June 1, 2017

Good morning from St. Bart’s! The Echo crew has had a wonderful couple of days in the Leeward Islands.  Our adventure here began with an overnight passage from the North Sound of Virgin Gorda.  We headed north out of the channel, rounded Necker Island, and set ourselves up for a roughly 80-nautical mile close-hauled port tack to Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten.  The trade winds shifted favorably more northeasterly over the course of the evening and early morning.

At around 3am, the winds picked up, the seas came down a bit, and our average speed over ground went up by a full nautical mile or more.  Conditions over the 16 hour passage ranged from 10 foot seas with rain and winds gusting at 30 kts, to 4 to 6 foot seas with a consistent 20 kt breeze with a killer view of the Milky Way.  The Echo crew absolutely rocked it on navigation and helmsmanship and we were able to make fantastic time.  Each 3-hour watch consisted of helming and taking hourly fixes, as well as checking the status of the boat, bilges, and engines.  Not a single person onboard Attila experienced the slightest bit of seasickness! In fact, this hearty crew slept well and managed to eat a LOT of snacks and PB & J’s while underway.

When we arrived in Sint Maarten, the crew prepared a delicious breakfast while we waited to clear in at the Port Authority. After cleaning up the boat, the crew took a well-deserved nap and recovered from the long passage.  We capped off the day with a trip into the lagoon and onto shore where we got some delicious pizza.

The following morning, we made a four hour passage to idyllic St. Bart’s.  After clearing in, we topped up on some supplies and then made our way to beautiful Shell Beach.  The port town of Gustavia exudes a charming mix of Caribbean, European, and Mediterannean energy and aesthetics. The students had the opportunity to explore the town a bit before returning to the Marina for showers, dinner prep, and an absolutely phenomenal sunset.

After dinner, we sat down for our nightly ritual of boat meeting, tea, and cookies.  The overarching theme last night was gratitude and appreciation.  Coming into the end of the second week as a crew living, learning, and growing together aboard Attila, we’ve amassed some pretty awesome stories and experiences. We’ve embarked on adventures together that decades from now we will recall with nostalgia with loved ones and friends.  It’s been an incredibly unique opportunity to throw ourselves into developing a new set of skills and knowledge and really investing in personal growth, while also playing a massive role in shaping each other’s experience.  Last night, we reflected on the people, places, and experiences that have given us or led us to some of the opportunities that have meant so much to our lives; the people that have challenged us and supported us, the places that shaped us, and the experiences that have stuck with us.

Over the next couple days we will be exploring the French side of St. Martin as well as the Dutch Island of Saba which is a personal favorite!

Jen Borderud, Echo Course Director, Santa Barbara, CA