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Location: Atlantic Ocean

This morning, my day (along with Will, Kaden, Tom, Arielle, Frida, and Christina) began at 3:30, with a brisk wake-up notifying us of a dark grey cloud looming overhead. When each of us emerged from the companionway, we were greeted with strong winds and sea spray mixing with rain as it came over the cap rail. Watch Team 1, led by Nick and Jake, were busy “injecting adrenaline straight into their veins” in the words of Jake — for the layperson, that means sail handling at night by dropping the Main Staysail in preparation for the storm on the horizon. Watch Team 2 continues to be a good luck charm, I write while actively knocking on the wood around me as the squall cleared and its strong winds stuck around – and let me tell you, we were CRUISING. Our speed crept into the double digits, a rare and exhilarating feat, as we continued our beeline for French Guiana. We spent part of the morning marveling at sailing in general and how a few sheets of canvas managed to get our speedway past that of our Caterpillar engine’s capacity without vibrating the engine room so much that we feared for our fillings. Although the waves and wind have been strong forces, there is a peace to sailing these past few days that motoring could never rival. At the helm, you can strike the perfect balance – the wind against the sails and water pressing steadily against the keel, holding us on a straight course that carves through the waves, not unlike the pelagic fish around us. Turning up a bit closer to the wind, seeing the ripples in the sail increase and the starboard side lift out of the sea as the wind coaxes you closer to its source. Then, bearing away, watching the canvas smooth out and deck level off, ushering in an immediately calming effect to the entire world we live in. It’s a dance that we engage in for hours at a time and a direct connection to our environment that isn’t replicable elsewhere. It easily becomes routine, and the routine goes unnoticed – but as we near the end of our long passages of this voyage, it’s nice to reflect on the wonders of it all. An unchanging horizon. The rare bird. Sail handling in the rain. Getting in the zone on the helm and seeing hours slip into days until the whole thing blurs out of focus. It only exists here, and island hopping in the Caribbean is going to be exciting and colorful and pure fun, but I, for one, will miss the haze of passage days.

The sun rose without fanfare or declaration this morning, just minutes after the last sliver of a fingernail moon came into view. A black sky streaked with stars still visible at 6:55 this morning led to a confusing watch. The sky turned to pastels, largely camouflaged by clouds, and night shifted today as the moon and the sun rose together. Watch Team 3 came to relieve us, and we returned to our beds rocking peacefully until we awoke for a Pasta Salad lunch made by Christina, Tom, and Sophia. At this point in time, we learned of a deeply tragic loss that occurred in the wee hours of the morning – the loss of the dishy pits overboard. Then the students had Oceanography – where I hear they learned about El Nino and La Nina and various ocean currents and, I’m sure, loads of other scientific things that will serve as ample bolstering to the pirate stories they tell upon their return. Then, we had Leadership, which is the class Nick and I teach. Today, we talked about how the trip is over halfway done, and the students journaled about how they want the rest of their trip to look – things they regret not doing so far, what they want to achieve, how they’ve changed, and how they wish to change. Their entries were private, so for all I know, they listed their dream Starbucks order for day 91, but if so, they looked deep in thought over that cappuccino. Then, each of us signed the Vela Mission Statement that the students drafted in the prior class, stating their goals and promises to each other as a group. Their sentiments varied from “Make this experience a story worth telling” to “To create a family-like community of respect, inclusivity, and positivity.”. Benno and Kaden led most of today’s class with a presentation and discussion on their chapter, Understanding Others. They discussed our differences and strengths in diversity of thought and background and concluded with a fun game of charades. Then, Conor and Laszlo presented on Devil’s Island, our next stop, which we should be arriving at tomorrow morning!! It is indeed, as Maddy’s dad pointed out pre-trip, another penal colony, our 4th one so far. It is a place few will venture to in their lifetimes – with roaming monkeys and parrots and bull shark-infested waters (don’t worry, there’s no swimming!). So, what will we be doing on this island? Our brief stop has one major itinerary item, the Leadership class’ Challenge Course.

What is the Challenge Course? Depends on who you ask. There are some whispers that the students will be dropped off on a deserted island and forced to forage and build a shelter and survive for 24 hours. I legitimately do not know how this rumor was started, and unfortunately for the Survivor fans among us, bears little truth to the reality of the Challenge Course. In actuality, it is a mix of a scavenger hunt, and Amazing Race meets Elementary School Field Day Event Extravaganza. The students will be divided into teams to hunt for clues to different challenges scattered across the island, hoping to be the first team to successfully complete each challenge and make it to the finish without killing each other or any local monkeys in the process. It’s sure to be a blast or hysterical to watch at a bare minimum, and I, for one, am very excited to get to shore and plan the day’s trials and tribulations. Then, the students will enjoy some beach time and a shoreside sunset before we continue making our way to Barbados.

See you in another 23 days, somewhere deep in the Caribbean sun, hopefully, no more sunburnt than I am now. Sending all my love back home to Duden and Mummy Cat. Good Luck on med school apps, Nicks! Chris, I know you aren’t reading this but I do tell my watch team stories about your adventures from time to time to time. Emma Lindberg, I hope you aren’t sentimental blog reading again, but if you are, see you son ish! Things are going well here. I’ll speak to you all soon.

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