Location: Peter Island - West End, Tortola
My shipmates and I awoke on the final day of our voyage to a long list of chores that had to be done to keep our good ship in order for the next group of Seamester participants. Bunks needed cleaning; decks needed scrubbing, lines needed coiling, and unfortunately, bags needed packing. We got to work after a breakfast of cereal and began checking off items on our to-do list. We started by packing our bags in order to make it easy to clean below deck. The galley and heads got scrubbed, as did the salon and our bunks. At midday, we motored from our anchorage off Peter Island to the place where our voyage had begun 19 days prior, West End, Tortola.
My shipmates and I were greeted at West End by a squall that doused us with a refreshing shower as we readied lines in order to tie up to the dock. Ashley took the helm with our intrepid captain Monika close by giving directions as we maneuvered to dock. Within a few minutes of entering the harbor, our lines were cleated, and we had secured our ship at the dock for the last time. Our boat appreciation chores continued after a lunch of fresh bread and cold cuts from shore. The deck of Ocean Star needed to be washed, as did her hull. Our work continued until the latter part of the afternoon when Ocean Star was finally ready for her next accompaniment of privileged passengers.
The night held some festivities to mark the end of our incredible journey. Shortly before, after spending time in the shops along the water in West End and showering, we convened for our last night out as a group. Before heading to the Fish n’ Lime restaurant, we joined hands for our final squeeze. I was to pose the question for the evening, as part of my responsibilities as skipper for the day. I asked each person what moment from the voyage was their favorite and why. Answers ranged from hitchhiking in Saba to night diving on a ghostly shipwreck. The answers showed the breadth of our experience aboard Ocean Star. My moment was hard to choose. Over the past 19 days, I had raised the sails on a beautiful schooner. I steered her as the sun rose, SCUBA dove inside of a century-old shipwreck, witnessed dazzling Caribbean sunrises and sunsets, and spent time with a group of truly incredible shipmates. I decided to go with the first time that we raised the sails as we departed the BVI towards the beginning of our voyage. That moment for me epitomizes the Seamester experience. My shipmates and I filled with glee hoisted the sails and watched as the wind filled them. It was one of those moments where one could not help but realize the incredible adventure that they were on and the incredible gift that it was.
After we squeezed, we departed by dinghy for Fish n Lime. We dined on meals of Mahi Mahi, Chicken, and Steak before hitting the dance floor for one last hurrah. It was indeed a night filled with laughs, as was to be expected from our crew. I walked away with an injured ankle after trying to execute a move that was perhaps too ambitious on the dance floor and lots of great memories.
I went to bed, reflecting on how lucky I am to have participated in such a fantastic caper. I look to the future with a rekindled spirit of adventure that makes me seek more experiences as fulfilling as my short time aboard the good ship Ocean Star. As the final student skipper for our voyage, I leave you with a quote that, despite being a cliche, encapsulates my thoughts as I head home.
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
–Winnie the Pooh
Christian (Chip) Wierda