Awards ceremonies are usually staid affairs where those receiving qualifications after months of hard training shuffle to the podium and shyly accept their certificates. In Sint Maarten they do things differently. They load up an Aqua Mania Adventures day charter catamaran for a sunset cruise, blast out music, open the bar, and party. Awards Caribbean style, and I was there to join in the celebrations.
For years it’s been the dream of several St. Maarten residents to open up the marine industry to local people, an industry that is too often seen as the domain of a select few. Thanks to an intensive three month training course, that has now happened and eight students hold valuable certificates in boat handling, both power and sail; boat maintenance, the all-important STCW 2010, and their VHF radio operators license. The course pulled no punches when it came to seamanship, and the students went to sea in heavy weather where they mastered man overboard drill.
Of the three girls who embarked on the course, only Kharmian-Hailey Boasman saw it through to the end, finishing as one of the top students.
Boating since she was young, Kharmian said she didn’t find the course difficult and now intends to work her way up in the marine industry. Her dream is one day to own and skipper her own charter yacht and her new qualifications have taken her closer to fulfilling that dream.
I put it to Kharmian that perhaps it wouldn’t be easy to make her mark in what is still a male dominated business. “Women need to fight for their equality,” she said, and this made her even more determined to succeed.
One of the course organizers, Garth Steyn, founder of the Kidz at Sea program, said he was particularly proud of the students when they qualified on the motorboat course, as they were “the first ever group on St. Maarten to do so.”
The success of the first course has led to an increase in interest and a second program with a new group of students was underway even before the ink dried on the first round of certificates.
Instructor Captain Jon Westmoreland was involved in every stage of the student’s training. He described the course as a positive experience for everyone.
“The students took to the physical work, which included the use of tools, epoxy laminating and fabrication, etc. Their workmanship improved over the duration of the course. Not only can they captain and crew on a boat they can also keep it afloat. We’ve had great feedback from all involved,” Westmorland said.
He added, “All the graduate captains are now gainfully employed in the St. Maarten marine sector.”
The training course wasn’t just open to young people as 57-year-old Elwin Christopher can attest. He’s been sailing for many years and has even helped deliver yachts across oceans, however, not having the resources to get that all-important certificate has held him back. Thanks to the training program, he can now make his way as an equal in the yachting industry.
Kidz at Sea President Lorraine Talmi said it was now up to the graduates to take the next step. “The students have been given all the tools they need to succeed in the marine industry; it’s their job to use it to maximum capacity now.”
Before awarding the students their certificates Steyn thanked the Holland America Line, the K1 Britannia Foundation, IGY marinas and those in his own organization, Kidz at Sea, saying it was their contributions that made the maritime training program possible.