Written and edited by Meredith Evridge
Our staff crowded around as the first taxis pulled up to Hodges Creek Marina. They’re here!! Our fleet captain greeted everyone and told them which boat they’d be living on for the next two weeks. Bags were grabbed and brought down the docks to the four boats: Ormindo, Greuze, Jelliblu and Gingembre. Each boat has a captain and either one or two mates. The energy was high yesterday despite all the traveling that had been done. We were all excited for this program to kick off. Each boat had a unique style of welcoming everyone in, including one that had a whiteboard with a welcome sign on it. It was surrounded by all the names on the boat. Campers mingled in the business of getting everything on board, including the last of the provisions. Making sure that all students had phoned home to let parents know they were safe, phones were put safely in a bag kept in the captain’s cabin.
Quickly learning how important it is to have everything organized and tidy in the maritime world, students made sure that shoes were lined up in neat rows along the entrance of each boat. A buffet dinner of chicken, peppers and onions, rice and beans, and coleslaw was set out and each boat went to get their share. They brought plates from their home boat, and brought it back on board to have their first meal together.
Around 8 pm, we gathered for a Mike Talk; a quick welcome and orientation from our founder and director, Mike Liese. He began by saying that he could tell this was a great group. They truly have great energy and attitudes. He went on to the culture of Sail Caribbean and how important it is that everyone is safe and having a fantastic time. Covering the do’s and don’ts of program, we all understood how to succeed while we are here. This included our personal health, our relationships, basics of living on a boat, and communication with everyone. Mike introduced our staff, and they stood up individually with a short bio of where they were from and how long they had been with Sail Caribbean. The kids wanted to clap after everything, so everyone felt supported to the max!
The yawns grew to be contagious, as they often do, so we all began to wind down for the evening. Teeth were brushed, showers were finished up, and we all nestled into our homes for the next fortnight.
Time to wake up and smell the….sargassum? Staff, having already been up bright and early for a meeting, went back to their boats to wake everyone up! Gently shaking the shoulders of those in hammocks, on the bow, and in cabins, everyone greeted the morning. There was much to be done before we pull away from docks. First was breakfast and breakfast clean. Then, boat by boat, we all rotated through the dive shop. Campers had the chance to purchase anything they would need for diving or snorkeling. There was some serious Sail Caribbean swag available as well. Coming back to boats, our social media coordinator took boat photos and to her delight, there was nobody missing due to late flights! It was too easy!
“Prior to first” ensued, meaning walking through the boat with the crew to explain the parts of the boat and how things work. Once everyone knew their boat a bit more, dedocking practice began. The fleet captain stopped by each boat to make a plan for pulling away smoothly. Everyone put on their life jackets and the real deal began. The lines were taken off of cleats and tossed on board. With nothing tying them to docks, everyone’s gaze swiveled out to the ocean, and off they went.
The captains had the option to sail or motor over to our first destination, The Bight. Everyone got at least one sail up, some had all sails up! A lunch of sandwiches was had underway. After a mooring ball pickup lesson, everyone picked up their mooring balls on the first try. Most of our fleet had diving on their schedule, so we sent them ashore. Some were to spend the afternoon just off of the beach in shallow waters, getting acquainted with the motions of the ocean. Others went to Rainbow Canyon, off of Pelican Island. They reported seeing a lot of parrot fish and tons of coral. The remaining campers gathered on one boat to motor over to some caves around the corner. It was a beautiful snorkel with sightings of rainbow fish, sergeant majors and healthy coral. Heading back to home boats, divers joining as well, there was a boat shower demo. The captains had an egg cracked on their heads, jumped in the ocean, climbed out and scrubbed everything with soap and a loofah, and jumped back in the water. When they climbed out, they rinsed off with fresh water for ten seconds specifically. The egg was to show how clean you can get with these different resources! There was no egg in sight at the end of the process. With gusto, everyone went for it. Tunes were pumping, soap was sudsing, and everyone was clean once again.
Dinner was burritos. They were great. After dinner was clean, the boat got a scrub as well. This is a nightly ritual on each boat. Every boat had their first boat meeting, playing get to know you games. Alpha and Tango Fleet powered down after a fun and educational first day out on the water.
The greatest challenge during the program was staying entertained during the quarantine period. Not being able to leave your boat and not having a phone, which was a crutch against boredom, it was difficult at first to stay entertained.