Sunday, October 16, 2011

Night Watch is Sublime

(October 2011 (on passage between Bora Bora and the Kingdom of Tonga)

Night Watch is Sublime

You set your timer to beep every 10 minutes. When it goes off you look in all directions - for anything, a boat, land, something floating in the water. You scan the horizon carefully because missing a boat could be fatal. You wait until the waves crest, so that you can see far ahead of the bow, behind the stern, amid ships. Then you check the wind speed - does it make sense? Do the numbers you read "feel" like the wind hitting the back of your neck? Or have they increased lately and you watch the dials to confirm your suspicions (you may need to reef). You check the wind angle (the point of sail) and you check the compass, has the wind shifted direction? Is the boat still sailing the right course? And you check the speed - how many knots? Do all these mechanical readings confirm what you already feel? 90% of the time - they do, the other 10 % involve changing sail or changing course.
If everything is O.K. - you reset your timer. You go back to reading about Sookie Stackhouse, that village in Tuscany, an Elegant Hedgehog or some other completely absorbing novel that you would never have had time to read back home in your previously busy life. You go back to cat napping because you are at the beginning of your watch and it is too soon to wake up your relief - but for some reason your day exhausted you. You go back to journaling about your day - what you saw, what you thought, what you want to remember, any new epiphanies you might have had that must be recorded. You go back to star gazing because the stars are so bright out here over only water, without light pollution - it's no wonder people have written about them since the beginning of time. Serius is so bright is beams light like Jupiter. You stare at the milky way thinking about "Men In Black" and just how small we really are. You watch the moon set or rise - each night the rising or setting is 45 minutes earlier or later than the previous day. A full moon is so bright it feels like sun light when you look out over the shining water - it is easy to see everything and a moonless night is so dark especially if it is cloudy that you strain to see the horizon - all you can hope to see is a light from another vessel. You try to remember the constellations you learned in high school - Orion, the big dipper, and dig out a book showing you others. These constellations become your friends as you sail under the same sky night after night. You learn which direction you are sailing based on where Orion is in the sky. Or if this night is one of those rare special nights you get to watch the bioluminescence curl along the side of the boat with each bow wave spreading tiny beads of rippling light in arcs across the water. It is so beautiful - each wave sets off a different shape of twinkling lights. And this cycle of renewal to mind and spirit lasts as long as your watch (if all is well 3-4 hours) until your eyes can no longer focus or you feel sleepiness overcoming your ability to be on watch.


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1 comment:

Jennifer Johnson said...

Beautifully written, Carrie! I can feel and see what you've written about in my mind. It's always so good to hear about your experiences.