From ASA in Belize to sailing the Caribbean for 3 years with their family, the story of Dan and Kathy Sandlin
Dan and Kathy had a plan, a plan to do something big. In 2014 they booked an ASA instructional charter with BSV, then bought a boat that they put into charter (Sand Star) and learned to sail on their boat with the family in Belize. In 2017 they packed up their possessions and 3 kids and embarked on a sailing adventure around the Caribbean for 3 years, “boatschooling’, island hopping, making new friends and creating life changing memories. Now that this chapter has come to a close, we are excited to announce that Sand Star is coming back to Belize to be in charter with BSV and we were able to catch up with Kathy so we can share their epic story!
1. What inspired you and Dan to learn to sail?
Dan said he had a plan and it was something BIG, I really wasn’t involved in the initial stages, it was Dan’s master plan. The goal was for us to travel together for an extended period of time, homeschool the kids, experience new adventures and cultures and be together as a family. We wanted to be off the grid, in nature and outside. We also wanted this to be cost effective, allowing us to travel for an extended period of time with low resources. A boat seemed to be the way to go, we had chartered a power cat in the past, however the continued need for fuel was expensive and limiting to certain areas and marinas, so the idea of living and travelling on a sail boat was born, where we could use the wind as our primary fuel source…. and catch fish! (which became a key highlight for us all).
2. When did you first sail with BSV and what happened next?
Dan booked an instructional ASA sailing trip with BSV in 2014 as part of his master plan. He sold me on the concept of having fabulous meals, 5 star service, snorkelling the barrier reef and exploring a new wonderful country while learning to sail and operate a sail boat. We were sold! We called Cliff when we started boat shopping, he was the one to recommend a Lagoon 500 for our cruising needs, quality and comforts. After more conversations we decided that once we procured our boat that she would stay with BSV for a couple of seasons generating income as we wrapped up our lives, made our preparations and also sailed on her in Belize a few times learning all the quirks.
3. When did you take off and where did you sail with the family?
We left in 2017 right after hurricane Irma, which made for a daunting start. We spent the first year around the Bahamas before sailing to Grenada for hurricane season. We visited other Caribbean islands over the course of our time, our highlights including Grenada, Antigua and Martinique. We had extremely fond memories of Grenada for the wonderful people, the natural beauty and the fun, we were there for Carnival! Antigua was our fishing hub, fishing became a huge boat hobby with many sushi nights had. We finished in Puerto Rico before sailing back to Florida as Covid-19 was taking a grip, a little earlier than planned.
4. Any “challenging” moments that you overcame?
Being out at sea, there are no plumbers, mechanics or electricians on hand, so you have to troubleshoot, research and use your best judgement in making repairs. Also, travelling from place to place means that in each new location you have to establish your contacts and resources from scratch. Dan had some interesting adventures in random golf carts in search of parts in remote areas! What is nice is that other cruisers tend to be welcoming and happy to share their contacts and advice, it’s a great community spirit. Boat school for the kids could be somewhat challenging. You do not have online resources since you may not be connected to the internet all of the time or have unlimited online abilities. (usually you are paying by the gb). Teacher to parent is a hard one to juggle sometimes too.
5. Any extra special moments and memories that you can share?
One awesome thing was having the gift of time. Time with the family, time with the kids. All of us working as a team. Not being tied to a daily schedule like you do on land with sports and drop off and pick-ups with school and other events. You have a true 7 days of the week to work with not 5 work days and 2 play days. It felt you had a lot more control of your time because you were unscheduled. Don’t get me wrong we had plenty to do but being back on land for the last few months you can see the difference. There are a lot more outside forces that tell you what to do and where to be when you are on land.
We loved being able to explore somewhere new wherever we went and soak up the different vibes. For example, each of the French Caribbean islands had their own different individual vibes, everywhere was a new experience.
Lastly, our pig roasts! Dan procured a pig roast box, it became a ritual over the last 9 months to roast a pig roast on the beach when we went somewhere new, we made a lot of friends in the process! Procuring a pig was also entertaining in itself on some of the islands…. the taxi driver’s mechanic who knew the guy whose Mom’s cousin had a farm and so on, fun times!
6. Where to next?!
We are in 3 year cycles with the kids’ education – Emma graduates in 3 years, Jack is starting high school, then Sam our 10 year old will go, so we plan to stay put for 9 years with some shorter travel as we work on our next bucket list. Dan has made it very clear that in 9 years we are GOING and not to renovate the kitchen! We’re not sure where, but it will be just the 2 of us this time.
We are delighted to have been a part of their story in their early sailing days and are thrilled that Sand Star is coming back home to BSV. We hope Dan, Kathy & family can come back to sail on her in Belize soon!
Read more about their adventures on their epic blog on this link.