Location: Prickly Bay, Grenada

What a day to be skipper, for oh what a day it was! I got everyone up (except Sydnei, who was cheffin’ up something de-friggin-licious in the galley) with “Fireflies” by Owl City and other catchy tunes. Let’s just say “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow was stuck in everyone’s heads all day. After a filling breakfast, everyone was shuttled to the shore and then into a bus, where we drove to the trailhead of Mt. Qua Qua. This was a great hike for more reasons than that we weren’t being shepherded slowly up a trail by a sexist tour guide. It was a beautiful windy day, and, although it was a bit chilly and cloudy, we could see for miles, and the wind cooled us down as we made our way up the trail. When I say “we made our way up,” I really mean we slipped and slid up and down a buttered playground slide for 3 hours.

There was more mud than I think any of us had ever seen in our entire lives. At one point, Sydnei, who had up until that point been trying her hardest to not get any mud on her shoes, stepped in a mud pit and stepped out with one fewer shoe. She had passed the point of no return. Mud aside, it was a wonderfully quiet hike, and we all had ample time and space to think/sing/laugh to ourselves – but we also shared plenty of laughs together. There was a huge boulder at the top (a joy for Annika and me to climb!) from which we could see a huge view of Grenada while we chowed down on packed sandwiches and carrots for lunch. I stayed back for a while after everyone left so that I could sing sea shanties down the trail the whole way down. After we finally got back to the boat, ocean showers and naps occurred before a delicious pasta dinner (thanks again, Squidnei!). The cherry on top of the day was a golden sunset (they never get old!). For squeeze, I asked everyone if they would go with aliens voluntarily and what their weapon of choice would be in the zombie apocalypse. Great answers across the board, and we did our count-off in record speed.

To our dear shipmate Sofia, although you are temporarily separated from us because of covid, you are VERY much with us in spirit. Speaking for the whole boat, we are with you and quite impatiently awaiting your hasty recovery and subsequent return. You are resilient, and we all admire you greatly for it, but we heard you have four pillows where you’re at, and so we’re slightly jealous. Your energy is the best medicine for all of our daily woes. You are our beloved comrade, mate, resident comedian, and this boat is simply incomplete without you. I also need your help writing songs poems, and I really miss making an extra cup of coffee. Hurry back, awesome one <3

To my family, I love and miss you to the moon. The lack of connectivity weighs really heavy on me sometimes, and I have serious FOMO in regards to your escapades on land. I am so proud of all of you. I particularly miss my grandparents, who I so wish could see the man I am becoming out here in these ephemeral waters. I know that my Abuela Rachel, whom I love tremendously, is guiding me from wherever she is now. I wish they could see how, although I rise and fall with the tide, sometimes dramatically dipping low from incredible heights, I am pushing further forward into the unknown than I have ever before. Oh, how I love this unknown. I live for this. Sailing is my new love, and I can’t wait to introduce her to the family. But really, I believe I am the first Bickford / Cohen to take to the sea in what may be hundreds of years, and the thought of bringing my family tree back to the oceans exhilarates me beyond measure. Being landlocked is overrated, anyway. This world is more rewarding than I could’ve ever imagined.

I recently learned about a great man by the name of Irving Johnson who lived a life of sailing and adventure. When talking about his seven voyages around the world, each totaling about 18 months, he said something that really stuck with me. To paraphrase a bit, he said, “Most people would think of a voyage like that and say, ’18 months out of your life how could you do it?’ But they’re thinking about it all wrong! It’s not a year and a half OUT of your life. It’s a year and a half IN your life!”. It instantly resonated with me and my experience aboard Vela. To speak about time at sea like that as if it were a waste of space in your life is malarkey! Hogwash! Balderdash! I am nonplussed at even the thought of it! Gadzooks, I say! For shame! A fie on them! For this is life. This is as real as it gets! Never before have I felt more at home than on this here schooner, and I could not be more proud of my crew. We have been blessed with impeccable staff, and the conditions are just right for an unforgettable semester. Thank heavens for the ocean, the sun, the moon, and the laughter in between.

To finish, I will transcribe a poem I wrote recently:

There’s nothing wrong with stillness
A gentle glass cover on a deep mystery
and a vessel for us to love, which provides.
Some mornings, when celestial light hits
the distant waters, I ponder my lack of tears
Just let me cry at this. It’s been so long.
Yes, to squabbles, an ode to a fight or two
We are nothing if not shipmates
Our elbows saunter past old, weary, tiresome times
There is a joy with stillness. Some nights at the helm,
my hands, blind and loving, take over, and I gaze
at the ever seen. This ocean could swallow me whole,
and my resting place would be in the eye of a whale
or perhaps even the shell of a hermit, wise and untouched
if lucky. There is a sadness in stillness, but oh how I adore it.
It lulls me to sleep and reminds me that
without that sadness, I would find no joy
in a wave crashing against the hull,
and our mother spraying our young, true faces

Yours till the cat meows,
Signing off on this divine day,
Bound to change even more,
By the next time you hear from me,
Skipper Tolo


1) Last known photo of Sharp’s mud-less shoes
2) A completely intentioned pushup by Ryan
3) A sequence of pure poetry (cucumber proposal) by Annika to Ana at the summit
4) She said yes! Now put that cucumber on her finger!” 5) “Albar” uel” – a beautiful boat anchored close to