When Mary Grace was in Kindergarden she wrote a story about what she wanted to be when she grew up. It started out like this:
“When I grow up I want to travel around the world with sharks and tell people about Jesus.”
While most 6-year old little girls are busy playing Barbies, Mary Grace was watching and rewatching episodes of Shark Week. From shark themed birthday parties to Valentines, nothing about her passion wavered.
In fact, over the years her dream has only intensified.
For years, I loved her obsession. It felt fairly safe watching her play sharks with friends at the neighborhood pool, or taking her on trips to visit aquariums. Even the beach felt comfortable enough. But then we moved on a boat, and things got a little too real.
Naturally, she’s been eager to swim with sharks. Like, really eager. She jumps in the water off our boat without a care in the world. In fact, in her mind, the more sharks the better. I’m constantly getting lectures about how ridiculous I am for picturing Jaws scenes every time my kids get in the water.
Thankfully our boat lifestyle has given Mary Grace several opportunities to pursue her dream of becoming a marine biologist shark expert.
Before beginning the Great Loop, we spent a few months in Brunswick, GA where we purchased the boat. As luck would have it, Brunswick is the home port for one of the top shark research boats in the world.
Ocearch is a non-profit, floating research lab that travels all over the world studying sharks. They tag and track for scientific purposes with the mission of returning the ocean’s balance. In the Spring of 2020 the boat and crew should have been in Australia; However, C19 created a hiatus for them and we were able to spend time with them.
They welcomed Mary Grace onboard, and showed her all of the various tools they use for research. She soaked it all in, and then went back the next day with a long list of questions. The crew loved her curiosity and complimented how intelligent her questions were about the sharks.
Another amazing opportunity we’ve been able to take advantage of because of our boat life is FLVS. Mary Grace took a biology class through Florida Virtual earlier this year. You can pay per class as a Global student or if you are a Florida resident you can join their Flex program. Very specifically, she took a high school biology class as an 8th grader because she was interested in taking Marine Sciences (biology was a prerequisite.)
Recently she was able to sign up for the Marine Sciences class and she is absolutely loving it!
Yes, this means she’ll be doing school this summer. But she is thrilled for the opportunity. Her teacher is awesome and very envious of her lifestyle. In fact, most of her Discussion Based Assessments (DBAs) end up with Mary Grace telling him about cool boating experiences or marine animals she’s seen.
The only downside to Mary Grace taking this class is that it’s the only one offered through Florida Virtual. So over the next 4 years, we’ll need to seek out educational opportunities because she’s already informed us that she can’t wait until college to continue learning about marine biology.
With all of this said, Brent and I decided to allow Mary Grace to pursue her SCUBA certification recently.
Despite a lifetime of travel and adventure, Mary Grace will quickly tell you that diving with sharks is the best thing she’s ever done.
First she had to complete the classroom and pool time. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Mary Grace so excited. On her first night she made the comment “I feel like my future starts tonight.” While I had to roll my eyes a little (we were fresh off the airplane from visiting our 50th state!), I understood what she meant and love that we can support her pursuing her dream.
After 2 weeks of training we were scheduled to travel to Key Largo for her checkout dives. Being boaters we absolutely should have thought about the possibility of weather changing our plans. But somehow it never occurred to us. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), some of our plans were unalterable even when the dives were cancelled due to wind/waves.
We ended up spending a gorgeous, but windy, long weekend at Postcard Inn on Islamorada. And then we traveled back to Key Largo a few days later for the dives.
Over 2 days Mary Grace got to dive 4 amazing spots off of the Florida Keys: Horseshoe, Christ of the Abyss, Banana Patch, and Grecian Reef. Best of all, she saw reef sharks, eagle rays, and a moray eel (among a lot of other cool things!)
Now that she’s officially certified, we’re excited to find some other exciting opportunities for her to dive with sharks.
Actually, let me rephrase that. SHE is excited for more shark encounters. I am hoping we can focus more on the second part of her “when I grow up” plan!
As always, thanks for keeping up with our crazy family adventures. I know I’ve been slightly neglectful with posts. I have big plans to write about Alaska within the week and then I’ll give a little update on our other kiddo. (You can always get more timely updates by following us on social media: Facebook or Instagram.) You might also enjoy reading: