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Location: Civitavecchia,Italy

Surprise! I’ve taken over the blog one last time.

Well, it finally arrived, the end of our trip. Along with it comes a weird feeling that I can only describe as melancholy gratitude. At this point, we’re all exhausted after cramming in as much walking (and cleaning!) into our day as possible, and so many emotions are boiling beneath the surface, waiting for a crack before they can suddenly vent out. Every goodbye feels like one such crack as the wonderful, beautiful whole of our community on Vela disperses one by one.

Despite the undercurrent of sadness, we all feel this day as a call to reflect on the journey that we all just finished. Of everybody who stepped foot on board 70 days ago in Tortola, not a single person is left, seeing as how we’ve all grown and changed so much. It’s amazing watching your friends come out of their shells, watching them all grow in confidence and character. Seeing how kind words and kind acts between everybody become commonplace and watching lasting friendships blossom. A few days ago, during our after-dinner squeeze, we all shared what the biggest lesson we’ve learned was. For some, it was learning how to truly appreciate the beauty and wonder of the ocean and our environment. Others learned how to trust, how to put themselves out into the world and make friends, what type of community they want, and how to start treating themselves and others with love and kindness. We learned how to value our time and to take advantage of every opportunity, even if it seemed difficult or uncomfortable. All of us agreed that being here, taking this opportunity to live in the moment and challenge ourselves for something greater, was meant to be. There’s no other way that our lives could have happened, and the past 70 days are going to be with us forever.

Many of us started this program never having stepped foot on a sailboat before, nor having ever gone scuba diving or leaving North America. Now, so many of us have realized the passions and callings that we have- some of us are yearning to finish up our scuba education to become dive instructors. Others are encouraged to seek opportunities and education for skippering boats. All of us have a greater desire to learn about and appreciate the whole world.

Our appreciation also extends to the time that we spent with each other, making memories and seeing some truly amazing things. A few highlights were catching the birth of a sperm whale on film, watching a devil ray do backflips across the surface of the water and then diving in to swim around with him, swimming with pods of dolphins around the Azores, watching Africa and Europe emerge out of a haze of Sahara dust as all of us completed our first ocean crossing, and spending meaningful time together at all hours of the day, whether on watch or off. In every moment, for every event, we knew that we had people to share and celebrate with.

It’s hard to leave, hard to see people go, but it’s made better knowing how wonderful every person on board is. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here and to have shared this journey with all of you- crew, staff, friends, and family. While we’re all at a moment where a leg of our journey is ending, it just means that the next is about to begin. After a little bit of rest, I’m looking forward to taking on the world, knowing that I can always count on the friends I’ve made and the skills I’ve learned to carry me through. For the rest of the crew, I hope you feel the same way.

Fair winds and following seas!

Duncan.