Life Abroad|Places We Visit

The Challenges of Life in the Caribbean

Seamester Blog

The following article was written by Sea|mester student, Asher Heaney, during the Spring 2017 voyage through the Caribbean aboard S/Y Ocean Star.

In his article, Asher ponders the questions, “What is the state of the natural environment your crew has witnessed so far and how does it match up to what the popular media has portrayed the Caribbean to be?”


When I first flew into Saint Thomas I was blown away by the natural beauty around every corner. As a kid, I grew up boating and swimming along the shores of Northern New England, which is notorious for the bitter coldness and dreary rainy weather. Never before had I seen such crystal clear blue water and lush, green vegetation. I always just assumed the ocean was a consistent dark blue and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The instant the plane landed, I couldn’t wait to get to my new home on Ocean Star.

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However, as we were bumping along in our taxi to the ferry, I started to notice that the Caribbean was much more populated then I had originally thought. It wasn’t all deserted, pearly-white beaches similar to the ones seen in Pirates of the Caribbean. I quickly fell in love with the quirky little pink and purple houses, the neat little beach bars and stores, and of course the fast cars and trucks that are constantly honking and flying around bends in the road.

And while this was all pretty unique and special, with population comes waste. Having grown up between Maine and Vermont, I had become accustomed to recycling and doing everything in my power to save the environment. I can’t count the days I’ve spent hiking through the woods or along the roads picking up trash or planting trees, so seeing trash piled up along the roads without a recycling bin in sight was quite a shock for me. Over the course of the first week or so I started to realized it’s just the way of life here. Resources to invest in proper recycling or waste management are few and far between.

That’s when Julie Swartz came into the picture. Julie started the first recycling company in the British Virgin Islands, Green & Clean VI ltd., in an attempt to bring recycling to Virgin Gorda. I was amazed by her commitment and passion the project. Knowing that people are taking action to help keep these beautiful islands clean was inspirational, to say the least.

After leaving the BVI, we sailed down to Granada and on to the Tobago Cays. These islands seemed to be much more of the Caribbean you see in postcards. Yet at this point in the voyage, I miss the hustle and bustle of the more populated islands. I realized the that Caribbean was a happy, energetic place, and so much more amazing than I had ever dreamed it to be.