pennsylvania initially sparked Alex’s curiosity about nature. That curiosity eventually led him to pursue degrees in biology and environmental studies at Boston College. During his time there he conducted research on carnivorous plants in Iceland and kelp forests in South Africa. Together these diverse experiences provided him with the background and passion to become a teacher. 

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