Location: British Virgin Islands
As I sit here writing the blog, I know it hasn’t even been two weeks but I feel like I’ve known the shipmates of Catalinaville for years. This is my first session working with Lifeworks and I’m absolutely loving it. One of my bigger fears before starting was that I’d have troublesome or unruly shipmates, so it has been a great relief to get to know and work with the students I have because I can’t imagine a better group. At the beginning of the session many of them had never really been on the water before but now they’re well on their way to becoming professional sailors. It’s been really incredible to see how Kenzie, our self-proclaimed “Dinghy Captain”, has taken to life on board. One of the first things I hear each morning is her, “Good morning ya’ll!” and for the rest of the day she embraces every activity we do with the same positivity. It’s also been really cool to see how well our group is bonding and the friendships that are forming. Last night, after a particularly moving evening program, the boat all sat together on the bow and enjoyed the beautiful Caribbean sky in each others company. The whole group is close but two young men, John Michael and Wayne, are particularly compatible. I feel like they’ll be good friends for long after they leave the BVIs. It’s also been particularly fun watching Avery take on all our activities and blossom as the trip goes on. Due to travel issues Avery arrived with us a day after all the other students got here so we were a bit worried that she’d have trouble fitting in to the group. Our fears were groundless, as Avery has integrated herself seamlessly into the group and continues to open up more every day.This morning we woke up super early to head over to Nanny Cay for the Annual Caribbean Dog Show. Due to the early start, we planned to lift the anchor before waking the students but we ended up with a lot of help from our early risers. Lindsey is always around to lend a hand but she was particularly helpful this morning as we set off in a rush. Lindsey is incredibly useful on the boat but I think I’ll remember her as the girl whose white shirt is stained with dirt or whose skin is covered in paint because she dedicates herself so wholeheartedly to our volunteer projects.Our project today was hard work and it was SUPER hot outside but all the shipmates got involved and contributed to an extremely successful dog show. We were the primary group of volunteers at the show so our tasks ranged from manning the registration tent to selling used books. When one dog handler needed help, Delphine stepped up to the job and ended up walking a dog in the actual competition. Although her dog didn’t end up winning, Delphine performed admirably. Delphine is always doing whatever needs to be done, often without even needing to be asked (which is pretty awesome). The other day Delphine and Wayne took it upon themselves to clean up our boat’s cockpit and did a great job. Molly was involved all over the dog show, from filling up the dogs’ water bowls to directing traffic in the parking lot. She was incredibly energetic and optimistic even though she wasn’t feeling 100% today. At one point during the day I got a bit cranky because I was hot and tired but Lauren shot me a goofy look and I immediately cheered up. Lauren is able to set the tone of the group with her smile, humor and presence and she ALWAYS sets a positive tone. After helping clean up the dog show (and watching the penalty kicks of the Brazil/Chile World Cup game) we all had some shore time before heading off to Beef Island.The sail to Beef Island was probably one of the highlights of the trip so far. The water was a bit rough so all the students went to the bow and enjoyed a roller-coaster-like ride. Our only ActionQuest alumnus, Brendan, came up with a game in which everyone jumped just as the boat hit the biggest waves. Brendan was down here last summer, so he knows the ins and outs of the BVIs and often leads the group in fun activities they might not otherwise pick up on. While most of the crew was on the bow, our skipper of the day, Salome, was on the helm with Elliot. Salome, who is also our only non-American student, spent an hour teaching Elliot French songs and singing them with him. Salome has been working on her English as the trip goes on and definitely learns something new every day. The other day she learned the color “maroon” while painting on one of our projects.After arriving at Long Bay on Beef Island we anchored for the night and took quick showers before sitting down for a wonderful dinner of rice and chili, prepared for us by the day’s chefs, Brendan and John Michael. We didn’t have an evening activity tonight because everyone was exhausted from their hard work so after dinner we all drifted off to bed. Today was a great day; in fact, all eleven of the days so far have been great days. The shipmates of Catalinaville are all happy and healthy and I look forward to spending the second half of the trip with them!