Location: Underway to Mauritius

It is day 6 (?) of our journey to Mauritius, and the days are beginning to blur with an ease that I’ve only ever found on passage. Students are witnessing the fickleness of time and other concepts previously thought of as pretty concrete – like which hours are for waking vs. sleeping, what constitutes a “bowl meal”, ramen as a non-breakfast food, music that makes sense to play at sunrise (for watch team 1 it is always pitbull), and so much more. On a trip like this, with surf days in Bali, diving on the untouched reefs of Indonesia, South African Safaris, and beach days on the uninhabited islands of Coco’s Keeling and lunchtime swims with their wild dolphins and sharks, it’s no surprise that the website doesn’t spend too much time advertising what life looks like on passage. In the blogs of this 2-week stretch, it may sound monotonous at times – days dictated by hours of watch with nothing to keep you entertained but each other, and the only noteworthy news to share being the meals had that day. But that’s not the full picture.

The passage is the most truly unique part of this experience. Unfortunately, it is also the part most difficult to convey in words. It’ll be the part of the trip you have the most questions about and receive the least answers, or at least the least satisfying ones. (Seriously, what does croc’d and socked mean?) When you read a blog spending 75% of its word count discussing spaghetti and red sauce, you may imagine your loved one cruising toward boredom-induced cabin fever, or at least resembling Squidward when he moves into a gated community on that one episode of Spongebob. But what is sometimes glanced over in our retellings of the day are the little moments or the ones that have been habituated from profound to mundane. You may not hear about Griffin’s convincing Fergalicious choreography, Zoe’s referring to the sails as “those big guys over there”, footsteps that could only match the pace of Audrey’s speedwalk, night watches that convince Finn to use the term “dramalicious”, Cristian’s spot-on impersonations, jokes that make you think you’re about to pee your pants (or actually pee your pants in the case of Lucia), Lina’s French accent that could trick anyone in the 14 arrondissements, Ruby’s hallucination of Smash, Nico’s quips, Jackson’s dramatic retelling of his dreams, Wes’ fluency in the language of Fortnite, Ben’s shocking ability to one-man watch team, Ava’s constant dance parties of 1 and watch walkout songs, Kasey’s documentarian photography, Siena’s talent for returning flying fish to the sea, Daniel’s perfectly timed one-liners, Ayden’s tailored outfits earning him the title of Ken, and any other number of happenings on board that trigger student Allie’s squeak wheeze laugh. You could imagine sitting in a bare room for four straight hours with six other people who were strangers just 40 days ago – you would never guess that that would earn the title of your daily appreciation at a squeeze. That you would laugh until your stomach hurt and then transition into discussing something you’re scared to tell your friends at home. That the hours would fly by with nothing but ourselves to keep us entertained. That a pair of fuzzy cheetah cat ears would become a wardrobe staple for everyone on Vela (seriously, you can Where’s Waldo spot them in every blog photo). Some, like Lucia, will sit on other people’s watch just for more time to soak it all in. I’m sorry that we sometimes fail to keep you updated with all of these things and that when we do, the updates may inspire more questions than they answer. In truth, it’s shifting what we view as habit and what is noteworthy. On our first few watches, the stars would be a focal point of conversation and certainly draw some eyes away from their watch-keeping duties (but who could blame them, with a crystal clear Milky Way littered with shooting stars?) – now, with the same National Geographic cover-worthy sky over us each night, it’s lucky to receive an extended glance. The sea has been growing rougher over the past few days, and what is currently a hot topic will soon pale in comparison to the sea south of Madagascar. With hours to tell you about swimming with whale sharks and hiking Table Mountain, you may not be clued in on every dishy pit devolving into a fit of laughter, impromptu dance-off, or notable helm near U-turn – but they’re the moments we all have with one another, and only with one another to understand the weird truly and the wild of this adventure.

The passage is my favorite part of life on Vela, with the first longer passage being my favorite moment of each trip with students. Watching the transition from crossing off a mental calendar of days to go, to enjoying it but still craving that shore-side ice cream, to not wanting to arrive at all, content to exist in a community fully self-contained, unobstructed by anything that could be happening on land, one that I’m not sure could be replicated elsewhere if we tried. As we near the halfway point of the trip, the consensus is that it is all going by too fast, so we start lingering longer by the companionway after we’re relieved by the next watch team, decide to chef a dessert for everyone with no particular cause for celebration in mind, and write down these little moments in our journals before they get superseded by the next one.