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We are still in St Maarten getting loads of stuff done. Aside from working, I have been lucky enough to get some time off to explore the island.  My first adventure was to Phillipsburg, “the big city” on the island, known for its great shopping. As a St. John girl who rarely had the opportunity to shop, I was thrilled just to walk down the cobblestone streets and peek in the stores without buying anything. After a nice lunch overlooking the boardwalk, I headed towards the water.

As I sat on the beach, listening to my i-pod, reading my kindle, and taking pictures with my gopro, I realized that I have definitely got this beach routine down.  My new beach bag was expertly equipped with all the necessities for an awesome beach day including lightweight beach towel (thanks St John Girls!), leather-bound journal and insulated water bottle.

As I sat there soaking up rays, I silently made a vow to myself that I would never pay to use one of those posh beach chairs.  Lying on the beach is one of the only wonderful things to do anywhere in this world that is still free and I refuse to poison that by paying for the pleasure.

I suddenly felt someone looming over me.  I pulled out one headphone and squinted up at the silhouette, “Listen girl,” he started, “in twenty, thirty minutes you gon’ be sick of the sun and I gon’ set you up with a nice umbrella and chair!” I was annoyed, “No thank you, I am perfectly fine here,” I barked.  Defensively, he said, “No, no, girl you don’t understand, today is a holiday, I have already rented enough chairs for the day, I want to give you one for free! They call me Mr. Butterfly-Mon, I do random acts of kindness!”

After a quick consultation with my conscious I determined that I wasn’t breaking any vows if I didn’t actually pay for the chair.  “Okay,” I shrugged, “I’ll meet you over there.”  I gathered all of my wonderful beach belongings and headed over to my chair.

He was standing there waiting to usher me.  “Madam: your private, VIP, exclusive, beach chair,” said Mr. Butterfly-Mon, his arms outstretched toward the chair.  “THANK YOU!” squealed the total white-city-girl-tourist that I didn’t know I still had inside of me.

Have you ever heard the expression there’s no such thing as a free lunch?  Mr. Butterfly-Mon let me enjoy my “exclusive,” “private,” “VIP” beach chair for approximately four minutes before he pulled up a chair beside me.  He sat there like a 5 year old prodding me with questions:

“Where you from?”

“Is that one of them electronic book reader t’ings?”

“Whatchu reading?”

“Where’s your boyfriend?”

“What, you don’t like Caribbean men?”

Finally, he wore himself out and fell asleep.  So there I was, Ms. independent-non-tourist self sufficient-beach expert, lying under an umbrella with my new, snoring, Rastafarian friend: Mr. Butterfly-Mon. You have to shake your head and laugh sometimes…

Back home on the boat, I am beginning to master the different tasks that need to be accomplished and understand the rituals and routines that everyone follows. I am realizing that in addition to acquiring new technical skills, I am also being forced to learn how to effectively live and work in such close quarters with my crew mates – which believe it or not, might be the hardest challenge of all.  When you are cohabiting with all of your coworkers, not only must you be able to perform your duties, you also have to be able to get along with the people you are working with. This job is not just about technical skills, sailing skills, polishing skills…it is primarily about people skills.

Take the premise for one of the most trashy reality TV shows of all time, “Six strangers, picked to live in a house, work together, and find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.” The Real World chose this experiment because they knew it would be a recipe for serious drama. At least on that show they put the strangers in a giant mansion – not the diminutive crew quarters of a yacht.

As my wise sister Lauren told me, “Your whole life you are going to have to work with some challenging people. Get used to it and learn how to deal with it…it will be a powerful skill that you can take with you wherever you go.”  I am trying to keep this advice in mind and come up with new tactics for working and communicating with challenging members of the crew.

On a more positive note, I am pretty excited about how much I have learned about the boat in just a few short weeks…there is a lot to remember. I have been spending a lot of time working with the captain in the engine room to expand my knowledge of the more mechanical aspects of this boat. When I first began this adventure, I expressed interest in learning more about the inner-workings of the boat, and have been lucky enough that the captain has been willing to teach me.

Check out my video!

We are planning on staying in St Maarten a bit longer than expected because we are getting more things accomplished than we anticipated. We will hopefully be leaving by next weekend.  Our visit in Antigua should be short and sweet since we have been able to solve most problems here. After Antigua, we will set sail for Europe. I will be sure to send another update before we begin our Atlantic adventure.

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