Hello world! It has been quite an adventure aboard the Seamans as we make our way out of the tropics and head NW towards Hawaii. The weather has been sporadic these past few days since we dipped into the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a latitudinal region where the Northern and Southern trade winds collide and convect upwards with thick, humid air. The weather here can be volatile, sometimes it is sunny skies and light breeze and suddenly a squall catches up to you, the temperature drops, and the rains pour nearly horizontally. This is what Captain Sean calls a humdinger, sudden changes in wind speed and direction.
Today it is blowing a steady 6 on the beaufort scale, or the winds are honking as we like to say. I can’t help but think back to my first nautical science class from a few years ago where our teacher presented to us a definition of sailing which read: The fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while slowly going nowhere at great expense. While every part of this statement has proven to be true at one point or another, I can tell that its author was not too fond of sailing as they completely missed the point. Sailing is really about much more than the simple act of going from one port to the next. It is a lifestyle where we surrender ourselves and the vessel to the power of the wind and waves to form a journey so powerful in its ability to inspire that a land could never give you.
View of the bow with a squall to port and sunny skies to starboard.
There is something very tantalizing about the freedom we have been experiencing. The sights, experiences, and lessons I have gained so far from this voyage have been ones I will remember for the rest of my life. The ephemeral parts of sailing which have been touched upon in previous blog posts are easily romanticized yet still vital to the sailing experience’s authenticity. Our collective high spirits are a testament that we as a crew are capable of seeing past the rough weather, occasional sea sickness and that sticky feeling we all feel after a day of hard work.
As the engineer for my watch today, I served much of my time below deck in the belly of the ship tending to her various needs and completing a daily checklist to ensure all systems are in order. The control room, engine room and machinery rooms are cramped spaces separated by bulkheads but they are hidden behind a sprawling network of pipes, gauges, valves, and panels which are orchestrated around humming, pumps, motors, and engines which feed the ship’s every need. It is an understatement to say that we appreciate our engineers and the hard work they do for us and our ship.
I’d like to add a few sentences to describe to you what life in the fo’c’sle is like. My bunk is located at the forward most part of the ship, underneath the bow and against the anchor chain locker. With waves like we are having today, it feels like you are sleeping on the tip of a giant spatula, ready to flip you in the air at any moment. While I haven’t gone airborne yet, it often feels like I have come mighty close. As the ship’s bow slams into the ocean it feels like you are in a massive steel drum. The hollow bellow and physical reverberations can be felt as the ship stretches and twists in the waves. The first few nights made you feel like each time the bow hit the waves too hard, there was going to be some sort of puncture but now, I have grown used to it and have allowed it to caress me to sleep instead of keeping me awake.
I have grown quite fond of dawn watch (0100 to 0700). It begins in near total darkness under a sky either full of starts or covered by some form of clouds unidentifiable in the dark. I enjoy standing hours on bow watch, watching the horizon, counting shooting stars, spotting distant lighting strikes, or taking a break to lean over the edge of the boat to see our bow slicing through waves full of bioluminescent organisms. It seems that sailors are superstitious.
The crew is always knocking on wood every time they hope not to jinx something and the strict no whistling policy has really changed how I spend my free time. Apparently whistling will cause an angry storm to ruin our lucky streak of great weather. I hadn’t attributed much value to superstition as I thought there were always logical explanations for everything. This changed a couple of nights ago when I was on the quarter deck during a particularly squally night. Suddenly something unexpectedly hit my side seemingly from out of nowhere. When I pointed my light at the ground I was shocked to find a flying fish! What are the chances a flying fish could jump the 10 foot topsides of the ship and hit me of all things! It was hard not to attribute some sort of meaning or message to this ultra rare occurrence.
Since then I have been wondering what this could have meant, why did it hit me? Was this a message from Neptune himself? Either way I feel destined in some sort of way. Somehow I feel like the flying fish and I have something in common. This fish is literally a fish out of water for brief moments to escape something chasing it and I am out here in the middle of the ocean perhaps because I am trying to escape something on land. In either case we are in a foreign environment, running from something.
Much love to my family and friends, see you soon.
Colin Buse-Ruppert, University of Southern California