Sierra 2 – Day 1 & Meet Our Staff

Posted Sunday, July 15th, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Sierra 2 Day 1 Trip Update – Graham Benton, Program Director

The first day! We almost have all of the students, some are going to join us tomorrow, and two other students who are transferring from Bravo will join us in a few days after they are all done with the Premiers Cup Sailing Regatta. Most of the students arrived around 3:45 p.m. since they all caught the 1:30 p.m. ferry from St. Thomas. While we waited for the rest of the students, we all played water polo in the pool. When the rest of the students arrived around 6:00p.m., we all got to move in, meet each other, shower and get ready for dinner at 7 p.m.

After we enjoyed our dinner of chicken, rice and slaw, we had our first boat meeting. We went over living conditions, expectations and what we were all really excited about!

By the time we were all done, it was time to sleep, and sleep we did in preparation for another fun filled day!

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).


Desda Sisson, Captain

I am currently a student at Humboldt State, working on my degree towards marine biology and scientific diving! I am really passionate about marine invertebrates and their interactions! While diving in the north coast I have had the opportunity to see a lot really cool species! I am a certified master scuba diver and just completed my rescue diver course this year! Along with diving I of course love to sail. My experience began when I was little, sailing with my dad on a small Sunfish. As I got older I was sailing bigger and bigger boats in places such as San Francisco, Oahu, Humboldt Bay and San Diego Bay. Previous jobs I have held included working with kids teaching swimming. I was thrilled and amazed by their desire to learn and was learning new things myself everyday! On the north coast I became part of an organization REEF Check California. We went out and performed underwater surveys, recording invertebrate species, fish species and algae species. By taking these surveys, REEF check can then monitor the health of the species and make decisions about California MPA’s. (Marine Protected Areas) REEF Check is non-profit and rely on volunteers to survey the coast! I am excited to be working for Sail Caribbean because of the experience they give the students who attend the programs! I think it is a very positive and exciting learning opportunity for young teens and I want to be part of that! I have always loved the ocean and everything that comes with it, scuba diving, sailing, marine life, snorkeling, and of course the sun! I want to teach young teens about the marine life in the Caribbean and hopefully they will learn and enjoy it as much as I do! When I’m not working or studying, I like to go to the tide pools and find sea creatures! I also like to bike ride and explore new places on my bike. Another interest of mine is finding and/or creating new recipes to cook and sharing them with friends! Something funny you should know about me…One year for Halloween I dressed up as a present and wore a box that i could fit inside of! I surprised all of the houses we went to when I popped out as a life size present!

Amelia Ballisat, Captain, Marine Bio

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.

Shandy Buckley, Mate, Photo Mate, True Course

Tamara Greak, Mate, Medical Officer

This will be my first summer at Sail Caribbean. I am a junior at University of North Carolina-Wilmington, majoring in Spanish and Psychology. I am the co-captain this upcoming year for our sailing team, and also the co-founder. We practice year round on 420’s or FJ’s. I have my Level One certification as well as my PADI open water diving certification. I have done some diving in the western Caribbean, including a night dive and I have also done an off shore dive in the Outer Banks, NC. I am very passionate about both of these activities, and I am looking forward to the experience to be gained with Sail Caribbean. I have worked at Carolina Yacht Club as a sailing instructor for the past three years with kids from the ages of 8 to 18. We taught dinghy sailing, and depending on the students age/experience, we instruct using Opti’s, Sunfish, Laser’s, and 420’s. We taught the basics of sailing and racing to beginners and intermediates. I am extremely excited about gaining experience on larger boats and also hoping to gain more experience diving. Also, location, location, location! I have never traveled to the eastern Caribbean and I am more than ready to explore the islands and see different cultures, wildlife, etc. I am also looking forward to working for such a prestigious company and meeting the staff. I am going into this without knowing anyone, which I am very excited about! I can’t wait to see what the students bring to the table as well. I am certain I will learn just as much from them as they learn from me. In my spare time I love sailing and diving, obviously. In addition to that however, I love reading and cooking.  I love exploring wildlife, whether it is through hiking on land or snorkeling off shore. My top five hobbies would have to be sailing, diving, reading, cooking and exercising. Well I am not very funny, so I have no idea what to say here. I do know that my awkwardness has entertained others in the past. From tripping up the stairs, to putting my foot in my mouth on several occasions, I am overall an awkward person. I have learned to accept it and laugh at myself as well. You will see.



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