Goodbye, Caribbean!

We had a wonderful final Caribbean meal, cooked for us by a woman who owns a small restaurant in the Tillett Garden enclave.  Yummy Caribbean chicken stew, rice and beans, Johnnie Cakes (Caribbean-style, which is deep-fried), and salad.  It was a fitting meal for our final night.  Here we are in our living/dining room enjoying it.  Note the paintings on the walls, and the print on the couch cushions, all done by the original owner of Tillett Gardens, Jim Tillett.

And here is the whole group for our final photo op:


Kayaking in the Mangrove Lagoon

Eight of us went for a small adventure today, joining a kayaking tour of the mangroves lagoon in Cas Cay, including some time snorkeling.  We learned, among other things, that when the mangroves drink up the very salty water, they are able to separate some of the salt, and the rest they send to a few sacrificial leaves, so that the main plant can continue to flourish.  Three of our students had cameras and sent these pictures:


Here is a scrum of Caribbean hermit crabs:

DSCN0590Here we are kayaking:


A stingray!


And last, but not least, Greg hamming it up in his snorkel gear:



Botanical Garden

We went to a local botanical garden today, to learn more about the flora of the islands.  It was quite beautiful and peaceful:

Here are some additional images, the first two of Tillett Gardens, where we are living:

And this is an older picture, of a lunch together after arriving back at St. Thomas on Thursday:


Bird Watching, Rasta Fair, and Wellness

The students all got up quite early this morning to go on a bird watching expedition, ending at a Rastafari Food and Culture Fair.  As the students relate here in their blogs, we talked about how getting into nature relates to the concept of wellness and health, and specifically to anxiety management.


The view from the fair, which takes place on the west side of the island:


Simone: “Today we awoke at 5:30 am in order to get Mario on the bus at 6:30 am.  Mario “The Bird Man” was our bird watching guide who knew everything imaginable about birds. Being that this is a wellness course I thought bird watching was a very fitting activity.  Today we were asked to leave our phones behind and open our eyes and ears in hopes of viewing and learning about new birds indigenous to the Virgin Islands.  We were asked to keep track of all the birds we saw by number, as well as by different species.  This was a really good way to practice wellness. For anyone who struggles with anxiety I highly recommend bird watching, for it is an activity that you must fully engage in, and requires you to be engaged entirely in the present.  Anxiety is a disorder that a large percentage of us struggle with.  It is brought upon us when we are either too focused on the past or on the future.  A simple way to relieve anxiety is to partake in an activity that requires you to be fully engaged in what is going on in the moment.  Everyone deals with anxiety at some point in their lives, so I encourage us all to find an activity where your attention can be 100% in the present, so that you can find some peace.”

Adam wrote about the bird watching, “At first it was slow and boring but as time went on I became more relaxed because I was enjoying the beauty of nature as well as hiking in a forest with crazy looking mangroves coming out of the swamps. The act of trying to hear for the sounds of the birds and taking time to put everything aside to just enjoy the moment, looking for Iguanas and other wildlife, was very calming.”

Greg noted, “Walking quietly through the trees and trying to remain alert and focused on the present, while looking for these birds, was a greatly calming experience and it brought about a whole new appreciation for nature, especially so for an indoorsy computer science major like me.”

Regarding the fair, Dawn writes, “The fair was amazing, even though it was so hot outside, but it was so awesome to see the different side of this culture.  There was music playing like Bob Marley, vendors were selling either food or other items like jewelry, books, CDS, T-shirts, and different activities where you can help out the poor or see the different animals that they were showing at their own miniature petting zoo: dogs, hens, ducklings, and other various of animals. I had an experience of a lifetime. Even though, we all had to wait an hour in the heated sun while eating yummy slushies waiting for the taxi, it was a great experience for all and for me because I have learned so much that I would normally not get the chance to do, spending hours seeing birds and a different side of another culture. I was so touched and warm-hearted to see the kindness in people, the wildlife, and the different sites that we went to. I love when I am not on technologies because I get the chance to reflect on myself and be able to see what’s in front of me, even though I don’t get distracted easily or at all.”

Kasey sets the scene in the parking lot at the end of a long day while we waited in the parking lot for our taxi to arrive, “There were cars parked on both sides of the road, and traffic in between, which was slowed down even more by the hustle and bustle of all the people walking down the road.  But after most of our group decided to go and get a local type of snow cone, our taxi finally arrived.”

Everyone was most happy to get back to our funky home in Tillett Gardens, where they settled in our living room and focused on their homework.



A Walk in Charlotte Amalie


Simone: “Today we went on a walk around Charlotte Amalie.  Although we weren’t able to get an official tour we were able to find our way around using our guidebook, and were fortunate to bump into several historians along the way.  We learned so much about the historic buildings as well as historic architecture.  What was really fascinating for me was that even hundreds of years later many of these buildings remain in very good shape.  That’s impressive considering how many destructive hurricanes have taken place since the 1700s!  My most memorable moment was walking up the 99 steps {but really it’s 103}.  I was thinking the whole way up how these are the same steps they were walking on in the 1700’s and now here I am today.  I also fantasized about people hundreds of years from today will probably still walk on these stairs.  That’s one sturdy staircase.  The stairs like many other buildings in the Virgin Islands were made of yellow bricks imported from Denmark.  These bricks were beautiful and their durability amazed me.”

Adam: “We started off by viewing Fort Christian, which is the oldest building in the US Virgin Islands.  It used to be a prison, police station, and court.  The color of the building was dark red with castle-like walls.”

Dawn: “We went to the Emancipation Park where learned about the freeing of the slaves and the indentured European servants.  We also went to the Frederik Lutheran Church and learned about how it is the oldest church building that was built between 1780 and 1793, financed by a free black parishioner, Jean Reeneaus. Then we went to the Government House,  where we all received free Government pads as a souvenir. Two black governors were running on their terms for St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas and Water Island. We also saw iguanas and this nice tree that was amazing looks like a flaky tree that sort of looks artificial but the way it was planted, which was near Hotel 1829 and Yellow-Brick Building. It was an amazing view and area to learn more about the different places that we went to. ”


Ben: “Finally, we went to the absolute most spectacular place ever which was St. Thomas Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the country.”

Mary: “They have only missed one Friday night service in about 300 years.  The menorah  was actually brought from Morocco. “P1110619P1110621


Of sugar, slaves, and ruins

First I just want to show two scenes from our campground.  The first is a picture of Lily standing next to the Rain Tree which is next to our eating area.  It just shows the trunk, but you can get a sense of the size of it:


And this is what our cottages look like:

IMG_3695But now a word or two about the history of the islands and the remaining ruins:  This island has ruins all over it from when there were sugar plantations here, owned primarily by the Dutch.  We went to one of these ruins on Monday called the Annaberg Plantation.  At one point they had 600 slaves working there, with miserable working conditions and terribly harsh punishments for infractions such as looking at a white woman.  When went to the ruins there were some park workers there giving information on the site, including a woman who was cooking traditional dum bread (apparently the bread was tasty but she was “not having it”, as Dawn says.  We also spent a good deal of time with Charles, who is the gardener there, and who is filled with information about properties of the plants and how to eat them.  You can see him hamming it up with his machete, among other things:


In that last picture Charles is demonstrating one plant’s ability to help you get to sleep.  The wood pile shown is going to be turned into charcoal.  Clark managed to get a piece of finished charcoal, with which he decorated several people.  Charles also gave us a bag of charcoal  he had made which we used at our meal that night.

Then yesterday morning we piled into a national park van to volunteer at another ruins. Clark wrote: “Today we are trail cleaning near the campsite.  The site we are cleaning was host to the longest slave rebellion which lasted 8 months.  People are working hard to preserve this site even if it means dealing with the heat and humidity.  Everyone is doing their part to help keep this area from getting overgrown.”  Eliza wrote: “The site we are cleaning was a house during the slave rebellion.    There are many graves on the site, a few for children and some for adults.  The tombs were made out of rocks and probably mud.  The graves are above ground.  It feels good to do a good deed especially at a historic site.  The time flew by, I was interested in working longer!”  Simone wrote: “Lily, Simone, Sophie, Dan, and Meg worked with a couple from Tennessee clearing out a graveyard.  It was interesting to see that people are buried above ground here.  In our designated clean up area we saw graves of all sizes.  We believe there were babies, small children, and adults buried here.”  We later heard from the park archeologist (there is an archeological dig happening right here by our beach) that the house was owned by one of the original Dutch families on the island, and the graves would have belonged to those family members.  The graves are above ground because you just can’t dig very deep before you hit bedrock.  Slaves were buried down at the beach or their bodies drifted out to sea.  Apparently the slaves who initiated the rebellion were former royalty in Africa, who in Africa had owned their own slaves.  They wanted to gain power back, not only from the Dutch, but also to make sure they had power over the slaves from the other tribes.  This site we were cleaning is a long way from being made open to the public, as they are just at the clearing of the jungle phase.  Once the (mostly invasive) plants are cleared, the archeologists can get in and map out the site.  The first picture on the left shows what it looked like before we started:

And now we have an open day, during which students will do their homework, rest and recreate.  Unfortunately we are still unable to rent boats here, due to high water and waves.  Darn.  Still, it’s not too bad being able to swim in this warm water.  Tomorrow Dan heads back home, and we all move over to St. Thomas.

Update from the students

This morning every student wrote a paragraph about some of our experiences thus far on our trip down here in the Caribbean Islands:

Tech Devices:

Once we stepped on to the Roseway the educational leader Samantha collected all technological devices. Looking back we found ourselves forgetting all about the digital world that so many of us find ourselves lost in. Many of us, addicted to our devices, found that once we were engaged in all that sailing entails, our phones were the last things on our minds. What an amazing experience to disengage from all that we are so commonly wrapped up in regarding technology.

The crew on the Roseway: 

Everyone on the Roseway were really nice. They were eager to teach us and very patient. They took the time to teach us knots, how to rise/lower the sails, and work on the boat. They were also up with us at anchor watch keeping us awake by playing games with each night. Every night between the the hours of 11 pm and 5 am there were for shifts for anchor watch. They also sat with us up on the bowsprit.

The Roseway Experience:

It has been an interesting experience being on board the Roseway. I didn’t like having little food, sleep, and poor conditions, but it was fun to work with crew members and sail all around the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. It was awesome to be tech-free for days because I loved looking around at nature, and we were able to be more imaginative and creative. I went snorkeling around the British Virgin Islands and saw lots of fish and walked among solid rocks. On the boat we did something called anchor watch, where we were woken in the middle of the night and had to watch the anchor so it wouldn’t fail, but also make sure the rest of the boat was fine. The cabins were very tight and we had to flush the toilet in a certain way which was 25 times using a pump.

On St. John our cabins are dirty with no sink, but have nearby bathroom and a cold shower, Brrr! We went to do laundry since we had no access to one on the boat. We happened to run into a couple living at an old slave plantation/ sugar mill. The couple was very nice. We went into Cruz Bay, a town and ate BBQ food had the best smoothies ever! We shopped at Dolphin Market for food which was interesting. The taxis are like safari buses without doors, and passenger seats are covered with a top.


The boat experience for going snorkeling was amazing. We  had to take out the small boats that can go to the dock. We went snorkeling in a cave on Norman Island. We saw a lot of coral reefs and fish, and also a bunch of rocks around the cave. Some of us had life jackets on and others were able to swim far. It was so much fun and we had a wonderful time swimming with the different sea creatures and swimming with the Roseway crew.

Spyglass Hill:

On our last day on the Roseway we went on a hike on Spyglass Hill on Normal Island. Since the Roseway is a big boat, we had to use a motor boat to travel to the shore where we would begin the hike. When we got there we soon began our hike, while some decided to stay back at the beach. While on our hike we saw a really cool caterpillar that was crawling on the path. We also saw hermit crabs, with some having really big shells. We soon came upon a beautiful view of the ocean and waves crashing down on the rocks. The water was very clear closer to shore, and became darker blue the further out to sea. The landscape and the view of the ocean reminded me a lot of California. As we continue our hike up we saw another spectacular view of the bay where our boat was anchored. There were many boats and tall hills, with multi-million dollar homes, as well as the clear, blue water of the Caribbean. Every part of the hike was enjoyable, and it was a great way to end our trip on the Roseway.

Cinnamon Bay Campground:

The camp ground while lacking in amenities that some people are #Greg #wrekt. The beach is wonderful. I took some people out to swim during the night and it was amazing, very little light pollution allowed us to see the stars very clearly. The sea was also very calm as well.

Room report from Charlie Brown the Lizard:

After checking the corners of the room that the large, albeit stupid humans are currently occupying, I can safely say that the ants and the other bugs that the larger, tanner human (in an act of stupidity that I found deplorable, even for a human) let in during the day are now finally dead. While I don’t really mind the extra food, I’d prefer if this “Clark” would halt his foolishness, before I grow too fat and sedate to hunt on my own.

Sugar Mill:


When we were doing laundry we met a really nice women named Mrs.Jones. She owns land which use to be a sugar mill plantation. Now there is nothing but ruins. Mr. and Mrs. Jones let us come to their house to check it out and learn some interesting history and how it worked. We took some pretty neat pictures of the ruins and I for one was pleased and thankful that they were nice enough to let us come on their property and view the ruins in their background.

Cruz Bay:

We all went to Cruz Bay where we enjoyed delicious smoothies and met Thomas our smoothie expert! We also enjoyed our time with walking the town. There was fantastic fruit that was being sold at food stands. Before we left, we went to the food market, Dolphin, where we grabbed food for midnight snacks.




Boat Photos


Eliza, Ben and Adam doing dishes on the cabin deck:


Simone swabbing the deck (the deck and rails were swabbed in the late afternoon and first thing in the morning; she gets to hose it down with a fire hose at the end):


Kasey cleaning the rails:


Dawn, Greg and Mary at seamanship lessons:

P1110475 (1)

Clark steering, guided by Captain Pao in the foreground, with Dan (Sophie’s husband) in the background:


Lily, Adam, Eliza, and Ben at seamanship lessons, in this case learning knots:


Adam steering:


Up on the bowsprit!



Climbing aloft on the mainmast:


The view from aloft:


Furling the jumbo:


On our way up Spyglass Hill:


Looking down on the Roseway and a beautiful yawl, from Spyglass Hill:


Arrival at St. John Island

After a fantastic 5 days aboard the Roseway, we are now settling in to the Cinnamon Bay Campground on the north side of St. John Island.  It is a balmy day, with birds singing all around this, and the occasional lizard visits us.

Our time on the Roseway was excellent, and the students all jumped into the program from the start.  Their duties included raising and lowering sails, furling (extremely heavy) sails, scrubbing the decks, cleaning the heads (that’s toilets to you landlubbers), meal prep and meal cleanup, anchor watch throughout the night, seamanship lessons, active watch (standing by the foremast and signaling to the captain about any boats about), steering, writing the Captain’s Log, boat inspection, helping to lower and raise the small boats, and helping raise anchor.  This was all done as large groups and in their watch groups (A, B, and C).  In addition to sailing, we also got to stop for exploring not-so-bubbly pools, snorkeling, and today some of us hiked up Spyglass Hill on Norman Island (also known as Treasure Island, as in Robert Louis Stevenson) for a fantastic view of the harbor and our boat.  For more details on our Roseway time, please go to the World Ocean School website and read the Captain’s Log.

We have somewhat dubious WiFi, and not all of us have phone service here.  I am going to go ahead and publish this entry without pictures as the last time I tried to download pictures my computer froze.  We’ll try again later, but now our dinners are here and it’s time to eat.  We are all tired, hungry, and still have sea brain, meaning in our heads it feels like we are still rolling on the seas.  Odd sensation, and we rather hope it ends soon.  And now for food!

We’ve Arrived!

After starting the day quite early, everyone got to the airport on time, and after an uneventful flight we are now down in St. Thomas, staying for one night at Rhoda’s Guest House.  Tomorrow we get back in our Safari van/taxi and head to the docks, where we board The Roseway.  Everyone is quite excited about this, ready to sail, learn knots, fish, swim, and even do anchor watches (Clark says he’s willing to do anchor watch all night).  Check out the Captain’s Log on World Ocean School’s site for our next 5 days.