You’ve got children

Posted on June 12, 2018

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The night before the kids were due to arrive I was pulled aside at the bbq and told, “you’re on airport duty,”…

“Uhmmm ok, no problem,” I replied. I’m always happy to see all aspects of how a business operates. Although I hadn’t quite anticipated the hurdles I’d face along the way.

Thankfully my previous incarnation as a field correspondent has equipped me for last minute challenges and hiccups during unknown deployments and how to handle them.

In the morning a few of us had to disembark the catamaran we’d been used to sailing on for the last ten days and experience sailing, tacking and docking on a monohull.

They might be smaller boats but I think as a positive they can offer more intimacy between crew. The slight down side is if you have a sensitive stomach you might struggle with seasickness especially when “tacking”. That’s when the main sail is moved left to right and vice versa according to wind direction to turn the boat. On a monohull if it’s particularly surgy it can tip the boat to the extreme right or left so you’re on a kilter and anything on a table or not secure will fly across the room.

After an hour on board and being shown the ropes by another young, accomplished female sailor, I was picked up by a member of staff on a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) and taken fast to the marina. The swell was high and we were thumping the waves hard. Not an enjoyable ride especially for my spine.

At base I was told I had to go to St Thomas which is on US soil. Thankfully I already had an ESTA (US travel Visa) sorted out from earlier in the year, good job I travel so much. The plan was that I’d be dropped at the ferry port with two colleagues and we’d take the ferry across and then a taxi to the airport.

A phone was thrusted into my hand and clipboard with a list of names, gender and details of 36 kids of varying ages flying in on four different flights one after the other. Some dos and don’ts as well as info on what to do regarding lost luggage etc.

Some of the little ones arriving were being escorted by airport staff because they were just barely teenagers. I was told to meet their chaperone and sign a release form in order for airport staff to release them. It seemed straightforward enough. Pick up the kids, their luggage and get a ferry back to Tortola.

Firstly the ferry we were meant to catch was full so only I could go across first. “How hard can this be?” I thought as I passed through customs.

The phone I was given didn’t work when I arrived so I couldn’t ring into work to say I’d arrived safe. Problems with the password. I firstly had to call the network provider helpline to get it fixed and then get them to call the office.

The taxi firm listed on the clipboard which the company has an account with, no longer operates, due to last year’s hurricane. I asked ferry officials to call them for me as my phone was still not working. I was told on the phone the contract had expired. I then found out the return ferry times. One at 2.30pm and the last at 4pm.

I then hailed a taxi as I was anxious to get to the airport on time. En route I had the work phone still clamped to my ear listening to “hold music” as the network continued to try to fix the phone; and I also borrowed the taxi diver’s phone and called the office directly to update them on my whereabouts and the ferry times. Tickets would be bought that end for the return journeys.

In ten minutes I was at the airport. Work informed and phone finally fixed!! The kids arrived early on their flights. Despite being dressed in a lime green polo shirt that said Sail Caribbean embroidered onto it, it’s amazing how many walked passed me, oblivious. I gauged the faces of all the children approaching to see who was wearing the “what now….I’m lost face” look before approaching them randomly.

After I had rounded up 17 tired, hungry teens with bags larger than themselves, my two colleagues arrived. One of them took the new arrivals and headed back to the ferry terminal to catch the early boat. I was asked to wait to herd the last lot of teens arriving back to base with my other colleague.

The last flight coming in was at 3.24pm. There was no way we’d make it back to the dock in time. The baggage handlers decided to only use one carousel for all in-coming flights today. It was chaotic! I rang the office and was instructed to get there as fast as we could feasibly make it. The boss was calling the ferry company to ask if they’d delay the departure time.

I know this is the Caribbean but I was sceptical. Time is money. But you know what? I was wrong! The ferry waited. I have no idea what was said or offered but the remaining nine made it back to Tortola that evening as planned. All a little weary.

They were fed, watered and given a welcome talk by our founder, before settling onto their new water homes.

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