Leg 1 to Galapagos
Day 19, day 6 at sea
Just a quick note to say how much I love these seas right here. Last night on my night watch (in which I also had the helm all to myself until 3am), I felt the bliss of the high seas.
It’s not all milk and cookies, peace and smooth sailing out here. We’ve had our share of tumultuous waters, endlessly rocking and rolling, trying to prepare food in a wildly gyrating galley (kitchen) with special metal rods to keep the pots in place, downpours and lightning storms that rage for hours, soaking everything, and the general noises of the boat, her engines and masts, which grunt, whine and bellow all night.
Tonight she was peaceful, and with the full moon high in the sky and cloud cover just enough to form shapes on the horizon on which to meditate and identify their morphing forms, it was a night to write home about.
Our lookout shifts are 3.5 hours “on” and 10.5 hours “off”, which in the course of a perfectly repeating week gives us all equal shares of days, nights, and afternoons, to while away at our discretion, and the time off is always enough to catch a full night’s sleep, unless of course we are summonsed by a call for “all hands on deck” or my favorite “thar she blows!” The night watch is special because only then are most sailors sleeping to the gentle rocking, while at the helm it’s all mine: the shimmering water, 360 degrees of sky and undulating swells, undisturbed views of the constellations, and the thoughts in my head. While one should never step away from the navigation table for more than a few minutes, there’s time to walk the deck and inspect the horizon for lights or new weather systems, and breathe deeply as one perfect speck in the largest pond I’ve come to know. It’s my time to let it all go. As thoughts float by over a timeless infinity of open water, so does my spirit, set adrift in the night breeze.
These recent entries come to you post-dated, from the Galapagos Islands, where we’ve arrived safely after 13 days at sea. Instead of writing about that however, I wanted to share another great Night Watch episode right here in the appropriate, yet-unpublished entry.
In the pre-dawn hours of the eminent conclusion of Leg 1 and our arrival here scheduled for later that morning, I was on watch from 1:30 to 5am, anxiously watching the twinkle of a few lights on the horizon draw nearer. Everyone else was asleep. I was watching the luminescent bio-plankton sparkling in the water all around me, which as we approached this magical place was brighter than it’s ever been, marking the movement of any fish and of our waves in the black, moonless night. Would you believe me if I told you that the whole ocean between Panama and Galapagos glows in the dark? Well, it does!
Suddenly I noticed what looked like a 30-foot, neon-green dragon snaking its way underwater, perpendicular towards the boat, so when it passed under I ran to the other side to get a better look. But it wasn’t there. Peering all around (and half expecting it to plunge up and snatch me away to a watery grave) I saw much electric splashing at the front of the boat. I found five glow-beasts swimming in front of the boat, as they have before, with the whole rest of the pod arriving from all sides to come and play.
It was awesome. I ran and woke-up Spencer, and we freaked-out as they jumped out of the water, their glistening neon bioluminescent forms offering the most psychedelic natural experience I’ve ever seen. I flashed my head-torch into the water to make sure they were dolphins, and moments later one came rushing from the depths and jumped right out of the water in front of us, eliciting our chorus of WHOA! and HOLY SHIT! at the spectacle. Next thing you know, everyone on the boat is up (we alarmed them, oops!) and watching the show (or yelling at us not to scare them like that!)
After 30 minutes everyone was asleep again, and I had their company all to myself till the end of my shift, as they guided us nearly to port. Definitely cooler in the dark. (Kind of like Burning Man.)