All dressed in our Bente Dorte “Watermelon Voyage” crew tee-shirts, we had moved the watermelons still left after our island sales to the boat’s port side. That way, when we docked in Kastel Stari, the students’ home city, everybody would be able to access the cargo.
The Bura had died down and we were looking sharp. The boat was in better shape than when we had borrowed it – a rebuilt water pump, decks and below-decks cleaner than ever, a smarter rig for the new mizzen mast, tasty new recipes for the ship’s galley. The students from Maestral had traveled to the heart of their country and returned with watermelon for the home. Still early in the day, so it was not too warm as we made our approach to the town pier. A crowd had assembled there, mostly the younger kids from the home and their friends. Waving from a distance I savored our arrival. Ulysses and watermelon ran through my mind.
We had actually planned to be at this pier the day before. But the strong Maestral, which we had on from Brac, was blowing waves up the pier, making it impossible to dock. So we stayed a mile away in a protected marina for one more day delaying our arrival. It was perfect timing nonetheless. The boat felt good tied up, and we were quickly overtaken by kids demanding watermelon. This was our journey’s end.
Those voyage endings are always bittersweet. We were relieved to be back home, safely, and so happy that we’d accomplished our quixotic watermelon quest along the great Dalmatian coast. Then there’s a sadness right away too, even while we were reveling in our success. Saying goodbye to new friends, thinking what trip might be next, with who, to where, for what new adventure.
There had been lots of help from friends on land for our adventure, and it was time to thank some of them. The kids loaded a wheel barrel full of watermelon and walked it across the riva to the local Splitska Banka, our gift in return for their generous sponsorship. Walking through their town, it was a way to say thanks to Kastel Stari too. Each person who received a melon felt that from the young sailors. .
By the time we returned to the boat, students had all signed their tee-shirts and we wrote in each other’s journals. The crew and I know we will see these students again, but there were tears in their eyes that the trip was over. That connection for me was more success than how many watermelons or newspaper articles. The students on this trip have a story to tell for their whole lives, memories tied to emotions through hard work, friendship and adventure together. Saying goodbye, they shared those feelings with us, a sharing that translates perfectly in all languages. My crew and I shared with the students a love of ships, and the sea, and this is the gift we have given, and so received back, through our watermelon voyage.