Sailing & Scuba
Awesome Things Stay Awesome
by Tom Simmons, Broadreach HQ
Article image is a from a Broadreach Caribbean program led by Tom Simmons (back row middle).
The summer always brings with it an air of excitement and discovery. As a kid, I spent sun drenched days playing in fields and riding my bike around the neighborhood. Life was perfect. High school and college summers were spent working odd jobs and the occasional internship. When I graduated college, like many of my peers, I feared I would never have another summer like I had as a kid, a summer where each and every day was a new adventure. Then I came across Broadreach, a new organization at the time that offered a way to follow the endless summer.
My first summer as a dive instructor for Broadreach was one of the best summers of my life. I spent a glorious three and a half months living on a 45-foot catamaran surrounded by turquoise blue water and warm breezes in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. I slept on deck and counted shooting stars before going to bed each night. My record was ten. I swam in the ocean, walked on white sand beaches, explored islands, and learned to sail and free dive. I taught students how to scuba dive and explored, with them, the many sites we visited, new to all of us. Collectively, we played tricks on other boats, shared stories, danced, laughed, cried, and ate amazing and forgettable food. I forgot about the world outside, if only for a short time. Along with the rest of the crew, I tuned into the here and now and tuned out everything else. I enjoyed each day more than the last and found myself chuckling as I thought, “this IS my life.” Life was perfect again.
I spent another three summers plying the same waters with different students but having equally amazing experiences in the Leewards and beyond as an instructor for Broadreach. My Caribbean bliss occurred in the late 90’s, a lifetime ago. There is something about being on a yacht and having the freedom and space to live each day to its fullest that cannot be replicated anywhere. So, it was with great enthusiasm that I signed up to join some fellow Broadreach staff on our own Caribbean adventure, modeled after Broadreach’s famous Underwater Discoveries program. It had been nearly 14 years since I had last stepped off the plane in St. Martin, and I could not have been more excited.
When I stepped off the plane, on to the tarmac, the warm, humid air hit my face, and a grin stretched across my face. It was like seeing an old, dear friend. I was home! Like all the students since my last visit to St. Martin, I took a taxi to the famous “Pad,” anticipation building with each turn in the road. Once in Anse de Marcel, we walked along the dock, marveled at the yachts, and wondered which one would be our home for the next week. Lady Helen II was the lucky one. She was perfect. I felt like a kid again or at least a younger version of myself. It was summertime, and as I stepped from the dock to Lady Helen II, I knew the next week would be unforgettable.
I stowed by gear in our berth and made my way to the fore deck to help with our departure. Soon we were raising the main sail, unfurling our jib, and heading to Tintetmarre. As we picked up speed and headed into more “open ocean,” I headed to the bow, dangled my feet over the edge, and bounced up and down with the waves, tasting the salt water in my mouth. And so it began.
Over the course of a week, I visited and revisited places both new and familiar: Ille Fourche, St. Barts, Anguilla, and St. Martin. Like I had done 14 years ago, I slept on deck and scurried below when the evening showers came. I counted shooting stars before going to bed but never reached my record of ten. I woke with the sun and watched it drop into the sea each evening. I swam in the ocean, went diving at my favorite dive site, “Bird Poop Rock,” body surfed on famous beaches and ate crepes in St. Barts, sailed, laughed, danced, sang, told stories, ate memorable food, and generally lost myself in the Caribbean. I turned my cell phone off for an entire week. I lived in the here and now and enjoyed those around me at a higher level than I do in the “real world.” As it had been before, it was pure magic and bliss. Each day brought new adventures, and the freedom of being in charge of your own destiny aboard a yacht made even the silliest ideas a possibility. One of the organizers had wanted “dolphins to tickle her toes,” so it came as no surprise when a solitary dolphin joined our yacht as we sailed between islands, seemingly “touching” her toes as she danced in the bow wake, guiding us to our next destination.
It has been several months since I returned from the Caribbean, and I still think of my time there. There is something indescribable about St. Martin, the Leeward Islands, and living on a yacht. There is a freedom and an attitude that shapes and guides the experiences. I feel alive when I am there, and my actions are a better reflection of who I want to be as a person. I take the time to learn about others and share myself freely, something I often fail to do at home. I laugh more. I relax more. I sleep better. I let myself go.
I have spent the majority of my life traveling the world in search of the unique. I have searched my whole life for “the stoke” of an experience. What I realized when I found myself back in St. Martin doing what I had done 14 years previously was this: you do not need to travel far to find the things that make this world awesome. On this trip, I learned that something awesome is, and will always be, awesome, no matter what. I can spend the rest of my life traveling the globe to find the awesomeness which exists in the Caribbean, but I doubt I will find it. The Caribbean is my old, dear friend, my home, and purely awesome. For giving this to me, I thank Broadreach and everyone I have encountered in my time there. You helped keep the endless summer and the dreams of possibility alive!