Published: July 1st 2012July 1st 2012
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~Mark Twain
With the swell gently lapping the hull of the ship, a sky full of stars overhead, and fresh fish in my belly, I could almost forget that I was at work. In the middle of June this year, I had the amazing opportunity to be part of an instructor team on a keel-boat sailing course in the Bahamas, and I loved every minute of it. I've mentioned that I'm going to spend some bits of my posts highlighting the organizations and individuals for whom I've worked, and that is precisely how I'm going to start this entry.
In October of 2011, my good friend and highly accomplished expedition planner - Byron Marlowe - attended the Wilderness Risk Management Conference
in Boston. Being the networking genius that he is, Byron quickly began making friends with as many people that he could. One of those individuals was a faculty member at a high school in Texas who runs high adventure programming for his students. After a few beers, the conversation led to a sailing expedition in the Bahamas, and whether or not it was feasable. At this point, you should be aware of another trait of Byron's
- he has absolutely no idea how to say "no". Thus the planning of this expedition commenced.
The first organization that Byron approached to plan this giant trip was the unnamed organization for which he worked. After several months of negotiations, it was determined that this organization would be unable to facilitate this due to uncertainty as to whether the course would fill and trepidation regarding its first international course. Although disappointed, Byron at this point became even more galvanized to make this happen, and began planning the trip on his own time.
Through shear force of will, this man forced this course to work. As someone who has worked for many different organizations, I feel confident in saying that you would be hard pressed to find an individual as committed to each course that he plans, and I was super impressed at the effort he put in. Before I talk about the course itself, I want to put in one more shameless plug for Byron Marlowe (and don't worry buddy, this will be the last one). If you've been debating taking your group on an expedition, but are reluctant to actually plan it because the size/location/skill set/whatever
is a bit intimidating for you, you need to contact Byron Marlowe. Send me a message, and I'll make sure that he gets it.
Alright, the course itself. My involvement began long before I ever boarded a plane. The very first part was helping Byron deal with food. And by "deal with", I mean "purchase, ration, and pack." Now, I know what you're saying. "But Chris, you're flying on a commercial plane to another country. Why do you have to do any of that in the states?" Valid question Dear Reader. The answer is that everything is more expensive in the Bahamas. And I mean everything. It turned out to be cheaper (and by quite a lot), to get everything for the whole course in the states and then check something like 300 pounds of stuff at the airport. You can imagine how much that would have ended up costing. All of the stuff that folks don't like you to bring into their country (like veggies, fruits, liquids, etc) we did buy in the Bahamas, but it wasn't much. The really fun bit of this part of the trip though is Byron and I, trying to carry around lots
of giant checked bags through the airport. I'm generally used to a small carry-on, and that's it. This certainly was a different experience for me!
But, luck would have it, all of the instructors (and all of our food) made it down to Exuma Cay in the Bahamas. I had only been to the country once, but it was nearly ten years ago and just in Nassau. This time, we didn't even have to go through Nassau. The folks familiar with the area said that this was a very good thing. We shot strait from Miami to Georgetown, and I have to say that it was one of the nicest airports ever to land in. They had a steel drum band playing. This band consisted of about half of the airport staff that day, so I thought it was a nice touch. :)
At the time that I landed, we still had two days before our students arrived. This was to finalize all of the planning and prepping and so on. But, once we got all of that done, there was still a bit of time to enjoy the Bahamas sans students. Traveling with me that day were
Byron, and a third instructor who came in from New Hampshire, Colin. The other 7 or 8 instructors were going to arrive the following day. Which leads me to my next though. The Instructor Team was pretty huge, but necessarily so.
We had 3 sailing boats and one fishing boat. The sailboats were all huge! I was one of the crew on the Grand Illusion - a 50 foot keel boat. We also had the Oceo (48 ft keel which was home to all of our female students and crew), and the Moana (a 55 ft catamaran which had a lot more folks living on it than the other boats). We did want to make sure that we had tons of fish though, so we also had a 21 foot Contender with a 250 hp engine. That thing could book it, let me tell ya!
I'm not going to get too much into route, but you can check it out on a map if you need to. The fleet started out at Emerald Bay Marina near Georgetown, Exuma. We then sailed North, ultimately turning around at Staniel Cay, and then headed back to the Marina. It was a
Is that a pig?
At Staniel Cay, there are swimming pigs. I'm not even joking. 300 pound pigs swim into the ocean to beg for food from the boats. This is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen.
fantastic sail, with easy conditions, firm anchorages, not so much sun that we all burst in to flames. All in all, I'd say it was a success.
How much of a success? Well, at the beginning of the course, most of the students on the Grand Illusion couldn't boil water to save their lives. At the end, they were making cookies from scratch complete with their own recipe for icing. At the beginning of the course, the students on the Grand Illusion didn't know how to sail or dive. At the end of the course, they used all of their hard earned skills to become pirates and steal a water balloon launcher from the Oceo, and then blast them with it. At the beginning of the course, I had 17 students and 15 chaperones from the school in Texas. At the end of the course, I still had 17 students and 15 chaperones. I would definitely call that a success! :)
In summary, course was awesome, students were awesome, I-Team was awesome, and especially Byron was awesome. As always, feel free to forward this entry to other folks, and if you are reading my blog for the first
time and would like to subscribe, send an email to SoarPheatAdventures@gmail.com
with the word "Subscribe" in the subject line.
Stay tuned for more posts in the coming weeks, and if you have a topic you'd like me to try to cover in my own bumbling (yet cute) way, shoot an email to that same address and let me know, or use this website to send a message. Happy trails!
There are more photos below