Location: Just off of Cade's Reef

Our day on Vela started out with cloudy skies, but that did not stop the early morning swim sessions (roughly 6:00 am) from happening. The chefs for the day were Adelaide, Colm, and Greg, who prepared a refreshing breakfast – yogurt, granola, and fruit. We had breakfast a little earlier than normal because Vela was moving to Cade’s Reef for some open water diving! While motoring to our new location, Adelaide taught us about marine micro-organisms and their roles in various ecosystems. We only have one more lecture class until our first exam – crazy how fast time is flying by. Once we arrived and the anchor was locked down, we had free time until lunch. The not yet certified kids prepared kits so Angkarn and Tia (the dinghies) could take us out to the reefs to complete open water skills. Some worked on their Leadership autobiographies, and Fish IDs had power naps and made some friendship bracelets – thanks to Kaitlyn’s amazing string box.

For lunch, Adelaide, Colm, and Gregg made three lovely frittatas with leeks, peas, cheese, and bacon. Quickly after munching down every last piece of toast and frittata, the not-yet certified group prepared to leave for the reef. Smash pointed out from the stern where the reef was. Seemed like it was miles away from where the waves were crashing in the distance. We squeezed into the dinghies covered in sunscreen (reef safe, of course), wetsuits zipped, and gear placed in a somewhat orderly fashion. The certified groups stayed on the boat and went free diving – spotting all sorts of sea life.

Once descending the 10 meters to a sandy patch on the ocean floor, it was the most surreal experience breathing underwater and experiencing weightlessness. The reef was filled with schools of fish, sea fans, coral, and even some stingrays. Mackenzie spotted sea fans that were infected by fungi that Adelaide taught to us only a few hours earlier. After completing some skills underwater and then on the surface, we swam against the waves and current to Leoni. She was anchored on Angkarn, holding the bright rec dive flag. Calum, Sonnet, Bennet, Drej, and I handed our gear up to Leoni and plopped ourselves into the dinghies. Already there was water squishing around the bottom of the boat. Leoni motored over the Smash’s group, who hopped on board with us. Now Leoni, Calum, Smash, Sonnet, Bennet, Drej, Ethan, Colm, Maddie, and I, plus all of our gear, began the trek back to Vela. Water started splashing in over the bow, so everyone slid back a bit. Then water started flowing in over the transom. I started bailing the water out as fast as I could with the little plastic bailer as others grabbed their masks and started scooping the water out. We stopped, and Calum had the solution to save the day. “Let’s have a few of you hop into the water with your gear,” so Ethan, Colm, Bennet, Drej, and Smash hopped in. A few seconds go by… “Actually, everyone hops out.” The rest of us bobbed around as Calum circled around us, draining the water from the transom. We all got back in and had a really hard laugh. Drej was on duty bailing any remaining water from the boat and splashed Smash in the face with water with almost every scoop.

Once back to Vela, we unpacked the gear and lifted Tia and Angkarn onto the deck. Adelaide, Colm, and Gregg went straight to work in the galley, preparing veggie tacos. Everyone was starving after a long day in the water and in the sun. Dinner was wrapped up with our nightly squeeze. Many appreciations were diving this afternoon, and my question was, “What snack food is your favorite that you finish in one sitting.” Smash mentioned her love for Olive Oil ice cream, and Mady said anything gummy such as gummy bears or Gushers. I think everyone is going to sleep well tonight, and I am looking forward to what tomorrow brings!!

Photo 1: Mackenzie, Val, Mady, Max, Smash, Katie, and Will working at the dishy pit
Photo 2: Anthony and Will before dinner
Photo 3: Charlie, Sonnet, and Andrea working as deckies after breakfast
Photo 4: Charlie, Drej, and Mady enjoying a morning coffee and tea
Photo 5: Mackenzie, Val, Sonnet, and Andrea working on Fish Ids and friendship bracelets.