All hands on deck

Posted on June 12, 2018

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The first night spent at Hodges Creek Marina was a challenging one. Dock days usually are though. There’s little breeze and at this time of the year and the Sargasso weed is building up and decomposing in the water.

Large pools of this yellow plant knit tightly together. It floats on the surface of the water like a crochet throw, suffocating marine life, corroding metal and emitting a gassy eggy smell. It’s far from pleasant. The neighbouring island of Antigua has been plagued by this very problem but it’s far worse. Last month I saw many hotels shut early as a result and business close for the summer.

This pungent seaweed is foe not friend. Here in BVI however people are being resourceful and collecting it by then truck load to treat and use as fertiliser. So there’s hope.

After an early first breakfast all together the kids were told they’d be de-docking and powering these beautiful boats out of the marina. There were a few raised eyebrows and some confident smirks by those already used to sailing.

This is a tricky manoeuvre depending on the wind. Which dock line is untied first can effect the way a boat pivots out of the marina. Careful planning and thought is needed; a vigilant spotter calling out hazards and other vessels in the vicinity as well as great team work. No easy task. Each captain sat down and called a boat meeting to discuss the best way to do this.

Our new sailors were walked through Prior To First – the names and function of all parts of the boat and their significance. And then pre departure checks were made.

Without any major dramas or hiccups all four boats powered out of the marina with their captains whisper speaking to the kids at the helm. A lesson on raising the sail, tacking and mooring took place in the blazing sunshine.

When fully raised the sails cut through the air. Our boat, a monohull, reached a speed of up to nine knots per hour. Tilting on its side during tacking caused some problems for those who haven’t got their seafaring legs yet. No one ate lunch on our boat Mayotte.

As we reached our destination and pulled into Cooper Island Beach Club everyone let out a huge sigh. The waters here are turquoise and very pretty. It’s been rebuilt without any delay since the hurricane from last year and is a busy spot. Some of the kids had difficulty picking up the mooring balls with the hook. Clearly not the arcade going types. Some boats had to go around and around in circles trying again and again to snag the rope. We got there eventually.

By mid afternoon everyone had completed their swim test. Might sound ridiculous but there are some teenagers who come on this programme who have zero water skills. It’s not a safety concern unless they jump into the water, but staff are also keen to teach those who can’t swim how to swim too.

We went ashore to explore, relax on the beach and those scuba diving went to meet their instructors and start their paperwork for various certifications. Beginners had training in the shallow waters of the beach both excited and nervous. In the next few days they will dive at a site further out alongside an instructor.

By five o’clock everyone had returned to their boats for ocean showers. Water is scarce here and more so living on a boat. Wearing our swim wear we all soap up every night on deck, plunge into the sea and then rinse off with the fresh water hose for ten seconds.

Dinner prep and then the meal eaten family style (we all wait for each other to fill a plate full of food before starting) is the standard end to every night. The kids cook and clean up under staff supervision. It’s then followed by a boat meeting where any issues, concerns or bonding time is allocated. By nine thirty everyone is very tired and we call this power down just before bedtime. Ten o’clock lights out. Tomorrow is always another busy, fun packed-day.

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