Early Alpha – Day 1 & Meet Our Staff

Posted Sunday, June 9th, 2013 at 9:34 am

Early Alpha 2013 – Day 1

Written by Luke Whitcraft; Mate

Today was a long day of traveling for everybody on the Early Alpha program. Perry, our OP’s staff, and Alex, our dive coordinator, were waiting at the St. Thomas airport to take those arriving to the ferry headed for the island of Tortola. The students made it in to Hodges Creek Marina around 6:30 p.m. and assigned to their boats. Once everyone had settled in on board their new homes, we ate a meal of traditional Caribbean chicken, rice, and slaw, along with some pizza for dinner. After the classic “Mike Talk”, everyone was quite ready for some sleep. The first day was at an end and everyone was ready for what adventures were to come tomorrow!

Meet our experienced Early Alpha staff team

Betsy Flournoy, Program Director

Betsy Flournoy

This will be Besty’s third year as a staff member for Sail Caribbean. She has been a Provisions Manager and Mate on the Bravo, Charlie, and Foxtrot programs, but sailing with her family since she was 3 or 4 years old. She graduated from the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in 2010 and started doing professional photography four years ago. She recently graduated in May with a studio arts degree concentrated on photography and digital arts. Her background with teens primarily comes from working at the Springer Theatre Academy in Georgia as a teaching assistant, intern, and office assistant. She also attended Sail Caribbean for 2 summers and completed the Sail Caribbean Echo Leadership & Advanced Sailing program when she was in college. Betsy loves working for Sail Caribbean because there is no other job like it: living on boats and traveling with the fleet is such a unique experience.  The BVI is one of her favorite places in the world– it has beautiful scenery, great diving and snorkeling to explore, perfectly clear water, and great sailing weather. She is also passionate about teaching students how to sail and spread the appreciation of the sport. In her spare time she loves rock climbing, sailing, snowboarding, horseback riding, diving, and hiking. Something funny you should know about Betsy…  She has a pet hedgehog named Chalupa Batman!

Desda Sisson, Captain, True Course Curriculum

Desda Sisson

Desda comes from a small town located in Sacramento, California. She is currently in Humboldt County of California attending Humboldt State.  This is Desda’s second year with Sail Caribbean, and last year she proved to be a popular mate/captain on Bravo, Foxtrot and Sierra.

When she is not working for Sail Caribbean she is studying Marine Biology and has recently attained a scientific diving minor. On most weekends you can find her free diving off the coast for abalone or scuba diving among the kelp forests! As her years as an undergrad are winding down she hopes to finish it off by taking over a project looking at the effects of ocean acidification on hard corals!

Desda says “ Looking back on the summer one of the most valuable experiences I gained by working with Sail Caribbean was being able to work with such diverse staff members and students. Learning about their adventures and sharing a new one while at Sail Caribbean was really special.”

Amelia “Mieles” Ballisat, Captain

Mieles Ballisat

Mieles is from the UK, based in Southampton, but grew up in rainy Wales. Mieles joins us for her second summer as Captain. She is a marine biologist at heart but also a watersports instructor. Mieles spent this winter working for a sail training charity in the UK, refitting their boat ‘John Laing’. Once spring arrived, she spent the first part of the season as a mate onboard teaching sailing to teenagers, exploring the South coast, and even venturing to France! When she is not at sea, she teaches watersports and marine science in her home town;  Cardiff.  What does Mieles like about Sail Caribbean? “Sail Caribbean is so much fun!! There is so much variety in the programs, no two days are the same!! The staff are great – everyone is bubbly, and you learn so much from each other. The marine science is brought to life with the abundance of species in the water, which makes it so much more enjoyable!! Working for SC allows me to combine my passions – marine biology and watersports in one job, and then added sunshine makes it even better!”

Oliver Bierman-Lytle, Captain

Oliver Bierman-Lytle

Oliver is most recently from Denver, CO. He was born in Connecticut and lived there for 11 years before moving to Denver. He recently returned from the Middle East where he ran the sailing program and delivered ecology lectures for an adventure company. In August, he will be heading to Idaho to participate in the Community School’s Teacher Training Academy, where he will work with their 8th grade science program. Oliver is excited to get back on a boat and continue working in the marine biology field, his true passion. Oliver went to school in Ohio, which did not provide many opportunities to study marine biology, however his senior thesis did encompass evolution of a trout species and physiological ecology. He received his degree in Biology. After graduation, he spent 4 months on a research vessel in Indonesia assisting a coral reef research project, and during his two years in Abu Dhabi, became the marine biology expert at an adventure company, delivering lectures both on the water and in the classroom.

Oliver first came across Sail Caribbean online while researching ecotourism opportunities. He has not been to the Caribbean since he was a child; however, he says “I still have memories of the beautifully colored water, the abundance of marine life, and his first time on a sail boat and snorkeling. My father used to work in the Caribbean, so I have visited numerous islands, and I will always remember it as the place where my passion for marine life and marine activities began”.

Luke Whitcraft, Mate, Trip Updates

Luke Whitcraft

Luke is from Guam and grew up in San Diego California. In 2012, Luke was one of the experienced divers as well as a mate on our Charlie Program. He is a full time college student studying adventure education and film. He has a keen interest in video and is the Director and Founder of the Prescott College Film Club. Luke says “There is a huge focus on safety and the sailing instruction is great. Coming from a sailing/diving background this is one of the best companies I’ve seen!” Luke learned to sail at the age of 8, and he spent his summer holidays on his family’s yacht as well as taking part in sailing programs. His favorite place in the Caribbean is Grand Central Station!

Trevor Gardner, Mate, Medical Officer & Photos

Trevor Gardner

Trevor is from Ottawa, Canada, and grew up in a small village called Manotick. Trevor learned to sail in Ottawa by progressing through all the youth sailing levels and racing for two summers. He took part in Bravo OW and Scuba summer 2010. He learned to dive three years ago when he came to Sail Caribbean as part of the Bravo program. He has been working as an intern at Sail Caribbean Divers to get more experience on how dive shops are run. Trevor has been a dingy sailing instructor in Canada for two summers now and is really excited about moving up a few steps onto large keel boats for long excursions. Trevor is excited to meet the campers and to see all the islands. His favorite place in the Caribbean has to be Cooper Island in the BVI’s. He has some really great friends who live and work there, the beach is amazing, and there is a shallow reef to dive and snorkel.

Emily Yonce, Mate, Provisions Manager

Emily Yonce

Emily joins us from Cooperstown, NY- home of baseball! She spent the majority of her childhood in rural Vermont. This is Emily’s first year as a staff member; however she is no stranger to life with Sail Caribbean! In 2010 she participated as a student in Foxtrot, 2011 in Charlie, and in 2012 she was a student on our College Leadership program, Echo.  She is currently a sophomore at Wells College, declaring a Philosophy major, with minors in Environmental Science and Political Science.  Emily is a busy student, juggling her time between study, programs at school, and part-time work at the IT center. On school breaks, she works at the family’s hotel and a local souvenir shop downtown. Emily says, “ I’m really looking forward to getting to know fellow staff members and students, and fulfilling a leadership role. I can’t wait to share my passion for the ocean with everyone.”

Sondra Eger, Mate, Marine Biology Coordintor

Sondra Eger

Born in Montreal Canada, Sondra grew up between Winnipeg, Manitoba and St.Albert, Alberta. She describes herself as a mountain and oceans girl, so moving to Kelowna, B.C. to complete her Bachelor of Science was a great compromise! Sondra joins us for her second year here at Sail Caribbean. In 2012 she was a mate/ diver on Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Foxtrot. Besides the beautiful surroundings and close knit staff, Sondra is excited to teach the students about marine biology and preserving the Earth’s natural resources. She wants them to leave Sail Caribbean as excited about marine bio as she is!

Alex Mobley, Mate, Dive Coordinator

Alex Mobley

Alex will be one of our many talented divers this summer. Prior to this summer, she was in the British Virgin Islands working with Sail Caribbean Divers. Since graduating college three years ago, Alex has been lucky enough to see some of the world  by boat. She has worked as a marine biologist aboard a dive boat in Australia, sailed around the islands of Papua New Guinea and worked as a stewardess and deckhand on a super yacht in the Bahamas. In between her travels, she is a substitute teacher for science and math, and volunteers at local museums and aquariums.

Alex says, “The main things that I am excited about this summer are being able to teach kids about the marine environment and introduce them to the underwater world, which some people never get to experience in their entire life. Being able to watch our students become more confident on and in the water, and become more independent in life are both wonderful added bonuses.”

Alan Gordon, Mate, Marine Biology & Photos

Alan Gordon

Home for Alan is a little village on the Southern fringes of London, Great Britain, but he splits his time between the UK, Thailand, and the Caribbean. When home, he plays football – not soccer – with the lads and volleyball for Wimbledon VC in the Surrey and London leagues. He also spends a fair bit of his time working, doing everything from managing gyms and leisure centres, to teaching swimming and even stinting as a truck driver! When in Thailand, Alan spends most of his time under the water showing people around some of Koh Tao’s most exciting dive sites, with the wreck at Him Phi Wi or the inquisitive Cobia that live in Barracuda Rock at Chumphon as his favorite. Alan says he’s really excited to be able to spend his entire summer on a sailing yacht with people who are as excited and interested by the oceans as he is! He most looks forward to sharing with the group some of the more unique knowledge and techniques he’s developed over the past few years regarding turtle ecology and British innovations in marine science; and of course learning some new things from them!



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