Sail Caribbean – The British Virgin Islands

Posted on June 5, 2018


As my plane left Antigua and soared high above the turquoise waters I was reminded of my time living in Fiji last year and how beautiful the colours of the ocean can be. But among this sea of beauty there are stories on the ground of adversity.

Last September Hurricane Irma unleashed her wrath over the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Her fury had painful consequences for many businesses and islanders. Packing a force of more than 200mph; she ripped up homes leaving them like unfinished dolls’ houses; destroyed infrastructure and tossed 60 foot yachts into the air, beaching them like an angry toddler.

Among the sailing fraternity the BVI is considered to be the best place for yachting in the world. The devastation from the category 5 hurricane has impacted the islands’s economy and tourism but people here are fighting to claw back the business they once had before Irma. Sail Caribbean is one of those.

It was founded by New Yorker Mike Liese in 1979 with the view to instil leadership skills, personal growth, a huge injection of fun and knowledge of sailing and diving for teenagers during a summer camp. All while living on a boat.

I’ve accepted a position as dive instructor on one of the boats and I will be expected to guide and teach diving where possible and act as a mentor as well as supervise all daily aspects of sailing. It might seem nuts but these beautiful boats are turned over to the kids to run under the watchful eye of staff. And yes they manage all aspects of the day: cooking, cleaning boat etiquette and sailing. Can you imagine giving your child the keys to your brand new Bentley? Trust is key here.

This week I’ve been living onboard an $800,000 catamaran with my fellow trainees during induction. A week ago I had no idea what tacking, gybing, or dropping the ball meant. In the space of seven days I’ve skippered, de docked and docked our boat, cooked breakfast, helped keep our Cat clean, assisted in a Man over Board (MoB) scenario and taken ocean showers nightly. This is a rough guide to my routine for the next three months. The crew I’ve met have been supportive and good fun. But me and my new friends will soon be split up over the fleet to handle the kids as they arrive next week. I’m hoping to be onboard a boat with a captain and one other mate due to my lack of sailing experience.

My friends and family have been left gobsmacked at my decision to work here for the summer, a mixture of envy and awe. Some mornings I’ve woken up and wondered what on earth am I doing. But on the whole there are always positives each day.

Staff training has been rewarding and exhausting as there’s so much to grasp for a novice but it’s been a wonderful taster of the adventure that lies ahead.