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Learning to Sail in the Caribbean – From Landlubber to Sailor in 7 Days

Posted by on Mar 12, 2018 | 3 comments

Learning to Sail in the Caribbean – From Landlubber to Sailor in 7 Days

If pressed, I could not offer a reasonable explanation as to why my husband, Dave, and I decided to learn how to sail.

It sounded fun? Well, sure. But so does a spa holiday.

Sailing holidays are glamorous? Obviously! (But, as it turns out, sailing courses are decidedly not.)

We plan to buy a power boat? Nope, that would be a good reason to take a power boat course.

Dave and I are indeed in the market for a boat, but we have already decided to buy a power boat we can moor in Seattle’s Puget Sound area (his home town) and use as a home base for our regular visits.

So, I suppose the main reason we decided to learn how to sail is that we wanted to be educated buyers when purchasing any type of boat. Is it possible that a sailboat might be a good option for us? How would we know unless we tried it?

And if learning to sail sounded fun, then learning to sail in the Caribbean sounded even better!

But you don’t just decide to become a sailor. Learning to sail involves much studying and many skills to master. Surely it takes months, even years…right? Not necessarily.

The next step, finding a sailing school!

Choosing a Sailing School

As luck would have it, the Caribbean has a number of wonderful sailing schools offering everything from basic courses to intense liveaboard multi-course options. There are also a wide range of prices for each option.

Barefoot Offshore Sailing School St Vincent

Barefoot Offshore Sailing School, St Vincent & the Grenadines

Which brings us to the Barefoot Offshore Sailing School (BOSS). Before settling on Barefoot, we carefully researched half a dozen sailing schools scattered across the Caribbean. Most were based in the Virgin Islands and pretty expensive (approximately $3000 per person for a week-long course).

While learning to sail was important to us, $6,000 for a week in the Caribbean seemed a little steep. When we found Barefoot, however, we discovered that the school had all of the same great reviews as the other schools – for nearly half the price.

And we have a winner!

Barefoot offers a number of liveaboard courses. Being the overachievers that we are, we opted for the most ambitious – a 7-day, 6-night adventure with the opportunity to complete four of the American Sailing Association’s (ASA) courses:

ASA 101 – Basic Keelboat

ASA 103 – Basic Coastal Cruising

ASA 104 – Bareboat Cruising Made Easy (the course you must complete to be able to charter a sailboat)

ASA 114 – Catamaran Cruising (specific to catamarans and also power boats – an ode to the type of boat we are actually planning to buy)

(*note – because I know it’s bugging you, as it did me: there is no ASA 102 course, it was an older course that was retired)

The most popular week-long course covers just 101 to 104 but we thought adding the catamaran course would be beneficial for additional practice with power boats – plus it would give us more options if we do decide to do a holiday charter someday. Catamarans can be far more comfortable (from a stability and living space standpoint) than a monohull sailboat.

Advance Study Required

But this Caribbean vacation wouldn’t be like any of our other holidays, this one came with homework…and lots of it!

After booking our course last September, we immediately got online and ordered the (alarmingly thick) textbooks for ASA 101, 103, 104 and 114.

We had the best intentions to begin studying immediately! We would be totally prepared! We would read those books cover to cover! We would quiz each other on nautical terms and practice tying knots! We would be the best students they’d ever seen!

We would…forget where we’d put those books until about 3 months later. Give or take.

But first, 101…

As the holidays rolled around, we dusted off the textbooks and began reading the first book. It was like learning another language.

We quickly realized that four courses in one week for two people who had NEVER sailed before was going to be incredibly ambitious. Barefoot recommended that new sailors take every opportunity to get out on the water before arriving in the Caribbean. We needed to find a way to get out on the water quick, and maybe even see if we could at least knock out 101.

And as the end of the year approached we also realized we needed some miles. So, why do a sailing course on a freezing cold lake in Atlanta in December when you can fly to San Diego and do it there? So obviously, that’s what we did! (Honestly, it was a no-brainer.)

We found a school called Harbor Sailboats in San Diego and signed up for a weekend ASA 101 course and then booked our flights. It turned out to be a wonderful two days of sailing time in the San Diego Bay with a reasonable amount of classroom time thrown in for good measure. The additional experience would prove to be invaluable to our success two months later.

The ASA 101 written test was 100 questions and it was no joke! We were glad we had studied as much as we did.

With the first course out of the way, we were already developing a new love for sailing. We were also feeling a lot better about our chances in St. Vincent and looking forward to expanding our sailing knowledge on a bigger sailboat in open waters.

Next stop, the Caribbean!

Located between St. Lucia and Grenada in the southern Caribbean Sea, the multi-island nation of St. Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG) is comprised of 32 islands and cays spanning 45 miles. Of those 32 islands, only 8 are populated.

The Grenadines may be one of the Caribbean’s best (or perhaps poorly) kept secrets for sailors. While most charter holiday seekers flock to the US and British Virgin Islands for their turquoise waters and closely-grouped abundance of picture-perfect islands, the Grenadines offer all the beauty at a more affordable price.

Sailing St Vincent Grenadines

The Tobago Cays, St Vincent and the Grenadines

The largest of the islands is St. Vincent. It is home to the majority of SVG’s population of 110,000 and home base for the booming yacht charter industry in the islands. Popular destinations for sailors include the islands of Bequia, Union, Cannouan, the Tobago Cays and Mayreau. The islands are also well-known for a handful of exclusive private island resorts on Mustique, Petit St. Vincent and the luxe Palm Island Resort.

But there would be no private island resorts for us on this trip. We were staring down the barrel of a child-sized cabin for two, a limited water supply and a hand-pump toilet. Sorry…ahem, I mean, a glamorous, luxurious sailing holiday!

After a quick 20-minute flight from St. Lucia, we were welcomed at St. Vincent’s gleaming new airport that seemed decades ahead of what we’d left behind in Castries. We breezed through Immigration and Customs, grabbed our bags and our driver (sent by Barefoot) was waiting for us as we exited baggage claim.

For our first two nights on the island, we decided to stay at the Barefoot Suites, the company’s small hotel above the charter base. It was nothing fancy but the room had a great view over the Blue Lagoon and the location allowed us to watch the boats come and go from the Barefoot dock each day.

Barefoot Suites View St Vincent

The view from our terrace at the Barefoot Suites

As we watched (and engaged in some last-minute vigorous studying from our terrace) we saw many of Barefoot’s fleet arrive back after a week at sea, with both charter guests and presumably sailing students.

It seemed some people getting off the boats were freshly showered, relaxed and well-dressed and others were somewhat bedraggled and unusually grateful to be back on dry land.

With the benefit of hindsight, I now believe that those who were clean and refreshed were likely charter guests and those looking like they were just rescued by the coast guard after being lost at sea were most probably sailing students.

Setting sail on Day 1 – St. Vincent to Bequia

The next morning, we arrived at the restaurant eager to meet our instructor and fellow students and full of nervous energy about the week to come. Had we studied enough? Would we be seasick? Could we actually pass all of these courses in a week? Would there be a hairdryer? (spoiler alert, no)

Learning to Sail Caribbean

Our home for the next 7 days, Isaphil!

We first met our instructor, Canadian-based Captain Joel.

Our fellow students for the week were Nick and Alyssa, a lovely couple from London, also totally new to sailing. During the course of the week, Alyssa mentioned that it was Nick who actually booked the trip and later presented her with textbooks for her upcoming “Caribbean sailing holiday.” Not only was she a much better sport than I probably would have been in her shoes, she turned out to be a great student. As was Nick.

The first order of business before departing the charter base was to take the ASA 101 written exam. Boom. A test, right out of the gate.

At this point Dave and I were incredibly grateful that we’d already passed this test and could sit comfortably by while our new friends from London aced it pretty quickly (they had clearly done the advanced studying!).

We were next introduced to our home for the next 7 days, Isaphil – a 38’ catamaran with 3 cabins and 1½ heads (that’s boat talk for bathrooms). All in all, Isaphil turned out to be pretty roomy with most of the modern conveniences powered by batteries and twin diesel engines. No air conditioning, of course, but with small fans in the cabins and the hatches open the Caribbean breezes would suffice.

After loading provisions for the week and unpacking our bags in our cabins it was time to prepare for departure. Our first day’s sail would be relatively short, from Blue Lagoon, St Vincent across the Bequia Channel to the island of Bequia (pronounced bek-way) and would take about two and a half hours.

The first sail was terrific. Dave and I were easily able to adapt the sailing skills we’d learned in San Diego, like tacking and jibing, to the larger catamaran. Dave was truly in his element and I started to believe that learning to sail might actually be fun! Especially as we cruised into our first picturesque anchorage in Bequia just before sunset.

We made our way to Joel’s favorite anchorage spot (which he’d indicated to us earlier on a map) and made our first attempt at anchoring. It was somewhat of a disaster.

I’m still not sure exactly why. Too many boats nearby? Not enough swing room (another fancy nautical term)? Too many rookie sailors trying to figure out how to help? More likely a combination of all of those. We tried several times unsuccessfully before Joel finally suggested we give up and rent a nearby mooring ball for the night.

To top it off, we then proceeded to lose the boat hook in the sea while trying to pick up the mooring ball. It was not a stellar first effort and I have no doubt Joel wondered what he was in for this week.

Eventually, Joel was able to secure us to the mooring ball and we all experienced a new favorite ritual…anchor beers! Since this is a class, not a vacation, no drinking is allowed during the day while sailing. However, the dropping of the anchor each evening signifies the time to sit back, enjoy the sunset and crack open the adult beverage of your choice.

The sunset had long passed at this point but the silver lining was that the anchor beers were extra cold. That night, too tired to pile in the dinghy and head ashore for dinner, we utilized our provisions to make a surprisingly good pasta for dinner.

Day 2 – Bequia to Mayreau

The next morning, we were up with the sun (as we would be every day) to head ashore and see some of Bequia. We also needed to shop for a few more things – like a new boat hook – before departure. It was a cute little town and we picked up ice, a few additional provisions and more adult beverages at the market (so far all indications were pointing to the need for increased amounts of adult beverages!). Then, we walked around for a bit before heading back to Isaphil.

Bequia Grenadines

Shopping for provisions in Bequia

Today would be the longest of our sailing days, five hours at sea from Bequia to Mayreau. We began with navigation and Joel taught us how to plan out our departure, sailing course and arrival at the next anchorage. I won’t bore you with the details but let’s just say it was far more difficult than I imagined and involved navigational charts, weather forecasts, tide charts and more math than anyone should be comfortable with.

Satisfied that we had a good course planned out, we began our pre-departure checks. Engine checks, bilge pump checks, PFD’s (personal flotation devices) on, sunscreen on, hats, gloves – there was an entire routine to be completed prior to anchor up each day.

Learning to Sail Caribbean Dolphins

Why you learn to sail in the Caribbean!

By 10am we were finally underway and it was a beautiful day despite the rough seas. The highlight of the day was meeting up with a pod of dolphins who swam playfully alongside us for nearly half an hour. It was one of the few moments of the week we all actually felt like we were on vacation. In fact, Joel even took the helm and instructed us all to head up to the bow and go “be on vacation and play with the dolphins.”

Seasickness Sucks

But unfortunately the fun wouldn’t last. The sail started out fine but after an hour or two of rough seas and 40 knot winds none of us (except Joel and Dave) were feeling great. But I was definitely feeling the worst of the bunch.

In fact, by hour two at sea I wasn’t feeling well at all. I was the designated navigator for the first part of the day which meant continually going into the salon to track our progress on the chart. Every time I went below deck I felt a little worse and by the middle of the day’s course I was miserable.

I haven’t been seasick since I was a kid and, to be honest, I was convinced I was invincible.

Boy, was I wrong.

Not too long ago I cruised through the Drake Passage (considered the world’s roughest sea crossing) twice going to and from Antarctica and didn’t break a sweat. But this 5-hour crossing between Caribbean islands really did me in.

Sunset Catamaran Mayreau Grenadines

Anchor beers and sunset, a winning combination!

Sitting on the deck and staring at the horizon (which usually works) didn’t help at all and eventually I ended up down in our cabin in bed for an hour or two, which ironically did help tremendously. By the time we arrived in Mayreau I was feeling almost human again.

That night we successfully anchored for the first time – and just in time to watch a marvelous sunset. Anchor beers for everyone!

Since the restaurant options were limited at our anchorage, Joel suggested we grill chicken (included with our provisions) for dinner and after a very long day we all agreed. After dinner Joel had another theory lesson for us (a nightly routine) and we all fell into bed completely spent by 9:30pm.

Day 3 – Mayreau to Tobago Cays

On our third day, we awoke to a gorgeous rainbow and I was happy that our sail would be a short one, just 2-3 hours. We were headed to the most popular spot in the Grenadines today, the Tobago Cays.

These five tiny islets are famed for their white sand beaches and spectacular coral reef. The islands comprise a national park and are uninhabited making them incredibly popular with sailors. The plan for the day was to get the course work and sailing out of the way so that we could enjoy some snorkeling time in the cays.

The other big activity in the Tobago Cays is the nightly lobster BBQ held on shore. Several local entrepreneurs have developed quite an operation where they catch fresh fish and lobster in the surrounding waters and grill it up ashore each night for the dozens of sailboats anchored nearby.

Joel had mentioned this to us the night before and we were all excited to have a lobster dinner on the island that night. He had called ahead to his favorite fisherman, Captain Neil, and made a reservation for the 5 of us. When we arrived that afternoon Captain Neil even brought by the day’s catch for our approval (and for a photo op).

Caribbean Lobster Grenadines

Now THAT is a lobster! Thank you Captain Neil!

The sail was better this time, short enough that no one suffered despite the rough seas. We arrived at our anchorage around 3pm and dropped anchor. It would have been plenty of time for snorkeling except that a rain shower blew through just as we were cracking open our anchor beers.

Nick and Alyssa still managed to get in some snorkeling after the rain passed but Dave and I decided to stay on Isaphil and relax for an hour and clean up before dinner.

As the sun set that evening, we boarded the dinghy (which we were getting pretty good at by this point) and headed ashore to join about 50 other cruisers for dinner. It was quite a set-up, picnic tables lined the beach with bistro lights strung overhead and amazing smells wafted up from BBQ huts nearby. It was heaven. Rum punches were served all-around and the atmosphere was festive as we waited for our dinner.

Lobster BBQ Tobago Cays Caribbean

The set-up for the nightly lobster BBQ in the Tobago Cays

We were joined at our table by one of the other Barefoot sailboats with an instructor and two students aboard. Before we knew it, the most incredible trays of lobster, seafood and side dishes were placed before us. It was quite possibly the largest lobster I have ever had in my life and it was spectacular!

Caribbean Lobster Tobago Cays Grenadines

Lobster dinner, Caribbean style!

The entire meal was wonderful and it was probably our favorite night of the entire trip. For an hour or two, it was a welcome break from the course work and felt like a vacation!

Day 4 – Tobago Cays to Union Island – Valentine’s Day!

Day four started early but with a little bit of vacation time to squeeze in before we moved on to the business of the day.

Tobago Cays Grenadines

Dinghy ashore in the Tobago Cays

Since we were anchored in the gorgeous Tobago Cays, it was time to go for a snorkel and see some turtles! And also to take a little hike on the island to see the iguanas. We all piled in the dinghy with our snorkel gear and motored over to the roped off swimming area. Then we tied off the dinghy and dove in to search for turtles.

Tobago Cays St Vincent Grenadines

Hiking on the island

The water was rough (as it had been all week) and the current was strong so Dave and I didn’t last long before swimming to shore to enjoy the beach. Nick, Alyssa and Joel persisted and were rewarded with a few turtle sightings.

After swimming for a bit longer, everyone reconvened on the beach to hike up the hill and see the iguanas and the island’s scenic viewpoints.

It really was incredibly beautiful, I just wish we’d had more time to enjoy it. But it was time to head back to the boat, get cleaned up and begin school for the day.

Before we departed, Captian Neil came by to drop off a tuna he’d caught for us that morning (at Joel’s request). He sliced it up into steaks and we stored it in the fridge to save for dinner the following night.

Today, our destination would be the anchorage of Clifton on Union Island. Like most days, we had two to three hours of sailing ahead. And like most days, the winds were strong and the seas would be rolling. Nothing left unsecured on a shelf in the cabins below was safe.

For this stop, Joel had a trick up his sleeve. We were in need of a refill on our freshwater tanks and he knew that if you were the last customer of the day on Lambi’s water dock in Clifton you could moor there overnight at no charge, provided you ate at their restaurant.

Union Island St Vincent Grenadines

Arriving on Union Island

Since the restaurant had a steel drum band and it was Valentine’s Day, that sounded like a great plan to all of us. Not to mention the luxury of being tied up to a dock overnight and simply stepping on and off the boat versus the usual dinghy transfer (which was gradually losing its novelty). The additional boat stability provided by dock versus anchor was also a welcome change.

But after another rough sail and a few new skills tests, we arrived in Clifton at 2pm, too early to hit the water dock and be the last customer. So we set about finding a suitable anchorage so we could head into town for a bit to explore.

The town of Clifton was my favorite of the islands we visited. The streets were lined with pastel-colored shops, cafes and vegetable stands. We wandered for a bit before settling in at Joel’s recommended stop – the Snack Shack – for ice cream and wifi.

By 4pm we headed back to the boat and cruised up to the water dock just before closing at 5pm. We were indeed the last customer of the day, so we tied off our mooring lines and then Joel squeezed in one more theory lesson before dinner.

A romantic Valentine’s Day dinner at Lambi’s was thoroughly enjoyed by two happy couples plus one Joel (sorry, Joel!).

Lambis Union Island Grenadines

Isaphil docked at Lambi’s for Valentine’s Day

Day 5 – Union Island to Cannouan

The next morning, at Joel’s urging, we all felt prepared enough to take the ASA 103 written test before setting sail for Cannouan. Since today’s sail was another short one (just 2 ½ hours) we had a little extra time to spare in Clifton and for the only time all week, we slept in slightly past 7am.

Clifton Union Island Grenadines

The cute little town of Clifton

By 11am we had all successfully passed the 103 written test and were feeling a little more confident that we might make it through this week after all.

Clifton Union Island St Vincent Grenadines

The white sands of Clifton, Union Island

Today’s sail would begin our journey back toward St. Vincent. Joel decided to break up the return journey with an overnight stop in Cannouan so that we wouldn’t have another 5-hour sailing day to endure (bless you, Joel).

The sail to Cannouan was rough but not nearly as bad as the second day. However, the toughest part of the day was still ahead, man overboard drills.

Man Overboard! (thankfully, not really)

Joel saved the fun of man-overboard drills until we arrived in the calmer waters of our anchorage at Cannouan. While arguably the most important skill we would master in our week at sea (this one is, after all, life or death), this technique proved a challenge for everyone.

We were tested first on picking up a man-overboard under power. For our skills test, the man overboard in question was portrayed by a life vest tied to two fenders we nicknamed Carl. We would grow to hate Carl.

After a couple of tries, we all managed to successfully maneuver the boat into position to rescue Carl without coaching from Joel. Power test passed!

Next, Joel had us attempt the same skill under sail. The maneuver under sail is quite a bit more challenging and we all had some trouble with it but each managed to execute it at least once (we won’t mention how many times we may have executed Carl in the process).

Skills test completed, we headed into the anchorage and picked up a mooring ball for the night. Anchor beers for all! None for Carl.

Greandines Sailing Caribbean

Captain Neil slicing up our fresh tuna steaks the day before

That night we cooked dinner on board, grilling up the delicious tuna caught by Captain Neil the day before. It was wonderful and we were exhausted.  I honestly don’t think any of us stayed up past 9pm on any night of this trip. More often, we were asleep not long after sundown.

Day 6 – Cannouan to Bequia

Our final full day at sea began like all the others – cook breakfast, clean up breakfast, engine checks, bilge checks, PFD’s, sunscreen, gloves, etc. By this point it was becoming a familiar routine and we were all in sync and rotating responsibilities efficiently.

We knocked out the morning routine quickly and set about charting our course for the day. We were headed back to our first stop, Bequia, and we would take turns being skipper along the way.

Due to strong headwinds we were motor-sailing most of the way (a combination of using the sails while also running the engines on low RPM’s to increase our speed). We all took turns successfully completing our skipper duties and my turn was last.

A few minutes into my reign, I was drunk with power and had just ordered up a “round of cookies for everyone!” from my first mate Joel when the port engine sputtered and took its last breath.

Figures it would happen on my watch. Thanks to the sails and the starboard engine we were still underway and progressing nicely but the lack of an engine would impact our ability to maneuver once we reached our anchorage.

But since we wouldn’t need the engines for the final testing of our man overboard drills under sail, we were still able to complete that testing once we reached the calmer waters of Bequia. It took everyone several tries (and Carl took a beating) but eventually we all managed to rescue Carl under sail without any instruction from Joel.

Bequia St Vincent Grenadines

Back in Bequia

Once we completed our final skills test, Joel took over the helm as we approached Bequia without the port engine. Instead of heading for the popular anchorage near town he continued down the coast a little where there were fewer boats. We attempted to anchor but then discovered we also had an issue with the windlass (used to raise and lower the anchor at the push of a button), so we opted for a mooring ball instead.

Mayreau St Vincent Grenadines

Mayreau, St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Once we were secured, Joel opened the engine hatch and quickly set about trying to diagnose the engine problem while Dave dutifully handed him tools with one hand, anchor beer in the other. I mixed myself a cocktail (because anchor beers aren’t just about beer) and Nick and Alyssa took a swim.

I will paraphrase the next hour for you as I remember it:

Joel: It could be the do-hickey (insert actual diesel engine part here). Let me check that.

Dave: Maybe we’re out of gas.

Joel: It could also be the thing-a-ma-bob (I really hope diesel engine parts are not on the next test). Let me try this.

Dave: Maybe we’re out of gas.

Joel: It’s not this, and it’s not that. Let me radio into the charter base and see what they suggest.

Dave: Maybe we’re out of gas.

Long story short….we were out of gas.

In Joel’s defense, he was certain that the charter base would have fully fueled the boat before departure and we had definitely not blown through an entire tank with our limited engine use. Apparently, diesel fuel gauges are notoriously unreliable (filing that little tidbit away for future knowledge).

Thankfully, the charter base gave Joel the OK to refuel (versus having to rely only on sails going back in a strong headwind the next morning) so he radioed ashore and miraculously a cute little fuel boat pulled right up alongside us within 30 minutes. $180 US dollars later, we were back in business!

Later, we all took turns in Isaphil’s lone shower to get cleaned up for our final dinner ashore. Joel had given us several options to choose from for our last meal in the islands and we chose the Fig Tree restaurant because he said it had a string band and dancing.

Fig Tree Restaurant Bequia Caribbean

Fig Tree Restaurant, Bequia

It was another wonderful dinner complemented by one last postcard-worthy sunset and we all learned that Joel has some mad dance skills. It was a nice way to end the trip but we were all still dreading the final two written tests the next day so we made it to bed pretty early.

Day 7 – Back to Blue Lagoon, St. Vincent

The sail back to St. Vincent on our final day was short but straight upwind so it was slow going. What could have taken less than an hour under power took nearly 3 hours by power-sailing. By the time we made it back to Barefoot’s home base I think we were all relieved to be off the boat for good. We were also looking remarkably similar to the group I’d seen the week before and wondered if they’d been lost at sea.

Blue Lagoon St Vincent

Arriving back at Barefoot’s charter base in Blue Lagoon

I can’t begin to explain just how much information we absorbed over the course of the week. My brain was spinning by the time we arrived back in St. Vincent. But we weren’t done just yet. Now it was time to lug our suitcases up the hill to the restaurant and take the written tests for ASA 104 and 114.

Nick, Alyssa, Dave and I settled in at a table in the restaurant (which after 6 days at sea I would swear was rocking) and ordered lunch while we all worked diligently on the written exams.

Two hours later we were finished (104 was tough but 114 was fairly easy) and we celebrated with a well-deserved round of cocktails. It felt amazing to finally be done and it felt even better when Joel graded our tests and we all passed with flying colors! All the hard work was actually worth it.

So, there you have it! Four newly-minted sailors, at your service. And one incredibly exhausting vacation.

I can see now why some people don’t pass all of the courses when they do the week-long liveaboard. You really have to be committed in order to succeed and without the advance studying it would be nearly impossible to absorb it all in a single week.

The Blue Lagoon Resort

But the best was yet to come. For the next two nights we’d continue the graduation celebration by moving just down the road to the Blue Lagoon Resort.  The nice folks at Barefoot were even kind enough to give us a lift over (along with Nick and Alyssa to the hotel they were staying at for the night).

Blue Lagoon Resort St Vincent

The view from our terrace at the Blue Lagoon Resort

We said our goodbyes and exchanged contact info with Nick and Alyssa and then headed inside the resort to check in. When we arrived at the room, and I don’t think I’m over-stating this, it was possibly the most wonderful hotel room we’d ever seen.

(Upon further review, it was honestly just a nice, standard hotel room. But after a week of living on a catamaran it seemed like the freaking Taj Mahal.)

Air conditioning? Yes!

A king-sized bed? You got it!

Unlimited hot showers? But, of course!

An abundance of functional electrical outlets? Duh!

Wait, even a hairdryer? Stop. Do not toy with my emotions. How else could one reasonably be expected to dry one’s hair!

(I hadn’t seen a hairdryer since we arrived in the Caribbean and I may or may not have kissed this one while Dave was looking the other way.)

We had the best of intentions to spend our last few days exploring the beautiful island of St. Vincent. However, after 5 minutes in this room we decided we were not leaving it for the next two days. We even had a beautiful beachfront view from our terrace. Oh, the luxuries!

We took long hot showers, jovially discussed our disturbing assortment of mystery bruises (thank you rough seas!), lounged languidly in fluffy robes and cranked up the AC while simultaneously flipping channels on the TV. We connected every device we owned to the wifi, just because we could. It was glorious.

But eventually we realized they didn’t have room service, so we’d have to at least leave the room for provisions (that’s sailor talk for food). Too tired for a real dinner, we settled in at the bar for sunset cocktails and appetizers. The Blue Lagoon Resort is also a marina and the home base for two other charter companies so it was fun to see all the boats and watch the charter guests come and go.

St Vincent Sunset Blue Lagoon

Sunset views from the Blue Lagoon Resort

Soon we may be two of those charter guests heading off into the sunset somewhere around the world!

The next day we slept in, relaxed by the pool (which we had all to ourselves) and refused to read a single thing or tie even one knot. Bliss. We watched one last incredible sunset that night and finally started to feel like we were truly on vacation!

Blue Lagoon Resort Pool St Vincent

The resort’s blissfully empty pool

Was it worth it?

I guess the bottom line is this:

If you want to learn to sail, by all means, learn to sail. It’s more than just a terrific pastime, it can become a way of life. Just don’t mistake it for a vacation.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of marvelous moments interwoven into our grueling week – sailing with dolphins, nightly sunset anchor beers and one pretty incredible lobster dinner. And even the nights we had dinner on the boat were fun. I could close my eyes and picture cooking a romantic dinner for two on our own sailboat someday after anchoring in an exotic locale.

Learning to Sail Caribbean

Certified sailors with the log books to prove it!

But, all in all, learning to sail while completing 4 ASA courses in a week is far more work than vacation. As it should be. There’s a LOT to learn and over the course of the week Joel continuously emphasized the importance of safety on the water. And those man overboard drills, while we hated them, could save a life someday (perhaps our own).

Looking back, I would do it all over again. There’s no better way to learn to sail than to get out there and just do it, day after day, for an entire week.

The next chapter…

By the time our course was completed we were also able to celebrate the next chapter of our boating life. Our offer to buy a 46’ power boat (a Bayliner 3988 that we looked at in Portland before leaving for the Caribbean) was accepted! We close as soon as we get home. It’s not in Seattle yet, but it will be before summer.

Bayliner 3988 Portland

Our new boat, soon to be cruising the Puget Sound!

So, very soon we will officially be boat owners! And though it’s not a sailboat, thanks to our sailing courses we are far more knowledgeable about all boats in general and feeling much more comfortable with our new, floating, second home.

Big thanks to the Barefoot Offshore Sailing School, our excellent instructor Joel and fellow students and new friends Alyssa and Nick for making this a week we will never forget.

Here’s to plenty more boating adventures in our future…next time with less homework and more anchor beers!

Click Below to View the St. Vincent Photo Gallery

    View photos at SmugMug






    1. Avatar

      Wow! Some absolutely stunning pictures!

    2. Avatar

      Its really amazing post for travelers with fabulous pictures. It seems interesting as well as excellent. Really want to visit this place in future. Great article. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    3. Avatar

      This trip looks so epic! Such a beautiful part of the world. You are so lucky having the opportunity to explore this beautiful places! Amazing captures! Awesome post.. Thank you so much for sharing this post!

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