We departed from Cuba with a beautiful sunset of different tones of pink and yellow. We could still see the shape of the city of Havana getting smaller and smaller as we initiated our last sail before the crossing of the North Atlantic Ocean. Ten days can seem to take forever when you have class every day, but we were all very excited to discover if the mystery about the Bermuda triangle was just a myth or not.
We were indeed very feverish about the first squall at the beginning of this voyage. It started with a breeze taking more strength every hour. The next morning, the wind was like a knife cutting through our summer clothes, reaching for our bodies. I started to feel sea sick again with the motion of the boat increasing in intensity. The only place where I felt good was outside, so I bundled myself in my foulie coat and trousers and passed my free time on the deck. The enormous waves were striking every half minute and I then realized that we have really improved our sailing skills. As a trainee, sometimes you don’t know at all what you are doing on the ship. However, with the knowledge we acquired during the first semester and the dedication most of the students put in their watch, we now have a remarkable background of experience. That was the first time I truly realized we were not trainees anymore, but sailors!
I was reflecting on that while I heard a tumult of voices coming from the Bridge Deck. I made my way as fast as possible up the stairs to see what the cause of that cacophony was. A group of three or four whales were leaping out of the water, giving us an extraordinary view of their whole body. It was the first time I saw a whale jump completely out of the water. They were making their way out of the ocean before they fell back as quickly as they came up. You could hear the gasp of the amazed students when it hit the water. It’s crazy how whale and dolphins can brighten up your day when you are living at sea, even for a fraction of a second.
One of the amazing whales jumping out of the water, giving us an unbelievable show.
After a couple of days, we got out of the storm with only two ripped sails and some trainees rustled by sea sickness. Even if it can be mentally challenging to navigate through a squall, I think that’s when you learn the most.
When the sun came back from its hiding place and the wind was more indulgent, some students took out their fishing gear. We caught more fish during this sail than we did through the whole first semester. Joe, one of the students and the Gulden Leeuw’s fishing expert, caught several Mahi-Mahis. One afternoon, I was passing through the breezeway during my watch when I saw a considerable amount of blood staining the beige paint of the deck. Fear pounded through my veins. What had happened? Was anyone badly injured? To my relief, I discerned it was coming from the beast lying on the floor. A forty pound Mahi-Mahi had been extracted from the water after an intense fight. The monster had bright green and blue scales and an enormous forehead. The next day we had the best fish tacos I have ever had. The fish was fresh and the only seasoning, lemon juice, added the perfect amount of acidity to the meal.
Joe posing with the monster of the Caribbean, a forty-pound Mahi-Mahi.
That night, some trainees and crew members had the chance to see the takeoff of a rocket. It was only a bright light making its way through the dark sky, but the idea of it was really impressive. One of the best parts about living on a boat is the astonishing number of stars that stud the sky.
This voyage from Cuba to Bermuda was an amazing experience. Not only because we had cookies every night made by the baking club, but because it entirely changed my perspective of sailing and of myself.
Written by Class Afloat student, Eliane Charron
Featured image: Photo credit to Pierre Deroi