Night Watch in Still Air
Author: Stevie Walker, Boston College
Lat 25˚ 43.3’N x Lon 126˚ 37.4’W
Weather / Sail Plan
Sailing under the Topsail, Course, Raffee, and Main Staysail, Winds Force 3 from the NNE
It has been an eventful day here on the Robert C. Seamans! One thing I have started to learn in the past days is just how quickly weather and conditions can change (and also how that affects my stomach). Last night we travelled under light winds, enjoying a beautiful sunset and setting the course sail for the first time. When I woke up for morning watch, it was drizzly and the wind was being a flakey friend. Then she picked up and just over an hour later the Beaufort force was 5 (a wind conditions measurement meaning 17-21 knots), and the morning watch was quite busy setting and taking in lots of different sails. Over on the science deck, things were also quite busy - fitting in a carousel deployment, meter net, and Neuston net tows all in just a few hours. Sadly, the cod jar (bottle that catches the zooplankton) on the Neuston net fell off just as we were pulling out the net, so we lost our zooplankton sample. But hey, that’s just how science goes! Ashley, our steward, and Talia, our assistant steward, cooked us an amazing coconut curry for lunch. We had a lovely sunset jam session on the doghouse with Megan on the fiddle, Lila and Oscar on the ukuleles, and Matt, Duncan, and I on guitar. It has been another great day getting underway to Hawaii.
Okay, so that wraps up my daily report! I wanted to take this blog post as an opportunity to reflect on the reasons I am grateful to finally be aboard the Seamans and two of the moments I have had so far that have reminded me of why. For me and 7 other students in S-301, this trip has been over 20 months in the making. As Captain Sean mentioned in his earlier blog, our original research cruise (class S-291) was cancelled due to COVID- 19 when we were just two weeks away from starting our trip sailing from New Zealand to Tahiti. The day before S-291 went home (during that absolutely insane month we will all remember as March 2020), one of our shipmates, Alex, gave us all a poem that I have kept with me ever since. It’s a two stanza poem, but I want to focus on the first stanza, which is called “Night Watch in Still Air”. Here it is:
sailing, silence, quiet distant gurgle of water, gentle breeze on the aft deck, slight smell of tea, hushed whisper of the watch members, cautious steps on the companion ways, lovely shooting stars, the sound of a lonely bird and - silence, a thousand stars sticking to the night sky, the sound of a softly striking sail, the peaceful moon surrounded by a silvery mist of clouds drawing a dancefloor on the surface of the ocean, a dance floor for the silence of the night watch.
The entire time we were on Catalina Island, I read Alex’s poem just about every day. I was so ecstatic to finally be getting on the Seamans and setting sail! When we pulled up alongside the Seamans - a week ago today - I was buzzing with all sort of different emotions. I don’t think there’s a word that can describe experiencing all these feelings at once, but finally stepping onto her deck I felt something that was a combination of excitement, resolution, sadness, peace, nervousness, disbelief, joy, and adventure. It was a special and monumental moment to truly step aboard. The fact that I get to look out on the horizon every day and say “wow, I’m in the middle of the Pacific Ocean” makes me so happy and grateful to be here.
I have been imagining for so long what it might be like to experience a night watch in still air. On my watch’s first dawn watch, which runs from 0100 to 0700, the conditions were just right. Steering at the helm and witnessing a lunar eclipse on the calm sea was one of the wildest feelings. As I was standing lookout on the bow at 0300 I felt the silence, saw the gentle breeze and the silvery mist of clouds. Alex described it perfectly. The full moon shining on the ocean legitimately did look like a sparkling dance floor. At 0400, I shared tea time with my amazing watch members - led by 2nd mate Megan and 2nd scientist Lila. I had the biggest grin on my face the entire time. It is real and I am on this boat!
I cannot say enough how thankful I am to be aboard the Seamans now - with old friends and new - as a member of class S301. So to wrap up this blog I’d like to give a shout out to all of the S-291er’s, and to say thank you to Alex for her words.
- Stevie Walker
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