By Ellen Birrell…

Youth to Adult — “Y2A” — is a series of articles celebrating sailing’s role in youth development for Caribbean children.  

Coming up on my submission deadline for the March issue of Caribbean Compass, I have three articles in the works. One features the formation and ongoing develop- ment of the Carlos Aguilar Match Races in St. Thomas, one concerns Cercle Nautique de Schoelcher (CNS) in Martinique, launching a new outreach fall event called “Open Doors”, and lastly, one regarding youth marine-environmental work in  Culebra,  Puerto Rico. Nearly daily I check for replies from contact persons who can give me    the real meat for “their” article. Neither Googling, websites, e-mail, Facebook, WhatsApp or Skype are yielding results. Even the Compass editor’s excellent idea of featuring my Grenadian friend Kevin Banfield failed, for he is consumed in Grenada Sailing Week.

What’s a writer to do?

As I was crying on the shoulder of CSA president Alison Sly-Adams, she replied, “Keep the faith, Ellen — it is a busy time of year, as you know, and I think there is another big event coming up on Martinique, right?”

Sharing our 40-foot sloop of a home, my partner Jim Hutchins replies, “You know that ‘Y2A’ is successful when everyone is too busy sailing to respond!”

The lightbulb came on. “Voila!” as my Martinique colleague Oliver Rene-Corail  might say. Why not highlight how crazy-busy things get in the winter in the  Caribbean? For Oliver, president of League Voile de Martinique (Martinique Sailing Association) and CNS, he is one busy man.

Though non-Caribbean folks may envy what they perceive as the easy-going Caribbean life, getting things accomplished in a place where the tides of seasonality, language, and often technology and geography create real challenges. There is this thing called the sea that separates the islands of the Caribbean. Imagine that.

January through March, the height of Caribbean  big-boat  racing  season,  brings  to  light an interesting dilemma for those who choose to live and/or have livelihoods in the marine sector, local or foreign. They have to make “weigh” while the sun shines — par- ticularly here in the Caribbean, where it is not just racing season but tourism and cruis- ing are in Sock It To Me mode. Caribbean livelihoods become really intense January through March. For those in Bequia — through April’s Bequia Easter Regatta!

Mark Theron, Board Member and Sailing Development Chair for the CSA, runs a distillery business on Nevis. In his “spare time”, he gathered support and founded a Member National Authority for World Sailing/Olympic Sailing Development for St. Kitts & Nevis. As he’s trying to fit in supporting sailing development while meeting demands as a business owner, father, husband and sailor, Mark’s e-mails are some- times apologetic for having had to miss electronic meeting discussions. “I might be a little challenged this afternoon. Will do my best to make meeting.”

Even other writers who are a wealth of information and connectivity, such as Carol Bareuther, are very busy covering the innumerable events and happenings of the season. Thus, hard to reach. Oh, and by the way, the prolific Carol also works as a registered dietician, too. No moss is growing under her feet!

All in this busy season together — Ellen Birrell, Dick Neville and Dylan Penn at work
on the 2017 BVI Regatta Race Committee

(This is starting to sound like a Fatty Goodlander rant, which is a high compliment — and a real stretch from a typical “Y2A” delivery. When I ran the idea of an article about seasonality by Compass Editor Sally Erdle, she said, “I love it — it’s real!”)

See Caribbean Compass’ annual calendar of events at online/jan_dec_2019.pdf, listing the numerous regattas and other happenings that are keeping everyone so busy. The Caribbean Sailing Association also keeps up a regional calendar, currently all the way through 2023, at Local festivals and traditional sailing events also crowd the scene during peak season.

Seasonality from Different Perspectives

Snowbirds who have nested permanently in the Caribbean may say from time to time, “I miss the changing seasons.” But, for me, Nature’s seasons during my forma- tive years in coastal southern California, like in the Caribbean, changed little. Only by the blossoming of certain fruits, flowers and trees, watching the hills turn from green in winter to brown in summer, longer summer days/longer winter nights, and a maximum shift of ten or 20 degrees Fahrenheit marked the changing seasons. I didn’t know a wool suit until I moved to northern Utah as an adult. But, I knew full well the tourism season in coastal southern California because the streets and beaches swelled with local and foreign tourists July through August, returning in the other months to relative quiet places of periodic fog and the Pacific’s constant cool ocean breezes.

Further to the subject of seasonality, I was once employed to keep occupancy levels high year round for a ski resort that “made their hay” December through March — only. This has distinct parallels to the challenges that businesses face in the Caribbean.

To know Caribbean tourism, cruising and big-boat racing seasonality, is to know and accept life here. Here’s to that life that we choose — this life we love!

Ellen Birrell attributes her opportunity to cruise the Caribbean aboard S/V Boldly Go life skills built in childhood. Believing swimming and sailing are essentials for island youth, she supports Learn to Sail and competitive junior sailing, and serves on sailing development for Caribbean Sailing Association. See

This article first appeared in the Caribbean Compass. See


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