Location: Lost at Sea

It has been a hot minute since our propellor broke — and since the last day where I wrote the blog. In 31 days, we’ve come far, both in terms of growth and physical distance (5600 nm is a mileage I could not even begin to understand). Watch last night was an experience, to say the least. Watch team two was on the 12:00-4:00 AM watch, where we were awoken late because watch team one was sail handling. It was squalling. Everyone was in their foul-weather gear. Ben came down to wake us up with, “It’s been raining all of our watch. Put on your foulies. You’re gonna be cold.” I scrambled to put on my tight-in-all-the-wrong-places bib and obnoxious red-yellow jacket. I was expecting thunder and lightning, paired with a torrential downpour. I was met with a light drizzle. I mean, he wasn’t wrong – it did also end up ‘raining’ for our entire watch too, but more like the type of rain where it’s not strong enough to need to wear your hood but still enough to make your head wet if you take it off. Morale was low, as it is on most rainy night watches. We did some sail handling, I quite honestly cannot remember which sails we put up or took down, but I am confident we gave the main staysail a starboard tack (new high side, we’ve been on port tack since the start of this passage). Boy was I cold – my bib did not do its job, and Elise’s rain pants were far from waterproof. I wrote a song about us and the rain while waiting to ease the sheet. Elise and Fargo were the main subjects. It went something along the lines of “the rain fell down on Elise’s head. She pulled her foulies from her bed – tomorrow will be wet again. Tonight we’re warm and dry.” Fargo’s was more like: “The rain fell down on Fargo’s skin, no foulies on is such a win – tomorrow will be wet again, tonight we’re warm and dry.” Fargo has not worn a shirt since the start of this passage – it has become a challenge that he and Kirby are powering through – even during cold drizzles. The songs were fun, and we could not stop laughing; the only people to have ever laughed at 1:45 AM at these exact coordinates through a never-ending drizzle in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The second half of watch was much better than the first, morale was on the up, and the drizzle stopped, though it’s always so heartbreaking to have to do wakeups and tell the next sleepy watch team they should probably take out their foul weather gear.

Watch team two fell asleep at 4:00, and we were awoken again at 11:30 for our 12:00-2:00 dog watch. Once in the cockpit, Allie gave us breakfast lollipops, strawberry bubblegum lollipops that we raced to finish before Owen’s stellar tomato soup + grilled cheese (for context, I hate tomatoes, so a tomato soup that I go back and gets seconds for is unheard of up until now). At lunch, I read the notecard story; Smash had asked me to read it and explain the activity as a co-program manager. We all will receive 30 notecards and write meaningful notes to each other that will be given to us on day 90. This is an activity I have done many times before at camp, and like the characters in the story I read for the group, I have kept my ‘notecards’ throughout the years. It is such a precious gift to have 31 unique appreciations written about you from your peers that remind you of one of the greatest trips of your life. I cannot wait to write and receive notecards. Matt and Allie did a good job emphasizing that everyone needs to put effort into these cards because it would suck to spend an hour writing a front-to-back note for somebody only to get a vague and rushed note in return. I am confident in our crew’s ability to craft sentimental messages that I will want to keep forever. On the topic of meaningful messages, Toria and I proposed a similar activity this morning. She wrote a short and individualized compliment for everyone on the starboard side of the boat, and I went and did the same for the staff and the port side. A post-it note was left for everybody in their bunks, and the fun came in giving your post-it note to somebody who you feel described. It was sort of a physical representation of Allie’s squeeze question (think of the best compliment you would like to receive for yourself, but then give it to somebody else in the circle). Later tonight at the squeeze, multiple people said the kind notes were their appreciation for the day. Toria and I talked about how great it was to have such a simple activity be so meaningful in people’s day.

The class was okay – I hate saying it sucked, but I would be lying if I said it was fun. School right now is overwhelming for a lot of people; we’re in a chunk of paper, exams, quizzes, and group project work, though we will be out of this chunk soon. We had oceanography quiz four today, and I am proud to announce that the results on this quiz were our highest average. I guess we sure know our estuaries. In between classes, a few of us went up on deck to drop and/or centerline sails. It was exciting to have chief mate Skyler lead her first unassisted sail handling! I am so proud of her, and I can’t wait for her to take charge for the rest of our passage. Leadership class consisted of a group conversation. We discussed our student user manuals, answering questions along the lines of “What frustrates you on this boat” or “What small fixes would make your experience better.”

Answers were very similar across the board, most people are frustrated by laziness, and movie nights are the universal solution to our frustrations. Outdoing most of us, Owen’s spaghetti and red sauce dinner was on time, maybe even early. We’re having a tomato-themed day, but for once, I was far from complaining. The meal was delicious, and with so much food, everyone felt full (happy full). I sat with Matt and Ben at dinner, or as Matt likes to call us, “his two sons.” Why I am a son, I do not understand. Matt and Ben made plans to go golfing in Portugal, and together they will make pad thai for 31 every night. Our fun dinner conversations were all three of our appreciation for the day. My squeeze question was, “Fill in the blank with what most applies to you on this boat: eat, sleep, ______, repeat.” William missed his chance to say “eat, sleep, bosun, repeat,” he was upset. He missed another opportunity to let everyone know that his favorite job is bosun (he will trade with anyone to be it). After dinner, we set our watches back an hour; it was finally time to adjust our schedule to our new time zone. It was getting weird to watch the sunset during the 8:00-12:00 PM watch and being in the dark for the greater part of the 4:00-8:00 AM watch. This meant that by the end of dinner, it was only 5:45.

After dinner, we had our very first student leader meeting without the staff, or as we like to call it, our STUGET meeting (S-Skyler, T-Ted, U-Ula, G-Gabby, E-Elise, T-Toria). I am very excited to see all that we will accomplish during the student passage and am forever thankful for this opportunity to co-lead this community that I have grown so fond of. The sunset during the meeting was absolutely bonkers (but not as bonkers as the sea state — Dylan’s BOOYAH word), various shades of pink, reds, and yellows colored the sky. Charlie came to the conclusion that this was the coolest sunset he’d ever seen. No one was disagreeing. I went and sat with watch team one as they powered through their extra hour of the 6:00-8:00 dog watch; Allie handed out more breakfast lollipops. After only being in my mouth for five seconds, I accidentally dropped my lollipop on the deck.

Obviously, the five-second rule applies here, and Ben and Miles quickly picked it up. Dylan suggested we clean off the dust and hair that was now stuck to it by hosing it off, but Ben shoved the lollipop in his mouth and then spat out the dirt he “cleaned” off of it. We all laughed very hard; he said he had to “act fast and make a quick decision,” which I guess in his case was to clean the hairy lollipop by shoving it into his mouth. Before my 8:00-12:00 night watch, I sat in the salon for a bit to read over my marine biology notes since we have an exam tomorrow. It has been a while since I have gotten to spend time with my favorite, Magda. I miss our emotional talks. We got to catch up a bit before I went up on deck, which was much needed and appreciated. Once up for my 8:00-12:00 watch, we were informed that Toria got hit by a flying fish as she danced on the stern, which I confidently say is an honor. Not all of us get to be ambushed by flying fish. We ended our day off with watch The Hunger Games. I was unfortunately on watch, so no movie night for me. It was a sleepy watch. Everybody’s eyelids were 400 pounds, as Steph described. Elise and I did our typical world-building/assigning people on this boat to things. Tonight’s quest was “Which job do you associate with everyone on this boat,” apparently, it was cheating when we decided that our marine science teacher Dylan was best associated with being a marine science teacher. It just makes sense.

I really am not looking forward to leaving this trip. This has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have grown so much and tried new things I could not even imagine doing before I stepped foot on this boat. Vela is my little universe, especially when we’re on passage. With nothing but the open sea ahead of us, our world is nothing, but our 112-foot sailboat and the 31 strangers turned family sailing it across the Pacific. A lot of people struggle with the passage, and while I share many of their concerns, I am not ready for the day when I have to say goodbye to my painfully tight bottom bunk or the cold speed-showers that dictate my day. I fully agree with the sentiment that Vela becomes your home, and leaving home seems more difficult than ever right now. I am so thankful for the lucky chance to have met the 30 most interesting people in the world, and even luckier that these 30 people all ended up on a boat with me. The memories I have made, the laughs I have shared, and the tears I have cried with my newfound best friends will be cherished for as long as I live, and the boat that brought us through our journey will forever hold a special place in my heart. This is a love letter to Vela’s spring 2023 crew, and if I could, I would find a way to hug everyone on this boat (and the boat itself) all at once.

To whoever is reading this, I hope life on land is treating you well, and I hope your meals are as delicious as our (almost) daily consumption of homemade bread. Vela and her crew send you lots of love, and we are thinking of our friends and family back at home every day. We are excited to reach out to you guys once we make it to Tahiti, but for now, the rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean are calling our names.

With love and light,