Location: Moyo Island

BULA!! Oh my goodness, today was the BEST day ever- AND it was Elexia’s 21st birthday, so we had a party. A WHALESHARK PARTY!!! And everyone was invited!!! I was the lucky gal who had watch with her when the clock struck midnight and her special day began. We all woke up super duper early, munched on delicious muffins made by Sierra, and headed out on the dinghies led by me, the head licensed dinghy captain (it’s not actually one of the student leadership roles I just really, really love riding on the dinghies and wanted to feel important), to go and meet up with the whale sharks. We were all a little nervous that they wouldn’t show up after manta king had raised and crushed our hopes and dreams in Fiji, but luckily, thanks to Lexi’s birthday girl magic- THEY SHOWED UP!! And boy, did they put on a show. They were swooping up from the murky depths and coming right up to us to say hello. It was probably one of the most magical experiences in my entire life (besides meeting the manta king). Everyone was shocked at how close they were and how ginormous their star-speckled body was.

After that incredible time with our newest friends, we headed back to Vela to pick up anchor and get underway to Moyo. We worked on our research projects and sunbathed until lunch, which was a charcuterie board with goldfish crackers, eggs, cheese, and cookies- by far one of my favorites! After munching, we updated our diving paperwork and participated in Justin and Ethan’s leadership presentation about the changes and transitions we experience throughout our lives. I thought their presentation was very fitting for the times we are in as everyone starts gettin’ a lil sadder with each day that our program gets closer to ending.

This trip has introduced change into our everyday lives, and the adaptations and lessons gained from the challenges and adventures encountered both on and off Vela have shaped us into the leaders we are today. I’m proud to lead beside such hardworking, patient, kind, and hilarious crew mates that I have grown to love and learn from throughout the duration of this voyage. We’re all pretty bummed about leaving, but it helps to know that we’re all taking a little piece from each and every person on this boat with us, as the influence we have on the overall experience has been one of pure joy and fun that I know we will never forget.

For dinner, Sierra whipped up a boat favorite: her famous chicken and dumpling soup. It was phenomenal as usual, and we almost didn’t have enough room in our full, happy bellies for Elexia’s BOMB birthday cake. We sang “Happy Birthday,” and Babs gave her the notebook full of custom goldfish drawings we all signed for her. For squeeze tonight, I passed out the postcards that Elexia passed out to all of us to write to our future selves during the first week of the voyage, and my question was, “What would you tell the past version of yourself that wrote this card?” It opened the conversation with a bunch of laughs, a couple of tears, and above all else, an environment where we all soaked in the loving, happy vibes we have created and thrived in these past 72 days.

After the squeeze, Smash read us a story about a teacher and a student and the value of kind words from the people around you. This story was to introduce us to a SeaMester tradition of writing cards detailing the qualities we love and appreciate from each person to everyone on the crew. We have a little less than a week to write everyone’s cards, and I know that we’re all gonna be a complete mess (in a good way) on the plane ride home when we read them. This group of people is truly such a unique and wonderful crew, and I feel so lucky to know and love everyone on board. I know this special bond between all of us will last a super long time, and hopefully, we can see each other as much as possible on reunion trips (*cough* *cough* SKIMESTER).

It was my absolute pleasure to be skipper on this magical day. While it is with a very heavy heart that I say goodbye to the blog for the last time, I hope that somewhere out there, there’s someone else reading these blogs, dreaming about an adventure of a lifetime like this. I’ve spent the last two years of my life reading dozens of blogs on the websites, hoping and dreaming that I would be able to join this exact voyage. My dream came true this summer, and if you are reading this, thinking about whether or not you should click that “apply” button, I say do it. Click that button and start the journey that has taken me to places both in the world and within myself that I never knew existed. This trip has given me people in my life that I know will be there forever and experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today.

Thank you for everything, Vela,
(Lead Licensed Dinghy Captain)

p.s. Tom had me write the weekly proof of life report to “the big cheeses,” and it was the highlight of my entire day, so BULA to Mike, Travis, Kris, Jim, and Kimmi.