Luxury, on a Mission
Turquoise waters, favorable breezes, 24/7 pampering—and charitable acts, to boot—all have a place in this crewed- charter adventure. A feature from our December 2010 issue
As our bobbing bookmobile makes landfall north to south, I’m struck dumb. These kids, little ones and teenage ones, skinny and chubby, lanky and short, have so much less than many average American kids. Heavy, dark, wooden desks and chunky chairs, long out-of-date globes on pedestals, libraries with rows and rows of empty shelves, the principal’s heavy, scary bell—that’s right, the brass bell with the long black handle—paint a portrait of threadbare education unfamiliar to our group.
Throughout the charter, Ann is always on the cellphone, with any number of her contacts on land and on boats, people who are inextricably caught up in her spider web. They await us at each anchorage and every dock, where our human chain of guests and crew, sweating, try to catch the right momentum on the swell to move boxes and bags of books and school supplies.
In St. Vincent, we get help from taxi driver Charlie Tango and the staff at Barefoot Yacht Charters. At Bequia, sailor Iris Metz, Sandra Ollivierre of Challenger Taxi, and Sally Erdle, the editor of Caribbean Compass, the monthly cruisers newspaper, escort us.
“Schools in the Caribbean have nothing,” Iris complains. Iris, with her husband, Henry, are the longtime crew of the yacht Shaitan of Tortola, based out of Bequia. Luana, their daughter, takes the ferry daily to school on St. Vincent. “Some schools are in an unthinkable position. I’m from Germany, and I can’t believe that they have no books. The children are crying when you bring them books.”
After a break for some fun in the sun on Mustique and in the Tobago Cays, we reach Union Island on a Saturday, my last charter day. Instead of hooking up with the principal and students who eagerly turn out on a weekend to say hello to Ann, thank her for books, and ask her for more, I take a walk with Karen, and we wind up in an unlikely spot for crewed-charter guests in the tropics: the living room of the priest assigned to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, watching news of the earthquake in Haiti with him on CNN.
We turn from the world of natural disasters to those more socially pernicious. No matter the physical needs of Caribbean kids, the region’s high unemployment, St. Vincent’s role as a drug-transshipment point between South America and the rest of the world, the hurricanes, and the missing fathers, the long-term solution for the young of the West Indies resides in one underlying factor.