Lookout onboard the Robert C. Seamans
October 21, 2022
Nora Jackson, B Watch
02 06.12S x 133 20.0W
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Partly cloudy with cumulonimbus clouds, force 4 winds from the SE, sailing with the four lowers (main with a shallow reef, main stays'l, fore stays'l, and jib) on a port tack
Description of location
391 nm from Nuka Hiva!
Time is flying by as we rotate through watches, catch up on sleep, devour books (I’m on my fourth), and play games in the main salon all the while inching our way towards French Polynesia. Today, I had watch from 7 am - 1 pm, and was assigned to dish duty in the galley.
It will surprise my parents and brother greatly to hear that these days, I actually really enjoy doing dishes. It’s satisfying work, and always nice to learn cooking tips from Jackie and Paul as they prepare wonderful meals. I have the rest of the afternoon off to read and hopefully fit in a few more interviews for the 305 podcast I am working on. The plan for the podcast is that it will document the progress of the voyage and include stories from students and crew.
When completed at the end of the trip, the podcast will hopefully be uploaded on to the SEA website. So far, I have recorded 20 interviews, and I certainly have my work cut out for me on the editing side.
Even as time seems to go by so quickly here, the one task that always feels about as long as it truly lasts is lookout. During watch, someone is always acting as a lookout usually right at the bow where the waves are felt the most and the whole ocean is out in front of you. For the first few moments, it is exhilarating. Other than going aloft, it is the closest feeling to flying onboard.
Those few moments, for me at least, fade away rather quickly when, after a few glances in every direction, I deduce there is nothing, as usual, to see. Lookout, to say the least, can get quite dull in the seemingly limitless Pacific Ocean. We have not seen boats, floating debris, or sign of land in many days. It is just endless ocean in every direction. Up at the bow, it can feel like we are the last 39 people left in the world.
For the first few watches of the voyage, I really struggled with bow watch. Restless and with thoughts spinning in circles, I couldn’t wait to hear, I’m here to relieve you, from a crewmate behind me. Looking at my watch never helped. At night, peering into the darkness, it is to imagine lights or shapes in the distance. I decided early on that one of my goals for the trip was to learn to genuinely enjoy lookout.
One morning, my watch was standing the morning watch (from 0700-1300), and I volunteered right away to be the first lookout. What an hour. It turned out to be a pretty easy lookout to enjoy. The sunrise turned an entire half of the sky orange. The clouds were still tinted blue, but the bottom edges changed colors as the sun rose.
From orange the sky shifted to pinks and yellows and the ocean followed suit too, slowly throwing off its darker hue. As the sun came up, the five or six boobies that have been our constant companions for many days now began their daily search for food. I had the best seat in the house to watch these tenacious birds dive for flying fish that glide over the water for several seconds before crashing into oncoming swells. The boobies only seemed to catch a few fish each, but watching them track the schools of fish was endlessly entertaining.
Other hours spent as the lookout have gone better since committing to enjoying it. Having never been so far out at sea before, I was unprepared for how dynamic the sky would be. Uncluttered by buildings and trees, the different cloud formations are simply magnificent. Huge towers of puffy cumulonimbus clouds rise up on the horizon, cirrus clouds high up in the atmosphere add wispiness to the sky, and lower stratus make the sky ceiling feel right above our masts. Now that I’ve
I stopped focusing as much on how slowly time was passing or how stationary lookout is, I find the sky and sea fascinating to watch. Sometimes I tell myself stories loosely based on ones I’ve read or ones my dad used to tell me growing up, but for the most part, I try to relish the chance to actively watch the world around me. To listen to the sound of the water hitting the boat, memorize the shape of the birds’ wings, and watch the architecture of the clouds be designed by mysterious hands. The real test of enjoying lookout will be at night when the darkness seems all encompassing.
Nevertheless, standing lookout has been just one example of the way living on a boat reminds me to enjoy the simplest pleasures (like a piece of dark chocolate or clean clothes) and to slow down and operate on nature’s time. When I get home, I’ll definitely try to remember the feeling of standing in one spot for an hour with the singular job of observing.
Nora Jackson, B Watch
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“There is, one knows not what, sweet mystery about the sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath.” HM
We wish you many joyful watches ahead dear Nora. Be safe, and revel in the myriad wonders of the sea below, and heavens above.
Nora, The telling of your story is a gift of experience. Enjoy the moments! Thank you,
I’m so excited for you. What an adventure it must be!!! Everything is cleared here; I will see you when we get there.
Love you bunches,
Great piece you wrote.
It sounds to me like you’ve got a serious case of the Lookout Blues! Have you seen any whale spouts? Any more flying fish? Any pirate ships in that part of the Pacific?? (Hope not!)
I still remember the time (last year) when you were on watch one night while anchored at sea off San Diego with a gale blowing. You noticed a rocky outcrop that appeared to be getting strangely closer and closer, so you went and woke up the Captain who jumped out of bed and ran on deck to confirm that you were indeed dragging anchor. He did what he had to do to avoid hitting the rocks, but it was your assessment of the situation while on watch that saved the day!
So, you’re a seasoned lookout with a save under your belt. Not bad!
I suppose by now you’re getting ready to hit some Polynesian ports. It sounds exotic and beautiful… hope you get some nice pictures!
Take care and enjoy your next watch!! :>)
Nora, what a beautiful piece you wrote—and without trying to sound that way, if you know what I mean. Lovely vivid description. My favorite line (among many) was “Up at the bow, it can feel like we are the last 39 people in the world.” What a sensation that must be—no land, just water and sky for days and days on end. You guys must have a keen sense of how Magellan’s, Drake’s, or Cook’;s crews must have felt on their journeys (notice I didn’t include Captain Bligh in that list). I wish you clear skies, steady winds, and smooth sailing.
I enjoyed your blog post, Nora! I am the father of Vero Carignan, one of the scientists on board, and enjoy reading the daily blog posts. Yours was one of the best, at least from my perspective!
Reading your watch reminiscing made me mindful of how beautiful it is to look up at the sky — even on the land side — and know you are watching the same sky! Be safe and can’t wait for the podcasts.