Happy Solstice! The sun has been spending less and less time in the sky recently; setting earlier and rising later as the Earth’s orbit tips the axis away from the sun. The upside, from here in the northern hemisphere, is that starting tomorrow we start gaining back daylight every day from here until the summer solstice (it only gets brighter from here). In the colder, darker latitudes where I’m from, the solstice feels like a big turning point: the sun is setting at 4:30, and it’s cold and dark and wet, and it will be cold and dark and wet for several more months, but at least the light is coming back. Many traditions mark the solstice as a time to gather with a whole bunch of people you like, light some things on fire to remind the sun what it’s supposed to be doing, and eat a massive pile food.
Luckily all those things (except the fire) are easily available onboard. It was a strange grey day today, with howling winds coming out of the north, making it feel unseasonably cold for this latitude. However, the boat’s schedule ticks on regardless of weather or astronomical happenstance, and we rolled out of bed, through breakfast, and into a fairly full day of ship cleaning. First, we split in half; half to clean out our bunks and to start packing and the other half to wash the decks and to make the reef in the main sail prettier and before we go into dock. Packing is always a little emotional; the finding of things you thought you lost to the depths of your luggage, or what things you’ve acquired on the way.
The moon, so yellow it looks a bit like the sun, setting around seven in the morning. Just a reminder how stark and strange and beautiful the sky can be.
After lunch we did a full field day, cleaning the ship top to bottom (again. It is staggering, sometimes, how much dirt and grime 30odd people living in close quarters can produce). Field day tends to result in everyone hollering along to songs, and there is something extremely joyous about belting out songs with a group of people you like.
Homemade pizza for dinner rounded out the day, and then we mustered in the main salon for an SEA tradition, the Swizzle. The Swizzle is an end of trip talent show/variety hour, including music and delightfully specific superlatives and other similar silliness. It’s a lovely way to wrap up the shortest day of the year.
It’s not quite the last full day (that’s tomorrow), but penultimate day is almost always stranger for me than the last day proper. By the second to last day, you’ve done all the things you were going to do, and now it’s just waiting for the last time you do each thing. Is this my last time on the helm? The last time doing galley cleanup? The last time striking a sail? We’re sailing tomorrow between our current anchorage and Honolulu where we the students will be getting off the ship. So it’s definitely not over just yet, as we still have 90 nautical miles to go tomorrow, but having the end in sight is making me dread the inevitable goodbyes, even though I’ll be glad to see my friends and family again. It’s been an intense six weeks, and I’ll never forget it.
A happy (slightly belated) birthday to my Dad. I hope you had a vibrant Cursing of The Dark, and I’ll be home to hug you and Mom and Aerin shortly.
Love you lots.
- Alice Hough, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Contact: Douglas Karlson, Director of Communications, 508-444-1918 | firstname.lastname@example.org