May 26, 2017

As each hour passes I grow more and more in disbelief that this is actually how I am to spend my summer. This morning, not more than 30 minutes after waking up, we were snorkeling through the bay off Cooper Island, spotting sea turtles, sting rays, eels, barracuda and countless species of tropical fish and corals. Just after that we were packing day bags and heading over to Opal Bella, Mike’s very own 26-foot keelboat, so we could sail back to Hodges Creek Marina and put into practice the skills and techniques we have been learning in pursuit of our ASA 101 certification.

Even though today was only the second day sailing on Opal, I already felt so much more confident taking control of the tiller, tacking, jibing, judging from wind direction how we should position our sails and even what those positions are called! I was blown away at how much I learned in just 24 hours. Courtney and Mike (aka Irish Mike aka Mike From Work) are our ASA instructors and could not be a better team, both bringing incredible knowledge and teaching skills to the table, making learning so easy and enjoyable.

Upon arriving at Hodges Creek Marina, we had to make a relatively quick turn around and take care of some housekeeping items in town, but even a seemingly tedious task was made into an adventure full of laughs and excitement when surrounded by some of the most interesting, personable, kind and hilarious people I have ever met (and especially when you can convince Brad of the operations staff to reluctantly make a stop at Riteway to pick up some ice cream for everyone).

Once we returned to Hodges we were off again to our next stop, and this one was one I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams. Not only was the beach we had the privilege of spending our afternoon on referred to by many as the most beautiful beach in the world, but even more astounding to me was that the purpose of making this trip was to give us some time to work on textbook information for our ASA 101 course.

Josiah’s beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, was our classroom. When we first arrived, we spent some time eating snacks, swimming around, body surfing, tossing the rugby ball and making friends with local pups. Shortly after, it was time to get down to business and the three of us sat in front of Courtney and Mike while they drew points of sail, boat diagrams and sail diagrams, while surrounded by huge Caribbean mountains as dogs chased each other on the beach, surfers tore up perfectly shaped waves and sailboats danced on the horizon behind them. I admittedly zoned out for a quick second during the lesson because I truly could not believe the situation I was in. I had to take some time to look around and soak in all the sights, smells, feelings and emotions whirling through my sensory organs and make sure that that image was ingrained in my memory because it was a moment I never want to forget.

Just as our lesson was coming to a close, Brad arrived again and took us back to the docks where we found dinner already underway by the most amazing captains we could ask for, Jen and Stew, and the newest member of our Atilla family, Sarah! We all bonded even more over a delicious meal of burrito bowls and Caesar salad, and concluded the evening with a boat meeting that had a very high ratio of laughing and storytelling to actual logistics, which is how I’m starting to see it’s done here on Atilla and I could not be more excited.

As I reflect on the day, I was able to operate and confidently sail a 26-foot keelboat, ate Oreo Klondike bars while winding through the streets of Tortola in the back of a pickup truck, and completely redefined the idea of “taking class outside.” I honestly think the most amazing part of this whole experience is the people. Every time I meet a new person, I am truly overwhelmed because it simply means I am being introduced to a completely new plethora of knowledge and inspiration, and forming friendships I can confidently say will have an impact on the rest of my life. I can already say this organization and these people have changed my perspective on the world and I cannot wait to see how I continue to grow as the summer progresses on.

Megan L, age 19, Winter Park, FL 

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