Learning to sail in Jolly Harbour, Antigua

This post is so long overdue. This experience changed me in ways I’d never expected it to.. but first, here is the back story..

In 2014 I wrote a post about 3 skills I’d learned on previous holidays. Soon as I published it, I looked on Google for my next adventure. I always wanted to learn how to sail, and so was looking for the best schools to do that. I’d found Sailing schools in Croatia, in Turkey, Italy and all over the Caribbean. One of the searches, lead me to Miramar Sailing School, based in Jolly Harbour, Antigua.

Recognising that the website could benefit from a few larger images and videos, it dawned on me that perhaps we could do a value exchange.

I sent them a proposal, outlining my skills and portfolio and proposed that in return for a 1 week RYA Competent Crew course I create a selection of promotional videos for them. I’d be experiencing the course first hand as a student, and would document the activities while capturing the scenery along the way.

Within a few days I heard back from Brian and Denise and much to my delight they approved the proposal, but suggested I go for 2 weeks and 2 courses, instead of 1 week as I’d proposed.

I nearly fell off my chair. Couldn’t believe that I was able to exchange my marketing and photography skills for such a fantastic experience, and get to do what I love doing at the same time!

In the months leading up to the start of the course I spoke with Denise a few times about their requirements and preferences. Expectations were set and all I had to do now was book a flight and start polishing my lenses. A breeze.

Arriving at VC Bird International Airport I jumped in a taxi and head to Jolly Harbour. The sun was out and my driver wasnt very chatty, but he took me where I needed to go for $25 and when I arrived safely, I was beaming from ear to ear.

It was the same feeling of wonder I have every time I get off a plane in another country. Whooooahhh!! I’m in ANTIGUA!!!!

Antigua Antigua Jolly Harbour, Antigua Jolly Harbour, Antigua

I arrived at the school, which was situated on the water-front with all the Yachts surrounding it.

It was a Sunday and all my crew mates would arrive on the same day or the morning after. We met in the kitchen as everyone started coming back from a day at the beach. There were Canadians, my now dear friend Ian, from Russia, Sue from the UK and a few others.

That night I slept in one of the boats. Gently rocking from side to side to sleep.

The next morning I woke really early, made myself a coffee and sat on the dock watching the water and feeling the breeze.

I was so grateful to be there, two days after my 30th birthday.

On the first day of the course, we all sat around the table when our instructor Mark outlined what we’d be learning the next few days. He mentioned that we’d be heading out on the yacht to get provisions soon and what our budget for the week would be. So we all started thinking about working as team and getting an idea of what we’d need for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 5 days. This was a small challenge as in a group of 5 people it can be tricky to cater to everyone’s dietary requirements but we managed successfully.

Then Mark showed us every part of the yacht, the engine, how to fill the water tank, the head, how to use the bilge pump etc. We had a safety briefing and had to practice it with each other.

What followed was, all of us putting on our life jackets and heading to the store to get provisions. We sailed there, which was a short journey but exhilarating for someone new to sailing.

We returned after purchasing our food and beers and stocked the fridge, then set out into the ocean.. well, not far from the coast, since we did have a few crew mates who were completing their Day Skipper qualifications.

Of course I could go into granular detail about the next few days, but that was 2 years ago so my memory might fail me. But what was the most wonderful thing about the trip was meeting new people, living with complete strangers on a yacht for 5 days, not having any wifi or technology, and having to make conversation, learn as much as possible and stay safe.

That week we sailed along Antigua’s coastline, occasionally stopping for a swim, or pointing to the ‘Turd-les’ floating in the ocean and having a giggle.

We raced with the other Miramar Yachts, experienced the most breath taking sunsets and sunrises, learned to tie knots and put up the sails, and tacking and jibing and so much more! We learned about boat lingo, and safety procedures, and saved a fender from drowning multiple times! Life was simple, and the most beautiful it has ever been.

You learn about yourself when you’re challenged, when you have to steer a yacht, when you’re responsible for others’ lives, when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone..

In the end, we all became friends and grew fond of each other staying in touch to this day.

When we got back to the school on the last day of the week, I ‘tacked’ the yacht into Jolly Harbour. Passers-by waved and took their hats off saluting us for taking the risk.

Yes, it was a girl at the steering wheel, and we weren’t using the engine to enter the harbour. Pure sail, a gentle wind and teamwork helped us dock the yacht successfully. Week 1 complete!

Setting foot back on land and hearing phones beeping was met with a sense of pride, but also excitement, as there was another week, another course, and different crew mates awaiting on the following Monday.

We went for pizza that night and everyone parted ways the next day after a group photo.

That weekend I roamed the area looking for authentic Caribbean food, had an Aloe Vera massage on the beach, rode a jet ski for a while and soaked up the delicious sunshine..

HEAVEN was on earth, and it’s capital was Jolly Harbour, Antigua



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