Nautical Milestones

Author: Katie Boback, Amherst College

Nautical Milestones

Ship's Log

08˚44.292’ N x 135˚52.845’ W

2017.6 nm

Weather / Sail Plan
Motor sailing under the main staysail and forestaysail; Winds: Force 6 from N

Souls on Board

My day today started off about as early as one can- at 0030 for C-watch’s dawn watch at 0100. Those of us on deck rotated between steering at the helm, lookout, and performing hourly boat checks and weather logging. While on lookout at the bow, standing up there in the darkness, I find lots of space for my thoughts to dance forward over the wind-whipped waves. Today is the day we changed direction, and made our turn north towards Hawaii. In the early hours of the morning, however, we were still heading southwest, our trip still ramping up, barreling forward into more remote and unknown waters as we prepared to change course sometime after sunrise. At that moment, I found peace in the darkness, in the dreamy quiet before dawn where we were still heading out to sea.

After a beautiful coral-pink sunrise, C-watch went back to bed, and by the time that I woke up, we had already made the turn to the northwest, towards Hawaii. We had also passed 2,000 nautical miles on the ship’s GPS log. Sometimes you miss a lot during a nap at sea! On top of all that, A-watch did our 30th science deployment, and collected data from the hydrocast, meter net, and neuston net. Our desired course is now 330, or north northwest, as we attempt to increase our latitude as quickly as possible.

You might wonder why on Earth would we want to head north in December. At our furthest point south, at roughly 1100, we were at 08˚ 02’ N, well into the tropics and the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone), where low pressure and rising air creates thick cloud cover and frequent rainy squalls. We’re all pretty hot and sticky (you’re welcome for the visual) and would like to get back up to higher latitudes where we’ll be met by the roaring trade winds and their accompanying blue skies. Clearer skies would mean more opportunities to shoot celestial bodies with sextants and use that information to calculate our position. I have found a new love in navigation on this trip, so I am really looking forward to that.

Turning towards Hawaii is definitely exciting. I already have a list of land-things growing in my head to get once we arrive: a jumbo jar of Nutella, first of all. For me, though, it also comes with a grain of salt. We’re now heading towards land, and though I guess we always had a destination, now it’s off our bow. Also, though it might not be the dead center of our voyage, the turn north sure seems like something of a halfway point. As a member of the hybrid class of S-291/S-301, I’ve been trying to desperately reign in the excitement for this trip for over two years now, and so it feels bittersweet that we’re now roughly halfway to Hawaii.

Our C-watch mate, Megan, had some wise words for us about absorbing moments on board and creating memories that can be stored away and tapped back into later. She said to remember the sensations around you, like the feeling of the ship rolling in the ocean swells and the sound of the wind in your ears. “Feel the motion in your bones and never forget it,” she said. Right now, we’re still here, with nothing but ocean on our horizon. There is the sea, there is the sky, and there is the line where they meet, and for now that is both a comfort and a thrill. Now, as I write this, I think I hear behind me that some of my shipmates are using the current rain to get a free freshwater shower, so I’m signing off here.

To Mom, Dad, Grandma, Takoda, and all my friends and family back home, I miss you all and can’t wait to talk on Christmas. Also, happy belated birthday, Mom! Love you <3

- Katie Boback, Amherst College

Contact: Douglas Karlson, Director of Communications, 508-444-1918 |

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