Location: Mountain Point, Virgin Gorda

Today marks the last free day getting to know Vela before we begin our academic courses for the summer; the majority of students/crew took the day hanging out in the sun (with lots of sunscreen), snorkeling, and playing games. For we few who are getting our Open Water Dive certification for the first time, the day started after breakfast – we motored into shallower water to train and learn all we needed to for the “confined water” portion of our certification. It’s been a blessing to enter the new underwater world with such great instructors and my younger sister by my side. As we moved into the afternoon, after lunch, we continued to dive in that shallower portion. This part was a particular point of pride for me, watching my sister Anna conquer her fears and power through some challenging skills tests. We both struggled with removing our masks underwater and continuing to breathe through the regulator while swimming a short distance; it’s a little uncomfortable to be blinded and feel so exposed while deeper underwater, although It was incredibly gratifying once completed. In addition to the difficult dive skills, we also had to master some simpler snorkeling skills, like duck dives and clearing the snorkel of water after it’s been completely submerged – adding the difficult skills mastered with the simpler skills that were well understood boosted my confidence in my own ability as well as my trust in those I was diving with – all of which is incredibly rewarding.
Afterward, we had an amazing dinner and moved right into all our assigned post-meal jobs, today mine is writing this, but most students are up on deck cleaning dishes and spraying down the deck or preparing for their watch rotations throughout tonight. Case and I will be on anchor watch for the first shift tonight, so we’ll be getting plenty of uninterrupted sleep. Watches with Case have been great; we found out that we went to college in the same town, which was kind of a fun coincidence after meeting in the middle of the ocean. That’s just one example of the fun connections we’re making with each other on board, it’s really comforting to see how much I have in common with people who come from vastly different backgrounds but share this human experience, but it’s also been incredibly neat to contrast our languages, lives, and experiences. I’m super excited to continue to share this experience with everyone as we finish this trip and spread back out into our separate lives.