Location: West End, Tortola
Today Anna, Gwen, and I (David) welcomed our Session One GoBeyond shipmates to our home in the Caribbean for the next three weeks, Shazam. Although the shipmates are just arriving at the docks today, the staff have been down here in the British Virgin Islands for closer to two weeks (except Anna, who got here a month and a half ago!), setting up the boats and preparing for an awesome summer. Flying into the Virgin Islands was an incredibly bittersweet moment for all the staff because we were very happy to be back in a place that feels like home to us, yet at the same time shocked by the devastation wreaked on the islands by Hurricane Irma last fall. Between us three staff members, we have over a dozen summers spent working here in the Territory and love these islands. Never before have we seen such destruction as after Hurricane Irma. Many of the buildings in our home harbor, West End, are destroyed, there are some sunken or damaged ships, and the coastal and underwater ecosystems have suffered tremendously. Despite all this damage, it’s heartening to see that many repairs have started and that the BVI islanders are energetically rebuilding their lives. It also feels really good to know that at GoBeyond our students, and we have an entire summer to help support the hurricane rebuilding efforts and give back to “Nature’s Little Secrets.” We’ve got an incredible program lined up for the next few weeks ranging from turtle tagging to school renovating. Our students will learn about damage to marine ecosystems as well as meet and work with locals. In addition to completing some valuable community service, our students will also learn how to sail a 48-foot catamaran, cook some awesome meals, and get to know some incredible people over the next few weeks.
Get to know us!
Born in New England and raised in an active family, Gwen became a water sports enthusiast early in life. Surprisingly she was not introduced to sailing until she spent a semester in the Caribbean aboard Seamesters S/Y Ocean Star. After a life-changing experience with Seamester, Gwen joined the ActionQuest/GoBeyond team as a Wilderness First Responder in 2014. Since then, Gwen has earned her Master of Yachts 200ton certificate, and she returns for her fifth summer in the BVI as a skipper and a WFR. When she is not in the BVI, Gwen lives in Vermont where she works in the ski industry and reaps the benefits of living seasonally.
Anna [BZ] McBee is from Siler City, NC, but currently lives in sunny Key Largo. BZ discovered her passion for the environment and sailing as a student on ActionQuest and Seamester. She then joined the GoBeyond field staff as a skipper in 2013 and has most recently been a director in the BVI’s. When she is not working the summers with GoBeyond, she is a Fisheries Biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Her favorite part about GoBeyond is getting the chance to see students discover their interests and passions while inspiring them to think more about their impact on the environment.
David was born in Louisiana but has spent most of his life in New Jersey. An avid traveler and ocean enthusiast, David started diving at the age of 11 and got his PADI Divemaster when he was 18. David first joined ActionQuest as a shipmate when he was 13 and since then has been on GXG trips to the Mediterranean and Ecuador. David has spent two summers working with GoBeyond in the British Virgin Islands and will be returning this summer after his college graduation.