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Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Today, Vela got a whole lot quieter. This is typically the case on the day students depart, but with this group and its high-decibel characters like Griffin/Crystal and Jackson, it held especially true. The morning began with bets of who would cry first and who wouldn’t cry at all. Falling in the latter category, a stoic Ben was the first to depart. For the rest of the morning, people trickled out, with a brief intermission to play Dress Up Tom in the local CottonOn, when suddenly the cannon fired to signal noon (seriously, a cannon goes off every day, and it scares me and every dog at the adoption drive on the waterfront each time) (Travis if you’re reading this, please reconsider allowing us to get a dog on Vela to protect them from this traumatic daily occurrence.) At noon, the mass exodus of stragglers came and went – the deck a little saltier than it was moments before.

Goodbyes are hard. Goodbyes here are particularly strange. With them, this microcosm of a community that we live in ceases to exist, and with it, the people we are at this exact moment do as well. That may seem melodramatic, and surely it is, but ask anyone on board. They’ll tell you how different they feel today than they did 90 days ago – perhaps more confident and comfortable in their own skin, more knowledgable about the marine world, more resilient with an expanded idea of what they’re capable of (especially in the wee hours of the morning), more well-trained in the regional accent of Coco’s Keeling, more well-prepared to take on the cutthroat world of Rupaul’s Drag Race, or just more used to vomiting. We are shaped by our experiences and those we surround ourselves with, and beginning today, we will only move further and further from this experience and the people who were just out of arm’s reach of us for the past three months. For the students morbidly reading this on the flight home or in their Cape Town Airbnb’s, that may sound terrifying – and it is – but it’s also spectacular. Remember who you were just 90 days ago when you couldn’t dream up the details of this experience if you tried, and how randomly it all fell into place, a boat becoming a home and strangers becoming a family. Trust that if that happened here, it can also happen elsewhere – at new schools, backpacking adventures, travel, and beyond – and you will be better off for it. Hold your time on Vela close and those who you spent it with even closer, but don’t let this be your greatest adventure. Let it propel you into a life where you constantly remain in the presence of extraordinary people, chasing adventure, being present, remaining grateful (appreciation of the day!) and humble (like an unending horizon), having and, most importantly, creating fun as if you’re in the dishy pit in the rain.

Siena wrote in the Vela book (a guest book for everyone who has spent time onboard – their reflections and advice to future groups) that she was grasping for ways to memorialize this experience and combating the inevitability of fleeting memories that she has already begun to mourn.

For one last standing ovation, here’s a highlight reel of those memories:
– Being treated like Kings and Queens at the Bali Royal Yacht Club
– Swimming with Whale Sharks in Sumbawa
– First ever dives in Gili T with sea turtles and sharks!
– Shredding waves on Kuta Beach
– Diving untouched reefs in Komodo
– Walking with Komodo Dragons
– Snorkeling (with?) Mantas
– Helming with cat ears
– CROSSING THE INDIAN OCEAN helloooo Agulhas current
– Challenge Coursing (Eating lizards optional)
– Recovering Ava’s iPhone from Uluwatu Temple Monkeys
– Shark showers and swims in Coco’s Keeling
– Seeing wild dolphins get high on a puffer fish in Coco’s Keeling
– River Cruise with Hippos
– Sunset Safari
– Day Safari
– Sevens Rugby Tournament
– Eating the TimeOut Market out of house and home
– Vela Thanksgiving
– Whales listening to SZA with us
– Mola Mola! Seals! Whales! Dolphins! Cape of Good Hope!
– Hiking Table Mountain
– MALL TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICA HELLLLLLOOOOOO
– Dropping Ava’s iPhone off of the dock and into a watery grave

and hours and hours and hours of watch, sail training, laughter, and dance parties in between. < 3

But Siena closes her entry in the Vela book by saying, “While I may not remember each and every detail, it is vital to remember that the character that I have become through so many trials and joys on Vela will be immortal.” Vela Fall 2023 Crew, it has been my distinct pleasure to sail across the Indian Ocean with you all. I am better for knowing each and every last one of you, and I can’t wait to see where life takes each of you. You’ll be great. I’ll see you out there.