“You Make the Memories, We’ll Make the Arrangements”
British Virgin Islands Kids at the Sea during the learn to swim program

When you think of the British Virgin Islands, you probably think of the gorgeous blue-turquoise water and all kinds of water sports such as sailing, swimming, kayaking, and more. And you probably assume that everyone in the BVI can swim. However, that is not the case. Fortunately, there’s KATS, an outstanding lifesaving program that helps children learn to swim and ultimately prepares the next generation for sailing careers.

The KATS swimming program meets at Nanny Cay Resort and Marina on Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

KATS Swim Program at Nanny Cay Resort, BVI
KATS Swim Program

How the KATS Program Began

According to Barbara Gerker of the KATS program, in February 1986, three boy scouts drowned in a small boat accident off an outlying Virgin Islands cay. There were on a camping trip. Not only did they lack the necessary sea skills to handle a boating emergency, but they also were unable to swim to safety on the nearby shoreline.

This tragic accident pointed out the astounding absence of any youth water safety programs in the Territory. It provided the reason for the Rotary Club of St. Thomas II to start an effort to train VI youth in basic seamanship and small craft handling. Later, this program became Kids And The Sea (KATS).

This non-profit organization advocates water safety for children from 4 to 16 years. Courses offered are KATSWIM and KATSAIL.

Since its beginning in 1990, the KATS Program has taught thousands of children and young adults in the BVI swimming, water safety, sea skills, scuba, and sailing. In addition to providing safety skills, it has also opened the door for new career opportunities for many BVI children. Over the 30 years of the program, many of those students have taken on leading roles in the Marine Industry to captain vessels and return to teach the next generation.

How the Program Keeps Going

The KATS Program relies on donations and volunteers to provide basic swimming and sea skills. You can help, too, when preparing to vacation in the BVI. The Pack For a Purpose organization is one way you can help.

Swimming lessons at Nanny Cay pool during the KATS learn to swim program.
Swimming Class

The program needs large swimming aids like kickboards and noodles as well as smaller items such as:

  • Neck gaiters (masks that can be worn in the water)
  • Swim goggles and caps
  • Swim aids like sinkers and dive hoops
  • Long sleeve swims shirts for instructors (rash vests), ideally solid color so the logo may be printed and used as uniforms.

If you would like more information or to help, please contact

Barbara Gerker
Kids And The Sea (KATS) BVI
P.O. Box 850
Road Town, Tortola
The British Virgin Islands
Phone: 284-499-2564

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