The AQ Team
This isn't our first rodeo... or even our first circumnavigation. We've been sailing the world's oceans for over 40 years. We do it because it's not just what we love- it's who we are.
Like you, we're curious--so seeing and doing are part of our learning curve.
So is the commitment to continuously push ourselves and our crew to new heights. And like you, we're as diverse as the destinations we travel. We come from all different backgrounds--Captains, Scuba Instructors, Marine Biologists, EMTs, ... Many of our team came to AQ as a teen or even to Sea|mester to study abroad in college before finding their way back, realizing that their life's work was right here. Regardless of how we arrived or where we came from, we share a desire to teach, discover and evolve. It's probably why we chose ActionQuest over a 9-to-5 gig in the first place. Deep down, everyone wants to set their own course.
Mike Meighan - Director
Mike's love of the sea lured him to scuba diving and sailing at the age of 15. At 18, he
voyaged throughout the Mediterranean and taught diving internationally before entering Southampton University
in the UK. He graduated with a First Class Joint Honors degree in Oceanography and Marine Biology.
In 1995, Mike assumed the role of ActionQuest marine biologist, oceanographer and scuba instructor. Over the years, his love for experiential learning and the AQ programs led him to become involved in all aspects of operations. His passion for teaching traditional academics in an experiential way led to the development of Sea|mester in 1998.
Today, Mike directs all operations and activities in addition to developing new voyages, programs and course curriculums. He sails with the BVI ActionQuest and Lifeworks programs full-time each summer.
The Meighan family has a deep-rooted affection for the water. Mike's wife, Jo, spent several summers as a PADI diving instructor with AQ in the BVI, and works in the Sarasota office part-time. Mike and Jo live in Sarasota with their sons, Joshua and Kai, who are naturally fond of the water and sail with the family in the BVI each summer.
Jim Stoll - Founder
Jim spent much of his youth aboard boats. As a young man, he became an avid ocean racer crewing many times aboard legendary racing yachts like Jack Eckerd's Panacea, S.A. Long's Ondine and Jim Kilroy's Kialoa. In 1970, Jim and his wife, Elske, became owners and captains of the 156-ft. schoolship Te Vega, sailing with her sister-ship, the 175-ft. Te Quest. This is where Jim first combined his passion for the ocean and years of experience to teach young adults sailing and hands-on academics. After 12 years and 50,000 miles of cruising throughout European, Mediterranean, South American and Caribbean waters, the Stolls moved ashore with their children, Carina and Jason.
Jim revisited his passion for working with teenagers when he established ActionQuest. The non-traditional programs challenged young adults with high-action adventure and personal growth. The concept was so successful that similar programs like Sea|mester and Lifeworks were developed to further serve teenagers and young adults.
Click on our team members below to learn more about them.
- Travis Yates - Director of Operations
Travis joined the team in 1995, having graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with a degree in Marine Engineering. Always a sailor, Travis competed at both national and international levels, culminating in a bid for the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team in 1996. Travis holds an MCA/IYT International Master of Ocean Yachts, US Coast Guard Captain's License and is an Instructor Evaluator for US Sailing. He is also a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer.
As Director of Operations and Marine Superintendent, Travis is responsible for day-to-day operations as well as all AQ vessels and equipment.
- Jake Steward - Operations and Enrollment
Easily recognizable by the constant smile on his face, Jake is the director of the Divemaster program and coordinates our introductory dive programs. Brought into diving by his mom, Jake has experience diving all over the world, from the murky, freezing waters of the Great Lakes to the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean. After retuning home from a life changing trip with ActionQuest in 2005, Jake knew he had to become involved with the program. Now as a skipper and PADI instructor, Jake strives to provide his shipmates with the same incredible experience he had as a student. Jake recently made the move to Sarasota, and manages enrollment and business development for ActionQuest.
- Nick McGinty - Captain
Nick was born and raised in Sarasota, Florida. Because he grew up in a coastal city, he easily found himself attracted to anything and everything on the water. Nick began sailing at the age of 15 as a student at ActionQuest. He studied criminal justice at the University of Mississippi where he graduated in 2010. After graduating he followed his love of the water to a career in the maritime world. He began working on mega yachts as a deckhand and worked his way up to 1st mate, earning his RYA Yachtmaster 200 ton, and Officer Of The Watch certifications. Nick joined the ActionQuest team in 2008, and is also the first mate on our Sea|mester boat, Argo.
- Kyle Busacker - Director of Enrollment
As a Business and History student at the University of Oregon, Kyle decided to study abroad his Junior year by attending a fall voyage with Sea|mester. Kyle attests that the experience was so life changing, that soon after graduating he made it his goal to return. In the summer of 2006, Kyle became part of the ActionQuest team as an operational staff in the British Virgin Islands, while over the next three years also working for our Lifeworks and Sea|mester programs.
During this time, Kyle attained his 200 gross ton Master of Yachts Offshore captains license and his PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor Certification. After taking a year's hiatus working in the field of enrollment services in High Education, Kyle brought his knowledge and passion for experiential education back to our organization and is now running our west coast office in Portland, Oregon as the Director of Enrollment.
- Bryant Turffs - Captain/Dive Instructor
Bryant was born in Sarasota, FL and grew up exploring the Gulf Coast waters. He started sailing at age 8 and earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification at age 14. Bryant studied environmental science at New College of Florida and wrote his thesis on the use of chemical dispersant in relation to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While earning his bachelors Bryant also achieved his PADI instructor rating, USCG 50 Ton Masters Captains License and interned with Mote Marine Laboratories Center for Shark Research. After graduating in 2011, Bryant traveled Australia, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia teaching diving and seeking adventure. Bryant joined the AQ team in 2012 as a Skipper and Dive Instructor and in 2014 also started working with our Sea|mester programs in the fall and spring.
- Kris Stevenson - Marine Scientist / Second Mate
Kris was born in Rotterdam, Holland, and spent most of his formative years growing up in the Middle East and England. He graduated from the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, with a Masters degree in Oceanography, having spent a semester abroad in the United States studying at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. Following a strong family connection to the sea, Kris was naturally inclined towards a life revolving around the Oceans. Since 2008, Kris has spent his summers working with ActionQuest in the British Virgin Islands teaching a mixture of Marine Sciences, diving and sailing. In 2009, Kris joined the Sea|mester team as a member of the Marine Science Faculty, Diving Instructor and Mate. Kris' professional credentials include PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, IYT Master of Yachts 200 tons and also serves as a member of faculty at the State College of Florida.
- Gina Barnaba - Registrar
Gina joined Sea|mester and ActionQuest in December 2003. She earned both a Bachelor's degree and Associate of Applied Science Degree while studying and working in New York City. She brings to ActionQuest her extensive managerial experience which allows her to oversee the admissions process as well as an ability to work with each student's individual needs and interests. Gina's passion for our program and for the happiness of our students makes her an invaluable part of our team and a great advocate for our shipmates. When not working at Sea|mester, Gina enjoys spending time with her husband Rick, and children, Marisa and Tristan.
- Jo Meighan - CFO
Jo joined ActionQuest in 1997 as a full-time office staff member and PADI dive instructor. Having spent six summers teaching with ActionQuest in the BVIs, she now works in the Sarasota office as CFO. The rest of her time is devoted to raising sons Joshua and Kai. She has a Bachelor's degree in French from Southampton University, UK. Born in Jamaica and raised in Britain, Jo has traveled extensively, having lived and worked abroad in several countries. She has a passion for the arts and for working with ActionQuest to provide life-defining experiences for young adults.
- Greg Skinner - Technical Director
Greg joined the team after participating in the summer 2002 Caribbean Sea|mester. He was inspired to earn his EMT certification and his PADI Divemaster certification in order to join the team in an operational capacity. Greg spent two summers in the BVI providing emergency medical support, dive support and worked as both a First Mate and Skipper. Greg now provides support for ActionQuest's websites as well as general technical support and guidance for the program. Greg holds a bachelor's degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Information Technology and is currently pursuing his Master's degree at the George Washington University in Computer Security.
- Ben Diamond - Captain
Originally from Manchester, England, Ben is an experienced sailor, PADI divemaster, and skiing enthusiast. After earning his masters in Marine Environmental Management, Ben logged over 30,000 miles at sea, earning his 200 ton Yachtmaster Oceans, and has done multiple Atlantic crossings. Ben joined the ActionQuest team in 2013 as a Skipper and marine scientist, and is also the captain of OceanStar, an 88 foot schooner, for our Sea|mester programs.
- Brittany Davis - Scuba Instructor
Brittany was raised on the South Eastern coast of Virginia and spent the majority of her time near the water. She was certified as an Open Water Diver at the age of eleven and fell in love with being so close to marine life from that moment. Graduating from Old Dominion University with a Bachelor's Degree in Education, Brittany enjoys watching students learn and develop new knowledge. With these two passions, becoming a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor seemed like the perfect next step. Since 2008, Brittany has been working with ActionQuest and Sea|mester as a Scuba Instructor. She hopes to pass her enthusiasm of marine life and sailing onto all of her students. Along with PADI certifications, Brittany also holds IYT sailing certifications.
- Aaron Galley - Captain
Raised in New England, Aaron has spent much of his time on the water, both in its liquid and frozen state. He spends winters working as a ski patroller at Okemo mountain in Vermont, and his summers with the AQ team in the BVI. Starting as a shipmate in 2005, Aaron joined our staff in 2009 as our compression boat skipper and EMT. Aaron's professional credentials include MCA Master of Yachts 200 Ton Offshore, EMT equivalency certificate, and PADI Divemaster Certification. Always the handyman, Aaron can be found spending his free time keeping busy with multiple carpentry projects.
- Viktoria Low - Scuba Instructor
Born and raised in Northern California, Tor knew she was meant for a life full of adventure. Growing up she spent a her summers traveling to Sweden to visit family and learning how to sail out in the archipelago. After high school, Tor headed north and attended University of Oregon. In the fall of 2008 she sailed with Sea|mester from Australia to Thailand. Upon returning to University, Tor attained her Bachelors of Science Degree in Human Physiology and also discovered her true love of diving in the murky giant kelp forest-waters off the California, Oregon and Washington coast. After receiving her instructor certification in Oregon, she spent time gaining experience as an Instructor teaching diving in Honduras. In 2010, Tor joined the ActionQuest team and now works with ActionQuest and Seamester as a diving instructor. With Sea|mester and AQ, Tor plans to advance her sail training and continue to develop her teaching style and career as an outdoor educator.
- Marina Knapp - Marine Scientist
Growing up in Sarasota, FL, Marina's passion for the ocean began at a young age. She joined AQ in 2006 as a shipmate on the Dolphin voyage, and continued on completing two atlantic crossings aboard Argo with Sea|mester. Marina graduated from Florida State University in 2013 with a B.S. in Biology. She holds PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, AAUS Scientific diver, WFR, and STCW-95 certifications, and has interned at Mote Marine and Pritzker Marine Research laboratories. Marina has worked with AQ since 2011, and is now the director of our Marine Science program.
- Blair Williamson - PR and Alumni Relations
Blair is from Richmond, VA and grew up sailing in Wilmington, North Carolina. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2008, having sailed with Sea|mester on S/Y Argo for her 2006 maiden voyage in Thailand. Since 2008, Blair has spent her summers with ActionQuest in the British Virgin Islands as a dive instructor and captain. She has also spent time living and working aboard privately owned yachts in the Bahamas and in SE Asia, following her passion for travel and the ocean. Blair joined the company full time in the beginning of 2011 and works in the office as PR and alumni relations co-ordinator. Blair's professional credentials include PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and IYT Master of Yachts 200 tons.
- Sam Williamson - Operational Director
After graduating from Wake Forest University in 2004, Sam followed his passion for the water and travel, working as a Sailing and Scuba Diving instructor in Costa Rica, Thailand, and Belize. Sam joined AQ, in 2007 and is now the director of the BVI Diving program. He holds certifications as an MCA Master of Yachts 200 Ton, PADI IDC Staff Instructor, and Advanced Medic at Sea. An avid traveler, he can be found seeking out new adventures abroad, from paragliding in the Alps to jungle trekking in Sumatra.
- Kate Mitchell - Admissions Director
Learning to sail and scuba dive at a young age on Lake Erie, Kate always had a passion for the water. As a teenager, she was an AQ shipmate. She then signed aboard with Sea|mester for the maiden voyage. She has been a scuba instructor and skipper since 1999, and an office team member since 2001.
What Kate loves most about working with AQ is being able to give back to the program that impacted her at a pivotal time in her life. Kate holds a US Coast Guard Captain's License and is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer.
- Anna Johnson - Emergency Medical Technician
Granddaughter of school ship pioneers Irving and Exy Johnson, Anna became an AQ shipmate at 16 and even completed her senior year of high school aboard S/Y Ocean Star. A 2004 graduate from the University of Vermont, with degrees in psychology and sociology, Anna also holds an EMT certification and has volunteered on a local ambulance. Anna has worked with AQ since the summer of 2000 and in addition to her medical duties she is also in charge of managing the trip update system and ships stores.
- Julia Riddle
A past shipmate, Julia joined the AQ team as an EMT/mate in 2004. After graduating from Georgetown University, Julia decided to pursue sailing and experiential education full-time and holds certifications as a Master of Yachts, Padi Divemaster, and a CPR/First Aid instructor. Currently studying to become a medical doctor, Julia remains involved with ActionQuest as board member of the Global Expeditions Group Foundation, our 501(c)3 non-profit.
- Torin Tofferi - Operational Director
Born and raised in Vermont, Torin's background is all about snow sports, sailing, and community service. He spends winters coaching alpine ski racing while managing his family's ski shop, and summers directing all of our BVI service programs. Torin has a long history in service, starting alternative youth programs with the local recreation and parks departments, as well as recycling programs in the local schools. Torin holds a 100 Ton Master Mariners License with the United States Coast Guard and is also a PADI rescue diver.
- Dan Meyer - Operational Director
Dan has been active in the field of experiential education since 2000. Since that time, Dan has facilitated hundreds of groups as an environmental educator, a wilderness trail guide, a high and low ropes challenge course facilitator, a youth-at-risk counselor, and, of course, as an international service-adventure guide for ActionQuest & Lifeworks. Dan is a dedicated academic and holds his Masters in Experiential Education, and an avid traveler with countless stories from North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Dan is responsible for the coordination of all operational aspects of our programs in Ecuador, The Galapagos, and Peru, and aims to deliver the very best experiences for ActionQuest students.
- Elliot Evins - Captain
Elliot was born in Southern California and has since lived in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida where he currently resides. Elliot graduated from New College of Florida and spent his spring semeseter 2011 with ActionQuest sister program, Sea|mester. Elliot joined ActionQuest in 2011 and works as a captain and program director with both the ActionQuest and Lifeworks BVI programs. Elliot loves traveling and meeting new people. He is ecstatic to have a profession that allows him to do both.
- Meghann Michalski - Scuba Instructor
Meghann is from Auburn Hills, MI and between the Great Lakes and scuba diving in the ocean, has never been far from the water. Meghann previously worked at an adventure summer camp in the Florida Keys, working her way up to Advanced Open Water through Divemaster and in 2010, she became a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. Meghann joined ActionQuest in 2011, and is an instructor for our Advanced Scuba Diving programs.