Renée Thibodeaux, Program Director
Two titles predominantly define Renee: a learner and an educator. These two titles are the tickets to her expanding view of the world. As a learner, she is driven to seek experience throughout the world that is rich with culture, diversity, and adventure. At a young age, she met the deserts of the southwest and has pursued their warm, red company headlong ever since, finding herself among their arches and canyon walls well into her adult years. She graduated from Prescott College in 2015 with a degree in Secondary Education and in Adventure Education. During her time at Prescott College, she discovered the driving force of an educator in her. She taught for several weeks in schools scattered throughout Arizona, eventually finding herself as a 9th grade physics teacher at a school in San Diego. Since graduating, she has continued to seek experience and adventure throughout the southwestern United States, taking the lessons she’s learned along the way and sharing them with students of all types in all parts of the world.
Aoife Smeaton, Fleet Captain
Aoife graduated from University College of Dublin in 2014 with a degree in Zoology. Aoife spends most of her time surrounded by as many four-legged friends as possible. Her passions are animal and human behavior, development, and learning. She spends her time working as a dog trainer, teaching puppy classes and helping people understand their canine family members. She also spends time working with socialized foxes and wolves at an education and research center in Indiana.
Alex Polli, Captain of Venture
Alex just graduated from Penn State University in May with a degree in Psychology with a minor in Human Development. She sailed for the Penn State Sailing team for all four years and served as Commodore in 2015. Having lived on the water all her life, Alex grew up sailing since she was 7 and attended Sail Caribbean as a student from 2008 until 2012. She hopes to attend graduate school in the near future to attain a Master’s Degree in School Counseling after of course sailing and traveling more!
Ciarán Gibbons, Captain of Galilee
Ciarén is currently studying Outdoor Adventure Management in Dublin, Ireland. He has a wide range of experience in the outdoor industry from kayaking to windsurfing to hiking, but his real passion is sailing! He spent the summer of 2015 working with Cal Adventures in Berkeley as a sailing instructor and has a lot of youth camp experience in a wide range of sports. He is always looking for a new adventure – having skydived, bungee jumped and cliff dived to name a few! – and is very excited to be part of the Sail Caribbean team this summer!
Courtney Sarik, Mate of Venture
As a true outdoor adventurist, Courtney joins us for her very first year! She grew up in Northern Virginia and graduated from George Mason University in 2013 with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Intelligence Analysis. Courtney fell in love with sailing when her twin brother (also a new team member!) took her on a sailboat for a stormy, thrilling sailing experience for the first time back in 2010. It hooked her on sailing and she has been teaching it every summer since. Her true love for the outdoors and inspiring and teaching youth is what has brought Courtney to us. Ever since she could walk, her feet were on skis and snow, and she is fond of experience teaching skiing in Killington, Vermont over the past few years. The most rewarding part of teaching is seeing the same passion and excitement she has shine in her students. On days off, she’ll go sailing, kayaking, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, swimming, skiing…you name it, she’ll try it!
Lauren Rowsey, Mate of Galilee
Lauren is starting her fourth year this fall at the University of Texas at Austin studying Marine and Freshwater Science with a minor in Russian and Eastern European Studies. Lauren has loved the ocean since infancy after spending summer vacations and every free weekend on the coast, either in Texas or California with family. During her undergraduate career, she has worked in two research labs, studied fish behavior in Mexico, and interned at SEACAMP San Diego. Lauren found her passion for marine science as a student at SEACAMP, and hopes to pass on that excitement to future students at Sail Caribbean.
Natalie Cibel, Provisions Manager
Natalie grew up in Washington, D.C. and currently attends the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is majoring in Environmental Science and minoring in Oceanography. Currently, she is a proud member of the UNCW sailing team, travelling to different schools along the east coast to compete in regattas. Natalie was a Sail Caribbean student for our Foxtrot adventure and won “Most Likely to be Best Chef” aboard Geneva (her crew’s catamaran).
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.