Two years down and more to go
For 2 years now, I have worked as a Sailing Instructor at Barefoot Offshore Sailing School – who would have thought it – after a 25 year career as a clothing designer/manufacturer and mother of 4 grown sprogs that I would be doing this 10 years later.
Well perhaps I did have an inkling of it when I first took sailing lessons 17 years ago – and got well and truly hooked. No different from most of the students I teach here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, many of whom cannot believe what they have ventured into when we set sail from the Blue Lagoon on the south shores of St. Vincent (where Barefoot Offshore Sailing School is based) and head across the Bequia Strait on a beam or broad reach to Bequia.
After seeing their nervous reaction to the seas I often laughingly ask them if they know where they are, “Where is this place you’ve chosen to take your sailing lessons?” – blank response – my answer “the Windward Islands” and the look of realization always makes me laugh. And in 6 days these same people are taking the same Bequia Strait upwind back to Barefoot in the Blue Lagoon happily crashing through the waves and loving every minute of it. And they always want to know exactly how high these waves are for the purpose of bragging rights of course.
The American Sailing Association 101 to Bareboat Skipper curriculum we teach here at Barefoot, and the location in which we teach it is the perfect blend of information mixed with hands on experience, and of course FUN.
This live-aboard offshore sailing school travels from the Blue Lagoon to Bequia, to Tobago Cays, Union Island, Petite St. Vincent, Mayreau, Canouan and back. It includes living aboard, which takes a bit of getting used to, but is totally embraced by all of our adventure seekers, and everywhere we go after anchoring we’re in the water, and every location we sail to has fabulous snorkelling. For many students this is the first time they have snorkelled in water that is so clear it feels like you’re flying above eagle rays, turtles, barracudas, moray eels, squid and more, all living in underwater gardens of an infinite variety of corals and sponges.
We prepare food together on board some nights and on others we eat at a couple of really fabulous and reasonable restaurants, but the eating out experience most of my students take away as the best is when Tim cooks them a family style meal in a shack on the beach called “Bolheads”, why bolhead? Because the owner is bald?
And in 6 days many of the students, especially those with some previous sailing experience are confident, competent sailors. And most of the time our small group has become very fond of each other and tears are sometimes shed when we part, and invitations to each other’s homes. There is also much talk about the boats they will buy and my opinion of how to conduct their research etc. That’s when I feel I have done a really good job. They are as hooked as I was. So when I hand over their log books I strongly urge them to take the logging of their sailing time seriously. Who knows, they might want to pay it forward some time in the future.
I’ve just finished teaching my last course this season and am now preparing my boat, MoondancerX – my home, for a leisurely sail down to Grenada where I will leave her for the hurricane season, and then home to Vancouver Island, British Columbia to spend the summer with my children, grand children and friends. Not sure how much sailing I’ll be able to do while I’m there, and I do still love to sail in our Gulf Islands, but as the summer wanes I’ll be thinking of my second home in St. Vincent and the job of a lifetime which I am so lucky to have at this time in my life – a combination of all that I love to do – Sail, Snorkel, Dive, and teach while I introduce people from all walks of life to what I have learned and what I hope they would also love to.
So I’ll be back for my third year with Barefoot Offshore Sailing School in the fabulous Windward Islands – St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where I know I will meet with past students who are coming back for more, and for the new recruits whose expressions always make me chuckle when we head out of the Blue Lagoon, sailing across the Bequia Strait on their first foray.