Photo Credit: Yacht Week East Africa | Photo via Krista Hayes
Sailing Seychelles With Yacht Week East Africa Left This Girl From Kentucky With A Lifetime Of Memories
Written by: Krista Hayes
I’m from Lexington, Kentucky where boating is mostly a weekend activity during the summer, only for the privileged. For the sons and daughters of wealthy horse breeders, business possessors, descendants of bourbon-distillery founders and ritzy home-owners who live in the same glamorous neighborhood as John Calipari.
Even though my life as a pre-teen raised there consisted of being the only “black girl” in the bunch, it wasn’t out of the ordinary that my best friends were white or of Asian descent. Regardless of my skin color, at ten-years-old was when my then best-friend asked me to join her very conservative family on a boat outing at Lake Cumberland, about a two-hour car ride from home that was totally out of my comfort zone (and to this day, I still can’t believe my parents let me go). However, when I took my first step on that 14-passenger pontoon, I forgot I was the only person of color, and the smell of grass meeting the water hit me in the most intense and enlightening way. The hue of the lake was radiant from sunbeams, and that moment ignited my fascination with boats and set the tone for my life as a “water baby.”
22-years later, the same momentous adoration for the water revisited my soul again, but this time, it was an out-of-body experience from God, and it wasn’t from a man-made lake in Kentucky, oh no!
Exploring the Seychelles islands off the coast of East Africa with Yacht Week EA was so tantalizing, so eye-opening, that the entire trip from beginning to end transformed me. At first, the Indian Ocean and Seychelles never appeared on my radar as a part of the world I needed to see. I figured I’d end up as far as Ghana soon, or maybe even Nigeria. To be completely transparent, I didn’t even know the islands of Seychelles (Mahe’, La Digue, Eden, Curieuse, etc.) existed until I agreed to take this trip. I am beyond grateful to God that I took that leap of faith.
I spent eight days in Seychelles total. Eleven catamarans packed with working professionals from across the United States ready to indulge in vacation air sailed the islands for five days. This sea space created a unique bond with EXTREMELY different women from across America. My boat mates and I all have one thing in common now that we will share forever because of this trip: Seychelles was one of the best vacations we’ve ever had.
We hiked the red-earthed hills of Curieuse Island and enjoyed fresh coconut from treetops. We discovered the rich yet aphrodisiacal existence of coco de mer and the sweet tropical scent of Takamaka rum. We’ll look back on innocent experiences like falling in love with the 100-year old tortoise I nicknamed “Victor Cruise.”
The countless discoveries with a group of women I had never met in my life turned into lifetime memories with women I now call my boat mate sisters.
Interactions with the native characteristics of Seychelles – the people, the languages, the animals, and the landscape down to the bikes we used as transportation all around La Digue, those are the one-on-one connections I made on the land that resonated with me more than the people I actually met who came from the States. No offense to them at all, and I’m not saying Seychellois culture is any better than my own, but I made it my goal to develop a bond with our Seychellois yacht chef and captain solely so they could take me on land and immerse me fully into the local lifestyle of the Seychelles and my GOD, I succeeded and it was epic. There aren’t enough words I could say to thank the locals on our yacht who made this trip that much more phenomenal.
Nearing the end of our trip, as we were sailing for four and a half hours towards Eden, a warning was issued from experienced sailors to wear Dramamine bands and to hydrate heavily to avoid sea-sickness. Insane paranoia struck because I couldn’t shake the idea of getting seasick, as I did on the way a few days earlier. I started to experience a panic attack in my bedroom quarters. Our captain took it upon himself to invite me to sit with him above deck while he steered the yacht, and advised me to simply calm down and take in everything I see. Once I sat in that captain’s seat and relaxed, for hours, there was God’s presence and the entire Indian Ocean one wave at a time, islands off in the distance, clouds forming in the sky, sun rays slightly poking through. Instead of sitting below deck preoccupying my mind with the waves making me ill, I took in the ocean air just like I inhaled the air back in Kentucky during my first trip at the lake when I was ten years old. After a few deep breaths, I soon realized, “Wow, I am an African-American woman from Kentucky in the middle of one of the most beautiful countries in the world, sailing with Seychellois, not a care in the world.”
For those like me, those who were not raised in major metropolitan cities or were not exposed to landmarks and destinations outside of the United States. People who read travel blogs and websites and just wish they could “do it” … just do it. Research, investigate and save to travel with a fantastic group like Yacht Week East Africa.