Nine bottles of sunscreen, 10 tubs of peanut butter, two gallons of Gatorade mix, a few nice Teva tans and countless memories. We bartered in sunscreen and Oreos, and success is now measured in the number of unburned body parts each of us can claim. We made it back to Lexington, having completed our 800-mile sailing journey through the Caribbean in one piece.
Over the past three weeks, we have learned to autonomously operate, navigate, and ultimately sail our beloved 54.5’ Beneteau. I don’t think any of us realized how busy we would be aboard the ship. We rotate daily roles to keep the ship running smoothly. The skipper is the captain and works closely with the navigator, first mate, and info officer to plot the day’s course and direct the crew. Two-person teams tackle meal preparation, dish cleaning, and deck swabbing, but everyone always helps keep the ship in shape. Sailing is time consuming, so we did three overnight sails in order to make time for all we wanted to do during the daytime. Pulling all-nighters in 30-knot winds and six-foot swells certainly wasn’t what I imagined when I considered what it would be like to sail through the Caribbean!
Although it was a large part of our trip, sailing was only half of what we did. A major component of the trip has been meeting with ex-patriot managers like the HR director and general manager of the Four Seasons Resort in Nevis. He discussed the challenges of assimilating into a new culture and working effectively with a new team. For example, when new management tries to implement immediate changes, Caribbean locals can be resistant. Often, putting any kind of change in place within the first three months is infeasible. He talked about how employees are intrinsically motivated to do well and are less motivated by money. We also met with local government leaders like the Commissioner of Statia and a vice president for St. Barts and discussed challenges that local governments face managing the islands as a whole.
Each student has presented on a relevant topic to his/her major. We’ve learned about microfinance of small businesses, the physics of sailing, the psychology of leadership in stressful scenarios, the regional geology of the Caribbean, the economics of sugar cane production, the philosophy of slavery, poverty in the Caribbean, and conversational French. It has been very cool to learn from each other, particularly when we’re each so individually invested in the topics.
A final component of our adventure has been exploring the islands in pursuit of cultural understanding. This mainly took the form of talking with and learning from the locals. We’ve figured out that just about everyone in the Leeward Islands thinks his or her island has the nicest people; however, no two islands are the same. All the islands are driven by unique economies: Statia survives on the oil trade while St. Kitts gets by on sugar cane production and St. Barts thrives on purely tourism.
At the end of each day, we each found a perch on the boat and kept a journal of our experiences and how they related to our own personal insights about leadership, both on and off the boat. It’s been quite an enjoyable way to reflect on the day’s activities and interactions and relate them back to the lectures we attended during the winter term.
Some of the highlights of the trip have been:
The Quill Hike in Statia
A perfect volcanic cone protruding from the small island, The Quill is a well-maintained nature reserve. We hiked to the top ridgeline of the extinct volcano and decided that just peering into the center of the cone wasn’t enough. We descended into the cone and entered a new world – a full-on rainforest with trunks as big as redwoods and vines as plentiful as the exotic plants.
Snorkeling, hiking, dining. You name it, and St. Barts has the best of it. The meeting we had with a local government official only confirmed our desires to live there one day. He told us about their low taxes, zero crime, zero debt, and very low unemployment. Oh, and their beaches are okay too…
Loblolly Beach, Anegada (Pictured above)
An absolutely pristine, horseshoe-shaped beach protected by a barrier reef and lined with brilliant white sand. Definition Paradise. The lagoon was home to the clearest water and the biggest barracuda any of us had ever seen.
Hobie Cat Sailing, Virgin Gorda
Our friends at the Bitter End Yacht Club rented us three Hobie Cat sailboats, and after learning how to windsurf, we proceeded to race and zip around the North Sound for the entire afternoon. Such a great time!
Thank you to all who have been following our journey. We arrived back in Lexington late tonight and now we start our 20-page research papers, which will finish off the term. All in all, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend three weeks.
Harry and the Rest of the Crew
Encounters with Business Owners and Barracudas
We are off to an incredible start to our journey, and time is flying by in the islands. Let me get you back up to speed.
Since the last time I wrote, we have all “earned” new nicknames—partly to resolve the Perry-Harry-Mary-Barry dilemma, but mostly just for fun. We now have Pear-dog, Hairbare, Al-Pal, Addigirl, Port, Consuela, Big Dog, Moon Dog, and of course, Deputy Dog/Dad. All of these names have stories to go along with them, however, none of the stories could fit in this post! Just know that we are all getting along great, and spirits are high.
On day one, we packed 10 days’ worth of food in the galley. It was a puzzle packing everything in the cupboards, and it’s now a game of Jenga any time we take something out. That said, our cooking has been delicious. We’ve whipped up dishes like BBQ chicken, steak, chicken teriyaki stir-fry, and pasta with Dr. Shay’s signature sauce (Prego & Salsa). Not complaining!
After completing our final preparations, we left the dock and hoisted the sails for the first time on April 28th. We were pretty rough at first, but with some tutelage from our resident sailing experts, we were off and heeling at 10kts like the best of them. Since that first day, we have navigated places called “Collision Point” and “Shark Bay,” squeezed through a tight channel called the “Blow Hole,” and sailed 120 miles in a single night. We’ve come a long way, and our sailing continues to improve every day. Since there is so much I could include in this blog post, I thought I’d write about the top three things we’re appreciating right now.
So far, we have explored six islands in six days: St. Thomas, Tortola, Norman Island, Virgin Gorda, Beef Island, and St. Martin. During these visits, we have interviewed local business owners and managers who represent various industries. For example, we’ve met with owners and operators of small restaurants and a 100-year-old rum distillery, as well as administrators from Tortola’s Community College and the manager of the Bitter End Yacht Club (located in “Billionaire Alley”). Beyond these meetings, daily interaction with locals has given us valuable insight into the diverse cultures present throughout the islands.
We’ve snorkeled through the caves of Norman Island and explored the baths of Virgin Gorda. Along the way, we’ve met a wide array of marine life, including an octopus that matched my turquoise bathing suit, lobsters that hid under the deepest coral, and barracuda that lurked in the shadows. At the baths, we followed a trail that led past towering boulders and caves, all the while enjoying views of the pristine blue water below. At the Bitter End, we hiked a local peak to watch a brilliant sunrise, and then we zipped around the bay on Hobie Cat boats for several hours. Island activities never get old and there are always more new things to try.
Food and Ting
Who doesn’t like a good meal with a Drop of Caribbean Sunshine*?
*Ting is a popular island soda in the Caribbean that we have come to love. Withdrawal symptoms are inevitable upon our return to the states…
In summary, we are very fortunate to have started off the Spring Term with such an unforgettable week. We can’t wait to see what the next two have to offer!
Until next time,
Harry and the Rest of the Crew
In Tortola, Ready to Push Off
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
I’m writing this from the Mariner Inn and Marina in Tortola, where our sailboat is moored. Today we laid eyes on the “Erocridar II,” which is the gorgeous vessel that will be our home for the next three weeks. She’s a beauty—55’ in length and fortified with strength. My classmates and I will sail this boat around the Caribbean, studying cross-cultural leadership with our professor, Dr. Shay.
There are eight of us students on the crew. Selected for our varying interests and academic pursuits, we are a diverse group. We have majors in business, accounting, math, psychology and geology, and our interests are just as widespread. The one trait we all have in common: a passion for adventure.
Signing up to spend three weeks on a boat—living, cooking and traveling in very small quarters—might worry some people, but to us it’s an adventure and an ideal learning environment. Dr. Shay helped us prepare for the trip over the winter term by leading a series of lectures, readings and discussions about cross-cultural leadership. We wanted to learn as much as possible, so that we’d be able to wholeheartedly focus on the application of these lessons in the field.
We left at 3:50 a.m. on Sunday to catch our flight to the Caribbean, and arrived in St. Thomas around noon. Stepping off the plane, we drank in the view—the way the mountainous landscape met the pristine waters below made us excited for the weeks to come. After months of preparation, we had finally made it to the Caribbean.
All of us enjoyed watching Dr. Shay rekindle some friendships with familiar locals. While we waited for a ferry to Tortola, we dined at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the harbor. The “ferry” surprised all of us. It was more like a speedboat. We flew by neighboring islands, which gave us a just a small taste of the historically rich sights we would soon be able to enjoy at our own pace.
Once we arrived in Tortula, it was just a short taxi ride to the marina where our boat was moored. While the boat was being checked out, we got to relax in the pool and enjoy some final showers. The rest of the afternoon was spent packing our gear below deck and preparing for the next day’s departure.
By 10 p.m., Dr. Shay’s “dad” jokes had slowed to a trickle. I think we all welcomed our pillows after a long day of travel. Despite being tired, our spirits were high. We woke up with the sun and began our first full day in the Caribbean. We can’t wait to push off this afternoon!BUS 390B Course Description