Professor Salt of the Offshore Sailing School
It's a simple recipe: Take big-boat sailing students and have them learn in paradise.
When Steve Colgate of the Offshore Sailing School called and left a message saying that he wanted me to teach sailing in the British Virgin Islands aboard a fleet of Moorings 50.5s, built by Beneteau, I was shocked. What—was he insane?
“Steve,” I said, when I finally got him on his mobile phone,
“I’m really not much of a sailor. I’m more a get-blown-downwind guy.”
“No problem,” he replied. “We’ll have two instructors, Mike and Kevin, to explain the technical stuff. Can you help us set the cruising tone by telling a few sea yarns?”
The recipe was simple: Take students who wanted to practice their big-boat sailing skills and ship them down to paradise. Add one salt-stained jokester, two knowledgeable sailing instructors, many evening bottles of Pusser’s rum, and stir vigorously.
The result was an amazingly fun week in the BVI during which the eager participants laughed and learned until the wee hours of each evening. They were a highly diverse group, with the only common denominator being a thirst for both learning and hands-on experience.
One day, I sailed on a boat with three kidney doctors. It made me check my lower back, after a nap, for stitches. And yes, the cockpit shoptalk made me ill!
Besides their official roles as teachers, Mike Huffer was our social director and moral compass. Kevin Wenley was a bit more focused; he brought his white-board and tactical game plan aboard each day and put all the crews through various drills and maneuvers.
I gave morning talks on such topics as offshore safety, reefing early and well, and storm tactics. My evening addresses were looser; that’s when I went for the laughs. And yes, of course, I brought my guitar.