Location: Cocoa Bay, Barbuda

This morning, I woke up the shipmates with some cheery music to celebrate our safe arrival at a beautiful new location. Everyone was quite exhausted after some very big days, so some people had a slightly more difficult than normal time getting out of their bunks. Riley, our incredible Bosun yesterday, was especially hard to rouse since she had only slept four hours the night before due to a combination of pie-making and anchor watch. However, I was greeted by smiles after informing them of the exciting events of the day: lots of diving and good food too, of course, because it was Thanksgiving! The glorious day of eating started with Will’s banana pancakes. We enjoyed our delicious breakfast surrounded by the turquoise waters of Cocoa Bay. It truly is so beautiful here, and I know I, for one, felt very excited and proud remembering how we managed to get here safely during the student-led passage yesterday.

After breakfast, we hunkered down in the salon with our new best friends: nautical charts of the Chesapeake Bay. Our three-hour Navigation Master exam is the day after tomorrow, so we are all working extra hard to prepare. Calum guided us through some final practice exercises, and then we worked independently until the first dive group headed out to the reef. While they were diving, many of us left on the boat continued to diligently practice our navigational skills. I had some time to talk to my parents and cat, which was much appreciated. Then, the first dive group came back, and we got ready for lunch. The chefs fed us some yummy couscous and fennel. It was healthy and light for a great pre-thanksgiving meal.

After lunch, we had a debate in leadership class about whaling. Ash assigned us to different interest groups: Bequians (a local island that has a whaling quota of two humpback whales a year by traditional methods), the International Whaling Commission, Greenpeace, and Sea Shepard. Greenpeace thinks that whales are people too. They are not. They are whales. (thank you, Margeaux). We all had a great time stepping into different roles in the debate and seeing other peoples’ points of view on the topic. After leadership, I finally got to go diving!

Isa, Xonel, Julia, Sophie, Kiara, Luke, and I got ready to head out to the dive site. I had the exciting challenge of starting and driving Exy by myself and then had a great time leading our late afternoon dive. We explored the shallow wall and saw some beautiful fish and coral. A true highlight of my dive was spotting a nurse shark in a cave and pointing it out to everyone. We were all very excited to see some megafauna and surfaced very contently to a beautiful purple and pink sunset. I had a wonderful time driving Exy back to Ocean Star with Xonel and Isa singing at the top of our lungs and having some of the biggest laughs I’ve had in a while. After cleaning our kits, we all hosed off and put on slightly nicer than usual clothes for the big event: dinner.

In the meantime, Will, Jodie, and Calum (and pie maestros Sophie and Ruth-Riley) were in and out of the galley all day, working incredibly hard to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Potatoes were peeled during NavMaster practice, a pie crust was rolled out and shaped during Leadership, and Yorkshire Puddings were prepared while everyone else was showering on deck. An incredible meal with more dishes than anyone could have imagined was produced, and it was truly extraordinary. Will and his co-chefs deserve an award. They put out a delicious meal of chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots, spaghetti squash, stuffing, vegetarian stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, Yorkshire pudding, *and* marsh-mellows (sweet potatoes were missing at the grocery store). Riley prepared four amazing apple pies and delicious gluten- and dairy-free berry crumble. Sophie made a huge pumpkin pie complete with “Dough-cean Star” and the whole Leeward island chain as decoration. Dinner was so delicious, and we all gorged ourselves on everything in a true Thanksgiving style. While many of us were missing our families and normal Thanksgiving traditions, the dinner brought a big smile to everyone’s face, and it was a pleasure to see.

I am so thankful to get to be in nature with wonderful people during this time when so many people are stuck at home, often alone. In a time when so many people are missing and grieving loved ones, and the state of the world feels so unsure, I feel so lucky to be healthy, happy, and to have a life filled with incredible people. I am thankful that my family is safe and healthy. To my parents, Thomas, Miriam, and any other friends or family at home who may be reading this, I love you so much and miss you all very dearly. While I wish I could be with you tonight, popping some bubbly and dancing to the B52s, I know we will all be reunited soon. Love, Zoe.

Captions (this was truly a marathon):
1-2: Charting!
3-7: Images from the first dive (featuring: Riley, Mike x2, Will, and Calum)
8: Julia and I on the afternoon dive doing the shark hand signal
9: Nurse shark caudal fin!
10: Calum sending dinner up the gopher hatch
11: Pre-dinner dancing craziness
12-13: Chefs and their wonderful meal!
14-16: Us enjoying dinner
17-19: Pies and pie ladies
20: Happy Margeaux, Xonel, and Julia
21: Happy girls