Location: Civitavecchia, Italy

Captain Jack lead his team from the helm last night as we weighed anchors, and set course for Civitavecchia, 120nm away. The navigators, Keally, Savanna, and Ines, had plotted a course based on the weather forecast and shipping routes, applying the charting skills they’ve recently picked up. Josh had the engine room and vessel systems under control, making sure we had enough hydraulic power to lift two heavy anchors and enough fresh water to last us 48 hrs. Watch leaders Anna, Paige, and Ceci prepped their teams for setting the mainsail, main staysail, and jib for a downwind run through the night. First, Mate Jessi was keeping a watchful eye on her deck operations while ensuring safety and good communication were being maintained.

I saw a meme once that had a despondent boy sitting beside his mother, saying, “Mum, I want to be a sailor when I grow up.”
“Well, son, you’ll have to choose. You can’t do both…” she replied. I can remember being tickled by this, agreeing that in this day and age, becoming a sailor means opting out of the conventional real world, following a different path with childlike enthusiasm.

And now, at the end of our student lead passage, our students can say that they’ve proven otherwise. By becoming sailors, they have grown up in ways they could never have imagined possible before being tested by the wind and the waves. The rigors of boat life have shifted their perspectives, their understanding of living and working towards common goals, their ideas of community, and the different meanings of the word responsibility. They’ve just taken charge of Vela and delivered her inhabitants across the Tyrrhenian Sea from Sardinia to the Boot of Italy. For some, this has been an epic tick on the bucket list, and yet for others, this has been a life-altering experience, where pre-determined career paths have been reconsidered. A few weeks ago, Jessi, Paige, and Anna asked me at what point somebody is considered a sailor? I supposed it was when it became something they actively pursued. Maybe it was when a certain level of competence or self-confidence was attained. Regardless, I think it’s safe at this point for each of the shipmates to call themselves sailors.

1. Student Leaders, Ceci (Watch Team 2), Jack (Captain), Jessi (1st Mate), Anna (Watch Team 3), and Paige (Watch Team 1), discussing a plan for coming alongside the dock
2. Lead Engineer, Josh, engineering
3. Head chef, Shona, head cheffing
4. Courtney using the far-lookers to check out the empty cruise ships lined up along the wharf