Location: Civitavecchia, Italy

Day 69 of our 70-day passage aboard Vela started the same as any other. I woke up for my skipper duties at 6:30 to find Amanda alone in the kitchen stirring Bisquick. The chefs had snoozed their alarms one too many times and were sleeping soundly, oblivious to the toils of our amazing provisioner and galley gal Amanda. I went to wake up Gigi, our head chef and was greeted by a panicked stare. She raced over to wake up Laura as I singsonged a wake-up to Kayla, our other bunkmate. As they all tumbled through the water-tight door into the kitchen, I prepped a cup of coffee and sat down with my Master of Yachts 200 Gross Tonnes Limited textbook, studying last minute for our final exam of PSCT class. Gigi, Kayla, and Laura worked on biscuits and gravy (a recipe test driven by me initially), and I tried to remember the difference between the height of the tide and the rise of the tide. Breakfast turned out great, and over our biscuits, Abi and I decided we would go for the tides exam right after breakfast. We all sat down in the salon to write course evaluations, and then Abi and I laid down on the floor of the chart house to test our knowledge of tides and currents. I tearfully reworked a problem I had erased, decided the gulf stream was probably an ocean current (good guess), and turned it in. After this, I was sent to go clean my bunk and pack my bags to return home. Funny how it’s harder to pack after two months of accumulating souvenirs! When I finished, it was sweeping every corner, scrubbing the soles, washing top sides, cleaning cabinets, fixing heads, and putting the boat to bed. Now writing this after everything’s been tidied up and packed away (Abi and I thankfully passed our tides exam with flying colors), people are scattered around the deck writing last-minute cards to the rest of the crew or calling cabs for tomorrow. This all has to be done before we sign off the crew list one final time to enjoy dinner together with a view of Vela and the harbor of Civitavecchia.

So this is it. As we write cards, pack bags, or try to put into a blog post emotions dating back 70 days, many of us are struck with how unreal this all feels. To think I came on here 70 days ago and now have to leave the boat I call home is devastating. How do I return to the same life I led as a different person? Will my friends accept the ways I’ve changed and grown this summer? Will my family? I came on this boat an anxious pre-med student who only knew she loved sailing and thought the best way to continue sailing was to pursue a career that would fund this passion of mine. Never before this boat had, I considered pursuing a life on the water, doing the things I love most first, and making enough money to continue doing and studying these innate passions of mine. I came on this boat fearing the ocean, thinking any time I jumped in during a lull in our Atlantic crossing or dove in the warm waters of the Caribbean, some marine animal was going to come to bite me. Now I can say I am an advanced open water diver who is too curious and entranced in all functions of the ocean to be afraid of the creatures whose home I’m glimpsing. I’ve been struggling for most of the trip to fathom how I could return to Stony Brook, NY, after spending a summer learning and growing on a boat. I’d already started to become disillusioned with my course work and choice of major, and now it would pale even more in comparison to the bright teachings of oceanography and professional crew certifications. So yesterday, I decided to change my major to Marine Vertebrate Biology. While I’m sad to leave, I’ve never been so excited to go back to school and load up my schedule with as many higher-level science classes as I can take. I’ve never been so proud to tell others about my major. I know I’ll go back and truly learn and absorb all I can from my professors and fellow students rather than focusing solely on maintaining a high enough GPA to be admitted to PA school. Every staff member has been so inspiring and integral to this leap I’m making and have shown me parts of myself and passions I hold dear that I’ve been too nervous to admit to myself. The reality is I don’t know what the future holds or what life will look like after Vela, but for once, this uncertainty is exciting. It’s a possibility. And I can’t wait to see where I go next with all I’ve learned and gained during Seamester under my belt. Thank you, truly, to Vela and all its staff and students. Hopefully, I’ll see you again.

– Mal