An unforgettable last day of 2023

The sound of the waves crashing against the reef in the distance, a slight wind rustling through various palm trees, the comfortable feeling of waking up after sleeping in hammocks under a perfectly clear sky – this is how all of us students started the day of December 31st 2023, which was a day full of highlights and special moments. 

After taking in the amazing view over the San Blas Islands for a few quiet minutes, I had to rush back to our ship with the dinghy to prepare breakfast for the day. Together with Tim, Anja, Svea and Paul we endured around two hours of meal preparations and doing the dishes in the very hot, very damp kitchen, which was looking very, very messy.

Whilst cleaning like lightning and sweating in the Caribbean heat, we were getting very excited for the Guna Yala market. A few of the inhabitants of the San Blas islands showed us their unique, colourful embroidered fabrics and bracelets. I was very impressed how accurately they sew all these different and creative motives into the fabric! There were birds such as the cockatoo, dolphins, and tortoises in various variations, it almost seemed like the only unwritten rule was to use as many different, shiny and bright colours as possible. For us students, their market on deck of the Thor was the perfect opportunity to search for and buy some souvenirs for our family and friends at home – since we only realized then that Panama is the last state where we can use our US dollars.

But that was only the beginning of this last day of 2023. After spending quite some time shopping, we took the dinghy again to reach a beautiful island called Niadup in the Gunan language (coconut island in English) in order for us to start our first solo which would last for some hours. A “solo” is a concept where a person is supposed to be by him- or herself for a certain amount of time. Having the opportunity to spend some time all by oneself, even if it is only for a few hours, seemed rather strange and unnecessary before our journey. However, now it was a well appreciated change and possibility to reflect and calm down. I spent the time sitting in the white sand, leaning against a small palm tree, facing the ocean and thinking about all the amazing things which had happened within the last year: in February, we wrote our application letter, in May we took part in a fun trip of 50 teenagers to be eventually selected for the big journey. In October, our adventure started – now we are standing right in the Caribbean eating coconut and soaking in bright and shiny sun.

Those thoughts still in mind and smiling both on the inside and the outside, we headed back to the Thor to start our preparations for New Year’s Eve. A lot of people contributed various dishes – from Nacho salad to pizza rolls and cake pops – we were very creative. A team of around five of us did all the decoration for the evening. Once they and all the amazing chefs had finished, our New Year’s Eve celebration started. By then, our main deck had turned into a huge dancing stage – even featuring some disco lights that created a fitting atmosphere! On our foreship, there was a little stall of our two fortune tellers, Emilia and August and a very convincing tropical bar had been built onto the poop deck. It seemed like everyone had contributed something, students, teachers and crew members. We really made the impossible possible.

The evening started off by us introducing our captain Alex to our traditional dances – the “Tunka Tunka song” and, of course, the “Partybus”. And even if Alex might have been a bit overwhelmed in this moment, he did not let that show and danced along with us. A more or less prepared speech was held by Alex and Jakob, followed by a late version of “Besanschot-An”, a Virgin Colado out of a coconut. We kept dancing, both wildly and uncoordinated and very elegantly – Discofox, ChaCha and Jive – until almost midnight. Then all of us came together on the poop deck for the final moments of the amazing year 2023. Under the supervision of Michael, who had the only watch that showed the correct time, we all counted down to the last minute until midnight.

Three, two, one, zero.

2024 – there it was! And it had started after a very eventful and fantastic day. It was an amazing feeling to both finish and start a year on board of the Thor Heyerdahl along with 50 of the most wonderful people I have ever known. We all started hugging each other emotionally wishing us all the best – for there is yet another year to come, full of new adventures.