Sierra 1 – Day 1 & Meet Our Staff

Posted Thursday, June 21st, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Sierra 1 Day 1 Trip Update – Graham Benton, Program Director

Today marked the first day of this summer’s Sierra 1 program!  Seven students arrived to Hodges Creek around 6:30 p.m. from the St. Thomas ferry.  The final participant, Luca, arrived to Hodges soon there after following a long flight to the British Virgin Islands from Germany.  In fact, Luca flew from Berlin, Germany, to Berlin, the boat he will call home for the duration of the program!

After settling in, students got to know each other over a dinner of chicken, rice, and coleslaw, and moved into the boats.  Tomorrow the plan is to depart docks for The Bight at Norman Island by noon, beginning our marine biology – intensive program.

Graham Benton, Program Director

This will be my 4th summer with Sail Caribbean. I have been Mate, Captain, Fleet Captain, Medical Office, Provisions Manager, Office Manager, Operations and Program Director on the Foxtrot, Sierra and Bravo programs, and this summer will be the Program Director for Sierra. I received an Undergraduate Degree in Environmental Science and Adventure Education from Prescott College. I have achieved my Instructor level Scuba certification from PADI, and have worked in a couple of courses teaching youths in Prescott, Arizona. Sail Caribbean’s Echo Internship as my first sailing experience. I have worked for Sail Caribbean from the time that I was in college to two years after I graduated. I really like the people — working here with the friendly staff and the wonderful students makes it so rewarding to be working an educator. In my spare time I love mountain biking, skiing, riding a motorcycle, baking bread and eating scones. Something funny you should know about me… I have a fiery passion for giraffes (the tallest land mammal).

Lizzie McNamee, Captain

I began diving in 1999 when I was 12 years old because all I ever wanted to do was become a marine biologist. Passionate about the water, I began sailing when I was 15 in Boston Harbor. I attended Boston University and received a degree in Marine Science in 2010. I worked my way up to Divemaster through the years, making sure to spend a good amount of time on each certification to really understand the important aspects of each one. My senior year of university, I spent 22 days sailing across the Caribbean, doing oceanographic research. Post grad, I moved to the Turks and Caicos Islands to teach marine ecology, and proceeded to work towards my instructor certification after that. My first job was with a YMCA in Massachusetts lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons. I continued on that same path by working at my local Boys and Girls Club. While at university I taught swim lessons and lifeguarding at the local pool. I worked as the Waterfront Director at a summer camp in New Hampshire for 2 years, spending time with teens to enhance their kayak, canoe, and swimming skills. After graduation from Boston University, I worked at the School for Field Studies, helping teach Marine Ecology and SCUBA diving as a research tool at a non-profit study abroad school. For the past year, I have taught diving at a dive shop in Key Largo, Florida. What draws me to Sail Caribbean is the responsibility that it gives to the participants. It is not just a camp: it is a chance for teenagers to step up and do things that they would never experience otherwise. I am very excited to open students’ eyes to the underwater world that has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. On a personal note, I was born and raised Boston fan. Any and all sports, I love Boston. I may not follow every sport exactly, but I do love my hometown teams! I used to competitively dive (spring board) and swim, so one of the things that will always make me happy is swimming laps in a pool. I was a member of the colorguard in marching band in high school and college. Something funny you should know about me…I get so excited if I find a marine species that I have never known before — I get really giddy and don’t rest until I have found out what it is! Also, I am undefeated in burping contests.

Amelia Ballisat, Mate

This is my first year at Sail Caribbean. I am currently a final year student studying Marine Biology with Oceanography at the University of Southampton. I have been sailing and windsurfing since my late teens, and on my gap year I finished my watersports instructor qualifications, and from then on I have worked on the water every summer. I have been a watersports instructor in the UK and Minorca for 4 years, teaching everything from SUP’ing to keelboats to a variety of ages from 4 – 78 years old! On the marine biology side – I have been involved with cetacean surveys in the Irish Sea as well as many, many boat days as part of my degree, normally involving lots of mud in the Solent! I want to work for Sail Caribbean as it allows me to combine both my passions – marine biology and watersports, all in one job. The sunshine is also definitely a bonus! My hobbies mainly revolve around watersports — I am a keen windsurfer and sailor, and have been kitesurfing since I have been at university…although I still have a ways to go!! Off the water I play netball and have been known to do the odd endurance obstacle course. Something funny you should know about me, despite studying marine biology… I can’t stand the smell or taste of fish.


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