Sailing to Dominica

Mar 23, 2018 - Sea Cloud

The sun rose majestically at 6:30 a.m. We had an easterly wind at 17 knots from the quarter starboard beam. Three of the staysails were set earlier, providing some additional power and help to keep us on course. At 8:45 Tom O’Brien gave an informative talk on the sails and lines of the Sea Cloud and how they function. Staff introductions took place on the Lido at 10:15. At one point during the late morning we were making 8 knots under sail. Imagine a ship over 360’ long and displacing 2600 tons moving effortlessly under wind power alone at 10mph. Our sails are made of a very durable synthetic material in Poland and have an average life of about five years. The Sea Cloud carries almost 28 thousand square feet of sail (2650 meters). 

During lunch we sailed into the St. Lucia/Martinique channel, which is a strait of 17 miles width separating the two islands, St. Lucia to the south and Martinique the north. We sailed by the famous “Diamond Rock” on our starboard at 2:20 p.m. This 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. Maurice commanded 107 soldiers who lived on this forbidding piece of basalt. Today if a British naval ship sails through the strait and passes within visual distance of Diamond Rock, all the sailors on deck have to stand at attention and the ship’s bridge salutes a fellow naval vessel! History is sometimes stranger than fiction. 

Tom Heffernan gave a lecture on the economics of sugar and slavery showing how the demands for sugar crated the triangular trade of the “Middle Passage.” Approximately 12 million Africans, chiefly from West Africa, were sold into slavery in the West Indies and the continental U.S. At 4:00 we enjoyed the Sea Cloud’s famous teatime on the port deck. Then the crew went to sail stations at 5:00 and furled the sails. The mainmast on Sea Cloud is 180’ feet high and watching the crew scrambling in the wind up there with the ship rolling gives me vertigo and makes me thankful for gravity under my feet.   

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 and for many years the Sea Cloud II. 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 we visit 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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