Lookout, Stir-Crazy, and Sea Gods/Goddesses
March 12, 2020
Cook Strait, hove-to before entering Wellington Harbour
In the deck watch rotation, positions rotate every hour. They are lookout, helm, weather/navigation, and boat check. Lookout used to be my least favorite position because time always passed so slowly, and I thought there was nothing to do except stare out over the vast blue ocean towards the horizon. Many watch rotations later, lookout has become one of my favorite positions. How often does one get to be alone with their thoughts on a 40-meter ship carrying 37 people? I realized that this opportunity to have some quiet time while I'm conscious (not sleeping) is something that I should cherish. It gives me time to sort through memories. It gives me time to get organized, to make plans, and to think about the future. It gives me time to take in the fact that I am on a sailboat in the waters off the coast of New Zealand. In our "Maritime History & Culture" class, we have read multiple excerpts written by people who decided to live a life upon the ocean aboard whaling ships or exploration vessels or alone on personal sailboats to escape from the world for a little while.
Discussing the motivation behind why other people have found a home on the ocean inspired me to think about my own reasons for choosing SEA Semester as my study abroad program. Before boarding the ship, the only reason I could give was that the ocean and all the mysteries within it intrigued me; now I have more concrete answers. I love the excitement of reeling in the Neuston tow, meter net, or phytoplankton net after a deployment, because you never know which type of alien-looking creatures you are going to find. I love taking in the beauty of the sunrises and the sunsets, different with each day. We give an "oh no" and start laughing whenever we hear the hard knock of a wave against the side of the ship, because we know that we are about to get drenched on deck. We catch each other when the ship takes a big pitch or roll and when walking along the soles (floors of a ship) is like trying to walk in a fun house at the fair. Not only have we experienced swells as tall as a three-story house, but I've had the chance to steer through them. We haven't seen land in days and we all might be going a little stir-crazy, but the best part is that it's something we're all doing together as shipmates. Nothing is normal or sane about the ocean, yet I haven't felt fear. Instead, everything has been exhilarating and there is so much to learn, a daily reminder as to why I came to the ocean in the first place.
When I stand lookout, I no longer see nothing. I watch the stars rotate through the night sky, and I can now pick out constellations. I watch the clouds and the sun glide along their path signaling the passage of time. Watching the ocean is my favorite part. The wind has the power to make little ridges of waves on the surface. You keep a close eye out across the landscape to see if a fin or a spout cuts through the top of the water. The swells roll through constantly by an unseen force and standing on the bow makes you feel as if you are a god or goddess of the sea, riding to your destination on a deep blue chariot with dolphins as your pilot.
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