At Sea, Barbados to Dominica

Feb 15, 2020 - Sea Cloud


The sea was gentle last night. The golden Caribbean sun rose this morning at 6:18 a.m. As it rose, the wind picked up and by 8 a.m., we had a brisk 40-mph blow from the starboard quarter. Our historic Sea Cloud was making 6.3 knots under sail. That’s quite a feat, to move a 2,600-ton 360-foot square-rigger at almost 7 miles per hour and by 4 p.m., we were scudding along at 9 knots.

Captain Komakin skillfully maneuvered Sea Cloud so we had the wind at our stern and the sailors went aloft to furl sails at 8:45 a.m. Expedition leader Tom O’Brien gave a very informative talk on the sails on the Spanker Deck, which, despite the breeze, was well-attended—guests already had their sea legs. Staff introductions were followed by naturalist and certified photo instructor Alex Krowiak’s very helpful introduction to expedition photography.

Today was a great day for sailing and we sailed much of the day. The sails, made of durable synthetic material with an average life of about five years, have to withstand quite a beating. Sea Cloud carries almost 28 thousand square feet of sail (2,650 meters).

The mainmast on Sea Cloud stands tall at an intriguing 180 feet. Watching the crew scrambling up the mast in a 20-knot wind with the ship rolling can be vertiginous—so we are thankful for the gravity under our feet. Although it was built in 1931, E.F. Hutton had it designed to reflect the apogee of square-riggers of the 1880s.

In the afternoon, guests listened to historian Tom Heffernan talk about the history of sugar and slavery and how the vast economic wealth generated by sugarcane farming gave birth to the inhuman exploitation 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. It did not end in the English colonies until 1807 and in Spanish Cuba until almost 75 years later.

We were treated with a rare sight during lunch–the famous Pitons of St. Lucia. We hove just off the Pitons and had spectacular photo opportunities. Later in the afternoon, our wonderful galley prepared some baked treats and we were able to enjoy the sights with local St. Lucian Piton beer.

After sunset, Captain Komakin hosted his Captain’s welcome cocktail reception after which we adjourned from the Lido Deck and had a lovely Captain’s dinner. The sea was easy tonight and all of us retired to a welcome rest. Tomorrow— Dominica, the “Nature Island.”

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About the Author

Tom Heffernan

Historian

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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