Location: Raja Ampat

The growl of the engine woke me at 5 am before the sun had even begun to rise. We picked up anchor off the crowded shoreline of Sorong, hoisted the main staysail, and headed north with the wind behind us for Raja Ampat. Many of the students stayed in bed for an hour or two. Some got up early to start making a cake and decorating for our beloved Heloise’s 22nd birthday. We had balloons blown up, a birthday hat for her to wear, and fun signs made on whiteboards. Other students were up early to study for their marine bio exam after breakfast. I was instructed by some of the students to ensure everyone but Heloise was up and then we all snuck into her cabin and woke her up together with many “wakie wakies” and the first of at least 12 happy birthday songs!

While all the early morning birthday shenanigans and marine bio studying were going on, Emma was busy in the galley cooking up a storm. She delivered a fantastic breakfast of eggs and grits along with some fresh grapes. Meanwhile, on deck, Vela was cruising along at a steady 8 knots. We arrived at our destination, a beautiful anchorage tucked behind a tiny island called Paulau Friwin, just before lunch. Enough time for the students to finish their marine bio exam and EFR exams. Lunch was another delicious meal by Emma – Burritos! Lunch provided plenty of energy for all our advanced divers to get started on Rescue Diver Course. We started the rescue diver course with surface skills. Smash taught students how to deal with panicked or tired divers from the surface using buoyant heaving lines, life rings, and other techniques. Ben taught dealing with panicked divers in the water, which can often turn into a bit of a riot. Lots of shouting and laughs to be heard. I had the fun of teaching, dealing with a tired diver in the water, and practicing different methods of towing divers. We had races towing each other which was pretty fun.

After we finished up our rescue diver surface skills students had a Nav Master class with Drew where they are learning to plot their positions, do dead reckoning, and set courses taking into account set and drift. After nav class, students swam and did homework or relaxed in the sun. Many of us definitely got too much sun today, myself included!

If I didn’t brag enough about Emmas meals today dinner really knocked off socks. Dinner was baked mac and cheese with breadcrumbs crisped on top and served with a fresh salad of mixed greens. It was pretty incredible as far as mac and cheese can go. Bravo to Emma. We sang happy birthday to Heloise for the 10th or maybe 11th time before dinner and proceeded by several more times into the evening. Heloise was not a fan of all the singing and attention. To make her cringe even harder, I made our squeeze question about her and asked everyone to name their favorite quality about Heloise. It was lovely to hear so many nice things said; overall, I think she secretly enjoyed it. We also had a yummy cake made by some of the students and, you guessed it, sang happy birthday again.

We are all super excited to have made it to Raja Ampat. The diving here is going to be incredible. We all can’t wait to start exploring tomorrow.

Bye, for now, much love to all the family and friends and fur babies back home.