Location: Roseau, Dominica

Another day, another Ve-slay-la. On my final skipper day, I had the privilege of going back to sleep after my 5:30-7 watch with Emy because I was in the afternoon group for our full dive day here in Dominica. I can’t express how thrilled I am to be skipper on a dive day! While the first group was off on their morning dives, the rescue divers, DMs, and a few guest stars had free time on the boat, emergency oxygen training, or “DM stuff,” as we like to call it. Today’s DM stuff included our skin diver workshop, rescue scenario evaluation, and checking off a few surface skills. For Skylar’s snorkel tour, an important love sub-plot took shape. We’ve been playing characters of pretend divers to prepare for any situation as Divemasters. Today, I played Edith alongside Carolyn as Marge. During Skylar’s brief, we found out that Marge and Edith were spending their wedding anniversary as an old lesbian couple at the Great Barrier Reef. They fell in love when Edith caught Marge’s eye on stage at the Moulin Rouge. Edith could no longer bend her body like she used to, but Marge made sure to hold her hand through the whole tour. Maybe true love does exist Anyway, my scenario featured Skylar as Freddie and Caro as Timmy, middle school boys with lots of energy. Timmy REALLY enjoyed pushing Freddie underwater, and Freddie was easily distracted by the fake sharks. In the true business of transformation way, both of us handled the stress well and passed our rescue evals, and had fun playing dead for each other.

When the first dive group returned, it was time for lunch and diving! Calum let Jac dinghy us over to the dive operator, where we set up our kits and headed out on the boat for our first dive: a deep dive for the AOW certification. Oh, important note: during Calum’s brief to his group, he asked if everyone knew what he looked like underwater, and Julia, without hesitation, answered, “Carolyn.” Descending along a wall, we reached 100 feet and played Carolyn’s number game, revealing that no one got narc’d. Nearing the turnaround point, my group (Skylar, Sophie, Owen, Emy, and Jac) spotted a TURTLE, to which I produced a guttural underwater scream. Maybe all turtles are stupid, or just this one is, but it was swimming right at me for a solid 10 seconds until it finally looked and realized it was a couple of inches away from my leg and proceeded to jerk away, giving my fin a high five on the way back into the abyss. In the words of Sam, the ocean is sickkkkkkk. Our second dive, fish ID, got really fun because, in the midst of everyone else drawing species to identify at the surface, Skylar and I attempted to do some DM skills; Julia swam up to me like a shark (mask: flooded due to laughter). We witnessed the always entertaining Caro and Calum underwater battle. This time including Caro reg-less latched onto Calum’s tank, him yeeting her off by flipping over, and a make-up head scratch (pictured). Shoutout to the baby lionfish, huge puffer, and the most adorable baby trunkfish. See also in the photos a deflated lionfish caught by one of the dive boat staff. I would also like to share a moment from this dive: I like to kick backward sometimes and just get a new perspective on dive sites, so I did that as we were swimming along a huge reef. I slowed my breathing and kicking so much that it felt like time stood still for a couple of minutes. Watching my friends and mentors make their way through a tiny piece of this infinite environment we had just spent 17 days sailing over was one of the most peaceful and beautiful moments of my life.

Returning to Vela high on nitrogen saturation and the meditative state that diving puts me in, we tidied up the boat before leaving for a sign-out night. It was great. It happened. I don’t have much to say because sign-out nights aren’t the reason we’re here. Afterward, I waited with Jac on the dock for more people to fit in Ankarn. Hearing the waves, seeing the stars (that aren’t as bright as in the middle of the Atlantic), and looking at the boat that carried us across an ocean were truly one of the most peaceful and invigorating experiences I’ve had on this voyage.

It’s the little things, you see. The indescribable moments of joy, belonging, and connection that you want to hold onto the most. But they seem to slip away the fastest, and no one can really understand the feeling. This is a transient place and a transient life. Eventually, we must face the looming fact that very soon, this will be a part of our distant past. In my best effort to hold onto these times, here are some of my favorite subtler moments from Vela: Carolyn’s eyes underwater, a smile across the cockpit during squeeze, Joel’s underwater hover, the way Matt and Allie look at each other when laughing, Skylar’s voice when talking with a mask on (it’s so adorable), Sam’s hugs that instantly reassure you that everything will be okay, looking at Emy after finishing our Vela song, Sophie’s laugh whenever someone cries around her, Calum getting confused when he’s skipper and says “0!” waiting for someone to say “1,” Ash’s face when he’s really listening, Jimmy’s ramen pot, the pause before Alison says “17,” Ghost’s “I’ve got you” look, and Jac’s ability to instantly bring you out of your head and into the present.

I was told I get 15 pictures, so enjoy a lot of dive chaos. The title and sign-out night photo are a reference to my game with Skylar and Julia, over-dramatically asking each other in dive signs at the most random times of the day, “WHERE’S THE BOAT?”

That’s it from me for now because I’m struggling to end this. This has been the most wonderful experience of my life. It’s honestly impossible to put into words. It’s only emotions and instincts, and all I know is that I’ve never wanted more out of life. “Vela Vela Vela, look how far we came. None of us here will ever be the same.”

OStar OStar OStar, this is Vela Vela Vela: prepare yourselves, we’re coming

EDITORS NOTE: Two blogs did not post via satellite Lindsay M and Allie I’s. If you are a family member or fan looking for those blogs, look no further they are now live. Allie’s blog is day 61, and Lindsay’s blog is day 70.