In December, Skipper and Director of Operations of Sail Buffalo Pierre Wallinder and his shipmates sailed the Pretender, a Tayana 37 cruising boat, from Deltaville, Virginia to the Bahamas. Over the length of this voyage, Sail Buffalo students have come and gone as crew members (Captain Wallinder returns home to Buffalo in April). One of these shipmates was Shaun. He and his wife Nicole hope to one day buy a sailboat, homeschool their children, and sail to different parts of the world. Over the next week, the Sail-Buffalo blog will post excerpts from their story (read their blog here) and Shaun’s experience in the Bahamas with Skipper Pierre Wallinder.
As part of our plan to create a new life of adventure and explore the world around us, my wife and I thought it would be a good idea for one of us to get some experience with open ocean sailing or off shore sailing. With the recent addition to our family, our little girl Evelyn, it only made sense that at this time, that person be me. I have always felt very comfortable on the water as I grew up on motor boats since I was a little kid. My grandfather, father, and uncle all had boats where we would cruise around, go water skiing, tubing, and more.
Nicole had been following Pierre, our sailing instructor, on his adventure from Virginia to the Bahamas on Facebook. Then one evening, she was excited and told me that Pierre was looking for some crew to help him out and that I should email him right away. I took a couple days and eventually decided to shoot him an email and see his thoughts. I told him that I could only do about a week and would be happy to fly anywhere and leave anywhere. He responded in a couple of hours asking if I could fly into Turks and Caicos on the 29th, and then fly out of San Juan on the 5th. At first I wasn’t sure what dates he was talking about, and then realized he meant the 29th of January, as in a week and a half away. I checked flight prices to and from those locations to see how expensive it would be and was amazed at how cheap it is now to fly there, even on short notice. This exchange happened at about 11 pm, and Nicole was asleep. She got up to use the bathroom shortly after, and when I mentioned the news to her I think she was more excited than I was. As long as I could get off of work, this was actually going to happen!
After checking with my manager, and getting the approval, I booked the flights. Three or four days later, I got a message from Pierre asking me to change the flight so I would actually fly into the Bahamas, and boy did that change make a difference (we had a much further distance to sail).
The flight departed at 6 am from Buffalo and landed in Georgetown, Bahamas at 6:40 pm with stops in Newark and a 4 hour layover in Nassau. I spent a lot of time reading and taking videos for Nicole to show Oliver, our 2 1/2 year-old son, while I was away for the week.
Once I arrived in Georgetown, I found a taxi to take me to the Exuma Yacht club where Pierre had originally told me to meet him. The taxi dropped me off and left soon after (small side note: always carry smaller bills when riding in a taxi, as they claim to not have change almost all the time in the Bahamas). I walked through the parking lot towards the water, and noticed that everything was off and dark. At that exact moment, I remembered that Pierre had sent me another message about meeting somewhere else. Unfortunately, unless you have a SIM card for the Bahamas, you cannot get internet access without Wifi. I walked around the yacht club searching to see if there was a wireless signal by chance and noticed a gentlemen who was picking up and moving chairs. I asked him about the wireless and password and was rewarded. I pulled up the last message and saw that I was supposed to find Elvis Water Taxi to take me out to the boat. The guy who had just helped me out was nowhere to be seen, so I walked back to the road to see if I could see any signs to point me in the right direction, but I had no luck. I walked back and tried searching online, but came up with nothing again. Thankfully, the guy showed back up and told me to walk down the street, follow a pink wall, then cross a clearing and I should find it.
The street was deserted and very quiet, but I had nothing else to do and no other options, so I just started walking, hoping for the best. About 5 minutes into the walk, a van pulled up alongside me. Two guys asked where I was heading, and when I mentioned the water taxi, they exclaimed they had been looking for me for some time and that Pierre had sent them to get me. I hopped in, assuming that since they used Pierre by name, nothing could go wrong. We had a quick drive and soon ended up at a dock, where we jumped into the motorboat taxi and were off over the clear smooth water. It was an amazing feeling to see quite a few stars above me, while cruising over glossy black water with no sound but the slight purr of the engine and the wind blowing by. That was the last time I touched land for the next 6 days.
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Head Instructor and Director of Programs & Operation is Captain Pierre Wallinder, an ASA Instructor since 2004. Other credentials include: Yacht-Master PZB, Past Trustee/Maritime Chair, WNY Maritime Charter School, currently the Provider for On-The-Water Training (since 2006)