Our Student Explorers
Location: Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Island,
US Virgin Islands
by Wayne & Karen Brown
This morning we said "good-bye to our friends Mike and Marcia, and their daughter, Jeri (and their dog, Jet, too!). We loaded up all our luggage and equipment into our jeep and drove all the way across Virgin Gorda. From Leverick Bay, on the northeast end of Virgin Gorda, we drove up and down the narrow, bumpy, winding road, to Spanish Town, on the west side. Today we board our expedition ship, Yorktown Clipper, in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. We have to take a small ferry boat from Virgin Gorda to St. Thomas.
About 2 hours after we left Virgin Gorda (with a stop in Tortola) we arrive in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. After going though U.S. customs and immigration, since we are arriving from a foreign country, we step out onto the dock at Charlotte Amalie. A short distance away is our expedition ship, Yorktown Clipper.
Yorktown Clipper is the sister ship to the Nantucket Clipper. We were onboard Nantucket Clipper for two of our previous Internet expeditions (From the Jungle to the Sea Expedition and 2001: A Sea Odyssey). Yorktown Clipper is a steel ship like Nantucket and it looks the same as Nantucket Clipper. Yorktown is a little longer (257 feet) and wider (43 feet) than Nantucket (207 feet and 37 feet). Yorktown has a larger crew (38) and can carry more passengers (138) than Nantucket (26 crew and 100 passengers). Like Nantucket, Yorktown has a draft of only 8 feet, so we will be able to go into small, shallow bays and coves that larger ships can't.
We will be working on Yorktown Clipper as the onboard marine biologists. It will be our home and expedition base for the rest of our expedition. Like Nantucket Clipper, Yorktown Clipper is made for expedition cruising in the coastal waters of North America, Central America and the Caribbean islands. Onboard our ship is a fleet of special inflatable boats with outboard motors that we will use for visits to small islands and other areas were we can explore on land.
After we board Yorktown Clipper we go up to the bridge to meet the captain. Captain George Coughlin welcomes us on his ship and shows us the bridge where he runs the ship. The surprising thing is that he shows us he does not steer this ship with a steering wheel. Captain Coughlin steers this big ship with a joy stick that looks like it came off of an arcade video game! If you like to play video games you would like to drive this ship. Captain Coughlin sits in a big, soft chair with video screen on each side of the chair. One video screen has a big map of the area and shows where the ship is. The other video screen is the radar and shows any land and boats close by, even at night! On the console in front of Captain Coughlin are lots of dials and buttons to push and levers to move.
Captain Coughlin tells us that we have some kids who will be joining us. We leave Capt. Coughlin and go to meet the kids. We meet the 3 student explorers who will be with us for this part of the expedition. They have come here with their parents to explore and learn about the people, animals and plants that live in the Virgin Islands. Our student explorers have came from all across the United States. None of them knew each other until they met on the ship.
Our students explorers are all 12-year old boys in 6th grade. They are Michael, from Menlo Park, California; Nathan, from Decatur, Illinois and Thomas, from Rochester, New York.
Our student explorers will be exploring right along with us during the expedition. At the end of the expedition we will have them tell you what they liked and didn't like about everything they saw or did during the expedition.
It is now time for us to unpack and join everyone for dinner.
We'll be back tomorrow with the first reports from our Yorktown Clipper explorations of both the US and British Virgin Islands.
Wayne & Karen
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Island, US Virgin Islands
Position: 18º 19' N / 64º 52' W
Air Temp: 85ºF
Weather: light breeze, sunny with scattered clouds.
We are waiting to board this ferry at Spanish Town harbor, Virgin Gorda, for the 20-mile trip to St. Thomas, USVI.
Our expedition ship, Yorktown Clipper, is docked at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI.
Captain Coughlin is the captain of the Yorktown Clipper. Captain Coughlin is from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Michael (age 12) joins us from Menlo Park, California.
Nathan (age 12) joins us from Decatur, Illinois.
Thomas (age 12) joins us from Rochester, New York.