Location: West End, Tortola
Rounding into the second half of our voyage, the shipmates onboard Changes have started to get their sea legs. The raising and lowering of the sails, along with other daily sail handling, have started to become a finely tuned process. We arrived at Mountain Point on Virgin Gorda while sailing back from the island of Anegada. During that sail, Ana was at the helm sailing back on a steady beam reach. We spent two days at Mountain Point, enjoying a variety of activities. This is where Daniel taught Mason how to waterski like a pro. After three crashes, Mason got the hang of it and ended up giving Daniel a few tips on how to fall with style. On the second day, Aaron from La Bella Vita and I took a group of Quest students on a little hike from the leeward to the windward side of Virgin Gorda. There we taught them an important lesson of how and why everyone should recycle plastics correctly. Afterward, we took an hour to clean up the beach we were on. This is where I saw Lisa take a great interest in the environment. We all picked up as much plastic as we could find, and her pile was by far the biggest. Moving on to day 11 of the trip, we motor sailed or what the fleet calls d-sailed, to the Dog Islands to dive on a site called the Chimneys. Judging from the smiles and chatter, I assumed that the dive was a success, and Matias was grinning from ear to ear, hoping that his GoPro pictures came out well. Then we sailed off to Marina Cay, where I had Simon help me dock the boat perfectly so that we could take on water and dinghy fuel. We anchored at Marina Cay, and the shipmates went ashore to take part in a Lifeworks Forum with Mike, which for some people, can be life-changing. From Marina Cay, we sailed to Muskmelon Bay on Guana Island. On the way there, Rachael and I taught knots, sail circles, and heave-tos. Yana, I noticed really got a lot out of doing the sail circles and furthermore understood points of sail after. For lunch, we stopped at White Bay and enjoyed a little beach time. Muskmelon was a great place to stay. I enjoyed the activities at Muskmelon. However, I also enjoyed the busy life of nature as well- whether that was pelicans diving for fish, bats flying at night, or watching all the fish eat our scraps. Changes trusty first mate and program director Anna came up with a Pico challenge for the shipmates the next day. This consisted of sailing around and collecting various items which were worth various points. Yana and Caitlin performed excellent sailing maneuvers to take home the gold for their team. On day 14, we had one of our most relaxing sails down to Cane Garden Bay. There the shipmates had the most exciting day of the trip; the hike up Mt. Sage. On the top, you get a gorgeous view of the path that we sailed and the other islands we visited. Two days later, Jaime told me that his legs were still sore from it. From Cane Garden, we moved over to Sandy Cay to have a sandcastle contest with the fleet. Changes ended up deciding to build a hand with a Turk’s Head. The hand was very detailed, and Lisa even added flat stones and washed up coral to stand in as the nails, making it one of the favorites. After the contest, we moved to Sydney’s, a local restaurant on Jost van Dyke to raft up and have a delicious BBQ. The next day was the practical sailing exam. Rachael and I had the shipmates perform all the points of sail, knots, vessel nomenclature, vessel safety, and many other things in order to receive their IYT International Crew Certificate. After the practical, we anchored up at Green Cay and tried to get a good night’s sleep before the first race.
Race day was finally here, and the shipmates were super excited. Emily, who loves sailing when the boat is really heeled over, was excited and ready for a good performance. However, we did not do very well, coming in last place. I wasn’t too worried about it because I knew that the next two races, we could only do better. After the race, we stopped into West End and got some water and then had our second race to Peter Island. This was a long and hard race upwind in close quarters. I was super pumped up that the shipmates were tacking Changes perfectly and we were hanging on to the top of the pack until 5 minutes before the finish I misjudged one of the tacks, and we were forced to tack up to get back on track. However, we did not finish in last. On day 17, we got to go on a really cool dive off Salt Island on the wreck of the Rhone. This was my first dive of the trip and also my favorite dive yet. Being able to swim under the hull and even touch an unbroken porthole was an experience that I will never forget. After the dive, I took the shipmates on a small hike on Salt Island so that they could get a few photos. The following day back in Great Harbor, the shipmates got to have a last day of waterskiing or wakeboarding, which as usual, was fun and hilarious. Then we sailed down to Norman Island, where we got hit by some fairly strong winds and rain for 20 solid minutes. I was pleased with the shipmates for staying calm and listening to my directions on how to trim the sails and furl the jib. The next day was the last day of sailing, which meant it was that last race. After two less than stellar finishes, the shipmates and crew really wanted to sail better and win. We also dropped some weight and got rid of the two dinghies we were towing so that our sailing capabilities were tuned in. Changes got off to a great start and held on to the lead before falling behind to third place. Once we passed the turning mark, with some help from Caitlin’s spot-on driving, we passed Sambamba to get into second place behind Calypso. If the finish line had been a little further away, we might have won. However, second felt like first, and I think that everyone would agree. The next day the journey had come to an end. I hope for all this was a life-changing experience that they all enjoyed. For myself, I have never had such a good time. Whether I was sailing, teaching, diving, or just listening, the trip was a complete blast. Emma, who mentioned to me that this was one of the best experiences of her life, made me very proud that I had helped create and memory that she will cherish forever.