In celebration of International Women's Day, we talk to one of our experienced skippers, Michelle, about her job.
This week, the world celebrated International Woman’s Day (Tuesday 8 March) and what better way to celebrate the achievements of women, than to catch up with our very own Sunsail Skipper – Michelle Weeks, in the BVI.
Michelle started working with Sunsail 4 years ago in Italy and now, at 52 years of age, she’s doing what she loves day in day out. And what’s more, she’s living the dream in the BVI!
So where did it all start Michelle?
A good friend invited my son and me on a sailing holiday in the Med, taking in the French Riviera and Corsica. I was instantly hooked!
I wanted to get back on the water as soon as I could, so when I got back to the UK, I signed up for a dinghy sailing course at Docklands Watersports Centre. I admit the wind was rather unpredictable as it whistled around the skyscrapers at Canary Wharf but they made for an impressive backdrop and some exciting racing, which I got into soon after nailing the basics on the course.
And it didn’t stop there did it?
I was on the hunt to further my qualifications and soon had Competent Crew and Day Skipper under my belt, followed by an 11-week course in Gibraltar taking my Yachtmaster in Gibraltar. There was no stopping me now. I resigned from my 9-5 job, set off across the Atlantic to explore the Caribbean for a few weeks, returned to the UK and applied for a job at Sunsail. I knew sailing had to be my life. After all, they say you are only as old as you feel!
At 48 I was venturing out on a new career path. I worked as a bareboat skipper in Italy 2012 followed by a cruising instructor role in Greece and Croatia, and I am now in the BVI.
So what makes the BVI so special?
The BVI is a great place to learn to sail and I love teaching here. The Islands are so close together that you can easily sail to all of them in just two weeks, regardless of whether it is your first time there - my favourite local spot is the Jost Van Dyke area. Foxy’s Taboo is a great place to eat on the East End Harbour. Foxy himself is usually entertaining his guests and playing his guitar round the corner in Great Harbour.
And what is it you love about working for Sunsail?
I really enjoy working for Sunsail and feel very lucky to be doing what I love in such a fantastic location. I’ve always had wanderlust, so having the option to work in a variety of countries has been incredibly rewarding. Like every explorer though, I still have a long list of places I would like to see including the dramatic scenery and remote islands of Scotland and sailing along the South American coast.
Describe a day in the life of a BVI Sunsail Skipper?
A typical day includes having breakfast with the students at about 8am to discuss what the day will involve, followed by engine checks, passage planning for the day skippers and getting the boat ready to leave.
We’ll depart around 9am. What we do depends on where we are in the syllabus. It might include everything from hoisting the sails and practicing different points of sail to learning how to pick up mooring buoys and practicing man over board drills.
Typically we stop for lunch in a bay where students often have the opportunity to jump into the water and go snorkelling.
The afternoon will be spent doing manoeuvres from the syllabus, followed by locating a spot to spend the evening. Finding a mooring buoy by 4.30pm is crucial if you don’t want to be under anchor for the night!
Once we’re moored up, we tend to do a quick debrief of the day before dinner at 7pm.
Michelle's top tips for packing for sailing:
- Sun cream, moisturiser and wet wipes
- A decent windproof jacket
- Deck shoes or trainers (flip flops are no good on a boat)
- Gloves, even though they seem unnatural in the heat, you have to protect your hands from blisters