One of the most special experiences that Sail Caribbean provides is the opportunity to live aboard a sailboat for the full duration of the program. From the moment students arrive at Hodges Creek Marina (our home base on Tortola), they are welcomed onto their vessels. Our Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Foxtrot, Sierra, and Tango programs all take place on catamarans, while the sailing-intensive Delta program takes place on monohulls. Campers are assigned to share a cabin with a few of their crewmates, however, most prefer to sleep outside under the stars. Each cabin also has a head (bathroom) and storage space for personal items. Living close quarters, crews rapidly form family-like bonds.
Each boat has a “duty roster,” which assigns every student their tasks for the day. This schedule rotates, giving every camper the opportunity to complete each role at least once. The duty roster includes positions such as skipper and navigator of the day. This encourages each student to take on a leadership role, practicing decision-making and clear communication as they guide their crewmates through all aspects of the day from steering the boat and initiating maneuvers to helping guide cleaning and boat meetings. Two campers are also assigned to cook each meal and a separate team cleans the dishes after dinner. The duty roster also assigns positions for the daily boat clean and other important roles such as the hydration officer, who makes sure that the water cooler is always full and encourages boatmates to stay hydrated throughout the active day on the water.
After dinner each night, the crew completes a boat clean. Campers are assigned to clean the salon (inside living area), cockpit (outside area), decks, heads, floors, fridges, and more. This is a full team effort that not only keeps the vessel tidy and sanitary, but it also encourages campers to collaborate and work towards completing a common goal.
While onboard, students prepare every meal with the help of our pre-planned menus. Some Sail Caribbean fleet favorites are always pancakes, burrito bowls, chicken alfredo, hummus pita pockets, and of course homemade banana bread for dessert! Our provisions managers stock each boat with an array of fresh produce, yummy snacks, and ingredients for all the meals on board. Throughout the program, the fleet is continuously receiving provisions, ensuring that everyone is always well-fed and food is always fresh.
Another essential part of living on a boat is ocean showers. In an effort to conserve the limited water we have in our tanks, students shower by jumping into the ocean between each sudsy step of their routine. The process is then finished off with a 10-second freshwater rinse. Shower time is always a blast, as campers splash around with their crewmates and take in the beautiful surroundings as the evening sun casts a golden glow over the harbor. While ocean showers are beloved, every few days the fleet docks at a marina, where students take land showers which always feel like a luxury.
Each night the entire crew and staff finish off the day with a boat meeting. The skipper of the day writes a ship’s log recapping and reflecting on the day’s events. The entire boat helps pitch in ideas of memorable moments that happened throughout the day and the skipper then reads the log to the rest of the boat. Boat meetings then review the following day’s schedule and any other important announcements. After a check-in with the crew, the staff often leads a collaborative game, and as the program progresses students share hot seats. During hot seats, a timer is set for two minutes and a camper has the opportunity to share anything they want about their life with their boatmates. After the time is up, each student goes around and asks the camper in the hot seat a question of their choosing! This activity is a great way for boats to bond on a deeper level and share about their life back at home. Boat meetings are a time for the entire crew to reunite after a busy fun and sun-filled day on the water!
Most crew members prefer to sleep outdoors, drifting to sleep under the Caribbean stars. Many sleep on the trampolines on the bow, a cushion, or hang a hammock. Campers are lulled to sleep after an action-packed day by the gentle sway of the boat and the soft splash of the ocean.
Living aboard provides campers with truly unique and special experiences. From developing cooking skills to salty showers, strong friendships, and waking up to the sunrise, living on a Sail Caribbean boat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience – unless, of course, you come back next year!
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.