Location: Portsmouth, Dominica

– Hey there!! Skipper here. Today was a wild one. It was a lot of fun, and as land was being sighted for the first time in 2 weeks, lots were going through our heads. As the voice of the day, I’ll do my best to tell you all a bit about it.

Just like every day throughout passage, the day started with watch. Today, my watch team was on the 4 to 8 watch. All three rotations have their highlights, but the 4 to 8 has to be my favorite. Having the 4 to 8 means starting the morning in the dark of night and ending with the full orb of the sun (or Forb, as Carolyn calls it). Every 4 to 8, each member of watch team 1 tries to guess the exact time that we will be able to see Forb. Sometimes, we never see the full sun because the sky is too cloudy (Izzy won that day). As the clouds covering the ocean are undescribably magnificent, this is not a bad thing in the slightest. As skipper, my task of the day was to take photos of the day. Just like my last skipper day, this quickly turned into a photo session of the watch team. We got some pretty iconic ones.

After watch, I went straight to bed (as wake-ups during passage are at 12). While I and much of watch team 1 was asleep, watch team 3 and others watched Pirates of the Caribbean.

Today, Izzy was head chef!!! Along with her sous chefs, Emy and Anna, she prepared a delicious tuna salad. The thought of canned tuna was met with much skepticism, but everyone loved it in the end. Halfway into lunch (at 11:42), there were shouts of “land!” It was true!!! On the horizon, you could just barely see the peaks and divets of land. It was amazing!!!! It took some time to make it out as it was so faint, but once you did, it was such a wonderful feeling! For the last 18 days, all we could make out was the ocean, sky, and clouds. Seeing anything besides that was remarkable. With the watch cycle and everything, you very quickly get used to passage. Seeing land for the first time was like being reminded that land existed. Regardless, it was an amazing moment for everyone.

After lunch, we had oceanography, and 15 minutes later, we had leadership led by Mia and Amelia.

I had been below deck for a while, so coming up a couple of hours later was crazy! In the few hours that we had been below deck, land had gotten even closer!! At this point, you could make out houses and even windmills, which were insane. Anna and Izzy had gotten their hair braided back in Gran Canaria, and they decided that they would keep their hair in braids for the entirety of the passage. Upon sighting land, they took them out with the help of myself and Maya. That was an event, for sure.

As we got closer to land, we began taking down sails and preparing to anchor as well as preparing to put the boat to bed. It was at this point that everyone came up on deck. Land got closer and closer and closer. It was raining as we pulled in, and there were a lot of perpetual clouds rimming the mountains, which added to the mystery and excitement of the new place. People were singing. People were laughing, and everyone was happy! Throughout the crossing, the staff had been promising a distinct smell of land; we didn’t believe them until today. It smelled like fire, dirt, moss, and something deeper. Anyways, it was definitely noticeable, and I regret the skeptics.

As we got closer to land, a little motorboat drove up to us and shouted, “Welcome to Dominica.” It occurred to me that he was the first new person we had seen in some time. Weird. Also! Calum shook our hands and congratulated us on the crossing! I think those two moments especially really helped to set in that we had just crossed the Atlantic ocean.

For dinner, we had a curry! It was delicious. My squeeze question of the day was, “what was your favorite passage snack.” Answers included ramen (a popular one, obviously), broth, lemons, chocolate, tea, crazy leftover mixes, dates, and Emy’s razzberry chocolates (Lindt is the best brand, don’t worry, Mom, I still haven’t strayed from this, truth). After clean up, we jumped into the water for the first time since the Atlantic swim. A few people were stung by jellyfish (talk about a full-circle moment).

It’s so weird to be done with passage. We hadn’t exactly been on passage for that long. Put into perspective, 16 days is not really that long. Still, the 16 days were such a different experience than anything many of us had ever experienced. It felt like months and days at the same time. I know that is an over-used way to explain events, but that is really the best way to explain the experience. Time passes so strangely. I am excited to be done with the crossing. In a way, the Caribbean is what we have been leading up to. But at the same time, I think I will always miss the crossing.

The closeness you feel with everyone is difficult to match in any other situation. On top of that, the completion of passage means that the trip is almost over. This is my last blog, so I’ll try to put this into words the best I can. I’m so so extremely thankful for all of the great friendships I’ve made on this voyage, all of the adventures, all of the things I’ve seen, all of the lessons I’ve learned, all of the hardships, and all of the little moments in between. These are all things you can get out of life regardless, but the experience of the Vela feels like a condensed, highly saturated version of a lifetime. I guess that’s what we mean when we say that this experience feels like it’s so much longer than it truly is. I have felt myself grow so much these last three months, and I know many others feel the same. I know that I’m not going to really comprehend the changes until I’ve gotten home. It’s been such an honor to grow with everyone here, and I look forward to the next however many days (I’m through with counting). Thank you to everyone here. This trip wouldn’t be the same without any of you.

Thank you to the staff for supporting us through this experience. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. You have inspired me in ways that are hard to explain. Thank you to all of my fellow students. Some (all) of you are ridiculously weird. Listening to your stories has only made me want to hear more. I love you all very much. I was originally going to go into more detail about favorite memories, but I genuinely cannot pick. We probably won’t remember most of what has happened, and there are probably memories that we have already forgotten. Thank you for all of them.

Hi to Mom, Dad, Sam, Oma, Opa, Buppa, Uncle Kolja, Youri, Andreas, Kristof, Aunt Laurel, Uncle Joe, lil’E, Horst, and Tichi. I hope you all are doing well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!