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Does Your Childhood Crush Remember the Time You Hid in Their Bushes?

Location: Terre de Haut, Les Saintes

Happy Easter! Happy April Fools Eve To The Prankily-Inclined!

Lately, the Caribbean has been unseasonably chilly at night, resulting in a lovely bundled-up and fan-off sleep for us here on Vela (a true luxury). This made my first task of the day as skipper slightly heartbreaking but also hysterical, as I got to wake everyone from their deep slumber promptly at 7 am, a joy I don't think I've had yet this program as we've been on passage for so much of the trip. To wake the students up I decided to play a voicemail I received from Benno when we were on shore yesterday asking me to turn the dinghy around and pick him up, but tragically I was not driving the dinghy. We then had various options of overnight oats made by Christina to start our day. Nick joined us for breakfast and one last goodbye, as we'd soon be departing from Pigeon Island and not crossing paths with Ocean Star again until we got to Antigua at the end of the trip. We got to work putting away dive gear and doing a quick passage prep for our journey from the main island of Guadeloupe to Les Saintes. It's crazy that at the beginning of the trip, this task took the better part of the day, and now we were able to do it in the time it took Freddie to run the last bit of rubbish to shore. We hoisted sails and began our journey down the coast, completing a mini BA while underway. Students got to work on their bunks and cabins and the salon area while the staff did a deck wash, our best line of defense against the stubborn black sand remnants of our Beach BBQ. As the deck wash turned into a slip and slide, wind and waves picked up, and our path was littered with buoys, fish pots, and other things that would love to wrap themselves around our propeller. As such, I spent most of the journey on the bow letting Freddie know where these obstacles lie so he could dodge them, it was a peaceful passage for the most part, and we passed many other cruisers enjoying the winds.

We arrived in Les Saintes as Christina's Mediterranean Pita Pockets were being passed up for lunch. We scarfed them down and then were met with a pitch from Steph and Freddie of two alternate end courses for our trip due to our surprise jump to Guadeloupe - option A - to go back south to Dominica, Martinique, and St. Lucia, or option B - to turn north and go from Dominica to Nevis, St. Kitts, Saba, Statia, etc. before ending up in Antigua. I pitched a third option to circumnavigate Northern Ireland and work on our Derry Girls accent, but that one seemed to be viewed as "not feasible". Catch yourself on. Then we had my class, Leadership, after lunch. Today's class began with a presentation about Les Saintes, its history, and what we'd be doing here, brought to you by Maddie and Alva -- and in a wild turn of events, it is yet another ex-prison island. The French are nothing if not consistent.

Then, Kip and Charlton presented on being an ethical leader and different guiding principles to making the right decision in situations that might pull you in different directions, and test your moral compass. Then I had the pleasure of introducing the capstone leadership activity of this section of the course and arguably the trip as a whole, the student led passage. Our final passage of the semester, from Statia to Antigua, will be completely run by the students, with the staff trying our best to remain, silent observers, unless anything looks like it's going south. Many different jobs on board, from skipper and chief mate to engineer and navigator, will be positions that students can run for, being elected by their peers. This team will work together to chart a course between the islands using current, weather, and wind direction/information. The course will navigate around any underwater hazards, bringing us safely from one point to the next. The students will lead their peers through sail raises and drops, trying to maximize speed and navigate ever-changing weather conditions. The skipper and engineer will schedule everything from turning on the water maker to charging the batteries and balancing the load on the generators. (Don't worry, parents, even though staff will try to be silent, we will be present every step of the way :) ) Personally, the student-led passage is my favorite part of the trip, as we are each able to physically see the growth from the beginning of the trip when some had stepped onto a sailboat for the first time, when learning the lines and when to pull what felt like an insurmountable task in a foreign language. It's a nice time to stop and look back at just how far we've come, watching comfort zones extend further past each horizon we've crossed.

Students then continued their Rescue Diver course, this time searching for a missing diver underwater and bringing them safely to the surface, which requires latching onto their tank and adjusting your own buoyancy ever so carefully so that it is enough to lift the other person off of the seafloor and slowly ascending together. They each did a great job and had a blast. They also worked on self-cramp release and helping panicked divers at the surface without putting their own safety at risk. Then Christina and her team made a delicious lemon herb chicken and couscous for dinner and I started on tomorrow's task - homemade bagels for breakfast. Tonight's squeeze question was "Tell an embarrassing story involving you and a childhood crush" - answers were hysterical, as was how many people could name their childhood crushes' first and last name at the drop of the hat. Hope they're all doing well, wherever they are.

This is my last time as skipper in this program, and it's crazy how quickly time has moved since we got to Barbados. Every day is packed with so much diving and exploration of new places, which seems to distract from the passage of time each day. April arrives tomorrow, and with it, there are only 18 days left of this trip. While you're in it, you're really in it and don't often step back long enough to notice that each packed day blurs into the next, and suddenly, we've left that country, passed another thousand miles sailed, and are inching closer and closer to the dock in Antigua where we will see our goodbyes. This time, when everyone leaves from Vela, I will be moving to a different Seamester boat for the first time in the two years I've worked here, and like the students, I will not know when or if I will be on board Vela again. Vela, who's carried this group safely across an entire ocean, and me across three others. Vela hums with laughter and the echoes of it. That always feels foreignly silent as the students disembark. That has seen the birth of many's love for sailing, adventure, and travel. Who's bonded groups of strangers into families? Whose deck will surely be salty on April 19th? Who will always stay with us, even if we're miles away, landlocked, and telling stories of our crazy youth? Vela which will always be home.

All my love to my family and friends! Happy early birthday, Chris. Good luck with the eulogy, Mummy Cat, I wish I could be there with you all <3

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