Written and edited by Meredith Evridge
By about six o’clock in the evening, most of the “Mega Fleet” faces had arrived to Hodges Creek! Surprisingly fresh after several hours of travel, they were greeted by our chipper staff. The captains of each boat gathered their crew, grabbed luggage (some bags were bigger than the campers themselves!) and headed down the dock to their boat. We have eight boats on Mega Fleet. The dock was busy with campers setting up colorful hammocks and staff making sure boats had enough water and provisioning.
Dinner was prepared and enjoyed on boats. We all gathered for a “Mike Talk,” a chat with Mike Liese, who is the founder of Sail Caribbean. Mike welcomed everyone and went over the culture of Sail Caribbean, keeping healthy, basics of living on a boat, and the do’s and don’ts of this three week program. Once all the staff were introduced, we were all dismissed for the bedtime routine. Teeth were brushed, showers were taken and we all settled into bed for the night.
The sun rose. Our staff had already been up for a staff meeting, comparing notes and working out any small kinks before the campers started their day. We want our campers to have the best experience possible! Once 7 AM rolled around, those on breakfast duty laid out a breakfast buffet of yogurt, cereals, bagels and fresh fruit. Nourished, we all had rotations through the dive shop, having an opportunity to get any last minute items for diving and snorkeling. Boat photos were taken as well, everyone bravely putting up with the bright sun in their eyes!
Captains and mates took everyone around their boats for a “prior to first,” and explained a few things about the boat. The fleet began to go through the predeparture checklist and make a plan for dedocking. Our signature uniform, bright yellow life jackets, were donned. It was time to go! Extra staff helped with the lines and one by one, threw the bow line, spring line and stern line on board. Nothing tying us down, we were off to Cooper Island. Underway, the students had lessons on winch safety, raising and unfurling sails, upwind sailing, tacking, lowering and unfurling the mainsail and jib, and a mooring ball pick up lesson for the end. After a sandwich lunch underway, the whole fleet picked up mooring balls at Cooper Island Beach Club. Clustered near each other, the cheerful yellow flags waved in the breeze!
Swapping the life jackets for swimwear, we conducted swim tests, making sure we as staff know who is comfortable in the water. Afterwards, all divers went ashore. This included Discover, Open Water, Advanced Open Water, and Rescue. After meeting their lovely and experienced instructors, they went off to learn more about the water world.
Their non-diving counterparts spent their afternoon at Cooper having a Fish Identification lesson, snorkeling, doing watersports, and taking the Colgate 26 out for some small boat sailing. At one point, one of our esteemed mates dropped his snorkel mask and went to retrieve it. Once he brought it up to the boat, he found a tiny octopus inside of it! Everyone was amazed with our special visitor. All the people that weren’t diving clustered on one boat to check it out and listen to one of our marine biology staff explain all about her favorite sea creature, the mighty octopus! Wanting to let it go safely, we carefully put it in a glass and swam it down to the ocean floor where it rocketed away. Don’t worry, we got our cup back.
The divers joined us once again. Heading back to home boats as the sun was lowering in the sky, everyone watched their captains and mates demonstrate boat showers. Some chose to crack an egg on their heads or squirt ketchup on themselves and then jump in. Getting out and scrubbing with soap and a loofah, they jumped back in again. Once they got out and rinsed off with a spot of fresh water, they were clean. No eggs in sight! Tickled by this demo, everyone jumped in. Boat showers are often one of the highlights of the day with everyone joining in the fun. Tunes pumping, those on dinner prep got burritos ready.
After chowing down, dinner was cleaned up. The first boat meeting of the program ensued. This is a nice way to end each day as a crew. A few getting to know you games were in order, followed by a quick review of the day. Once yawns spread like wildfire, Mega Fleet crawled into sleeping spots and closed their eyes.