From that moment on, the rest of my day was a whirlwind. The customer service agent informed me my JFK flight from Boston was delayed (again) and I likely wouldn't make it out, or make my connection. She put me on a flight that was leaving immediately, and told me to flat out 'run' to the other side of the terminal to board, and that they likely wouldn't be able to get my checked bag in the short amount of time. In the moment, my thought was that new clothes were easier to find than yet another way down to Barbados. In New York I could not find a single CS rep to help me track my bag, so I gave up on the idea and boarded the Bridgetown, Barbados flight with a sinking feeling in my stomach. I wasn't sure how simple it would be to replace all my clothes before getting on the boat the following morning.
The 5 hour flight to BGI went quickly and smoothly, and upon disembarking the plane via stairs forward and aft, I made my way to a small Customs desk by the check in counter of the regional Grenadine airline that I'd take to St. Vincent itself. I sat in a small gate area with a half dozen other people before we were called to walk across the airport Tarmac to a comparatively tiny twin-prop plane that would make stops at three different islands before dropping me off at my intended destination. It wasn't until this point in my day that I was informed my suitcase had in fact made it to Barbados. The plane was thankfully drafty enough (I could see the sky through the seals of the emergency door/boarding stairs) to combat the 90 degree heat and humidity, and as the props started spinning we taxied to the end of the runway. Having no forward security door, it was interesting to watch the pilots command the cockpit as we took off, not something I usually get to do. Flying time was about 90 minutes between BGI and St. Vincent, and was my favorite part of the day. Our altitude never crossed 6,000 feet, and as we flew over incredibly hued waters, I watched islands reminiscent of Jurassic Park come jutting out of the ocean, covered in lush greeneries and boasting small communities and windy roads built over the mountainous terrain. The cabin noise of the plane measured in at a whopping 91 decibels, and I was thankful to have earplugs with me for the duration. As we flew into St. Vincent, the pilots aimed straight for a mountaintop, cutting right at the last second and diving to get us on the runway; it was quite the experience.
A short pre-arranged taxi ride was taken to the sailing campus with a woman named Phyllis. As we spoke she informed me she was the first female taxi driver on the island, and has been at it for 38 years. After fifteen minutes winding through curvy roads over steep hillsides adorned with brightly colored houses and innumerable people walking outside, Phyllis got me to the Barefoot home base, a small hotel, restaurant, sailing equipment store, and marina tucked into the southwest side of this volcanic island in a quiet harbor called the Blue Lagoon. I brought my bags up and checked out the balcony/porch where I met the three people I'm sailing with this week, Christina, Rory, who I assume is her husband, and Jose. I smiled, as some of you may also remember that on day 1 of my Appalachian Trail hike I walked alongside a guy named Rory; life can be funny like that. He and Christina went off for dinner, and I asked Jose if he would like to get a bite together.
We walked down to an oceanfront bar and talked for two hours over cold beers and cheeseburgers. He's a diplomat, ambassador to a notable European country, who is stationed at an embassy in Trinidad and also oversees the majority of local caribbean islands. He's sailed before but wanted to do something fun on his week's vacation. We talked for hours about work and travel and adventure, and I somewhat hesitantly told him my goals in sailing, which he took well. I'm not really interested in sounding like an idiot proclaiming my desire to cross the Atlantic. As the sun set over the lagoon we paid our tab, converted at a favorably fixed rate of $2.65 to $1 US (Burger, 3 beers, and a tip was $15.50 USD) and made our way back to the hotel. With our first written exam to be taken in the morning, Jose and I quizzed each other with questions from the ASA101 course sailing book for a while. Before heading to bed I pointed out to him the Milky Way which was dim but visible to the naked eye over our tiny island; I'm not sure he'd ever seen it with his own eyes before.
The room is small & comfortable, and I'll get a good amount of sleep tonight before we head out on the boat tomorrow. I'm very interested to see how much people know, what has driven them to be here, and whether they treat it strictly as a vacation or not. It was an interesting first day, but by the scenery and company I've already discovered, I think I can look forward to a great week ahead.