Readily Flying into the Unknown

July 1, 2024

Author: Natalia Sawicka A Watch, Boston University

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Ship's Log

Position at Sunset (Lat and Long): 20 deg 16.0' S x 155 deg 42' W
Ship Heading (degrees): 215 deg
Ship Speed (knots): 7 knots
Log (nm):  442.1 nm
Weather, Wind // Sail Plan: Partly cloudy and warm, with 20 knots of wind from the SE and 8-10 foot seas // Mainstays'l, Forestays'l, Tops'l and Jib
Description of location: just crossed the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone border, AKA the Marae Moana Marine Protected Area (our policy project area of study!!)

In just four days underway, much has already astounded me about the waters of the Central Southern Pacific Ocean.

The first is how unbelievably blue the water is. Seriously, it's an absolutely *ridiculously* deep and stunning hue. If you've ever wondered where "ocean blue" got its name as a color, let me tell you: it's the tropical Pacific. I could (and do) stare at it for hours, marveling at every second of it.

The second is the flying fish, a creature that I still cannot quite believe actually exists. Personally, I have sighted around a dozen so far: one unfortunately desiccated friend pictured above, but the others soaring purposefully above the sea's rhythmically churning surface, glistening silver and blue in the tropical sunlight while gliding on strong, outstretched pectoral fins. A smile-inducing and surreal sight, flying fish have been traditionally regarded by sailors as heralds of good fortune and fair weather.

And fly they do. Their approximately 15-cm body lengths belying their impressive physical ability, these marine creatures leap incredible distances of around 50 meters into the unknown, above and beyond their natural conditions of existence √ and directly against the prevailing direction of the 10-foot seas and 20 knot wind, no less. All things considered, the strength and willpower of these small fish is humbling.

A strength and willpower that reminds me of that of my shipmates.

As my Sleepy Hollow bunkmate Papang so eloquently illustrated in yesterday's blog post, life aboard works only in collaboration, contingent upon every member of the ship's company devoting themselves wholeheartedly to their duties. And the sea, in all its wonderful and mysterious beauty, is nonetheless a formidable environment (i.e., seasickness has afflicted practically all during the first few days).

Every moment heralds new pitches and rolls of varying intensity, courtesy of swells kicked up by Southern Ocean storms thousands of miles away (best maneuvered with skilled stumbling and pre-planned handholds, I have come to find). The ship never sleeps, sailing from Tahiti onwards towards Rarotonga every hour of the day and night. Standing watch demands physical and mental stamina, a bizarre and adaptable sleep schedule, attentiveness to commands shouted over the howling wind and splashing waves, efficient compliance with the aforementioned commands, hourly boat checks and observations, and the carrying out of lots and LOTS of science procedures and sail handling. All of this and more has been met with readiness and good spiritedness in an environment never intended to sustain human life at all, and much less the vibrant, funny, and all-around awesome community housed aboard the Seamans. Just like the flying fish, each crew member assertively and readily leaps into handling the unknown brought by each six-hour watch during which the ship is theirs to run.

Though fairness of weather remains to be seen, I have no doubts about the good fortune brought by each member of the Seamans' company. 🙂

Wishing all a flying fish encounter at least once in their one wild and precious life,
Natalia Sawicka
A Watch, Boston University Marine Program

Hello Mama, Tata, Bubu, and Sebe!! I miss you all so much and am so excited to tell you all about this epic adventure when I return. (With an absolute abundance of photos of course, hehe.) Thank you for everything you have done to bring me here, in every way. I could not be more grateful. This is such a dream come true for me; I keep expecting to wake up from it, and yet the wonders continue, as they are √ impossibly --  absolutely real. Please give Tygi kisses for me! I miss the bean loads. <3

All the other wonderful people I sent this blog to: hi!!! Sending love and all the most exquisite ocean vibes. You'll probably get a postcard from me at some point. Don't expect me to shut up about this (like, ever). ?

Team AIO: if you're reading this, galley clean-up is exactly like doing the dishes back in the AIO kitchen, if the whole thing was also in constant, unpredictable motion for the entire 2+ hours it takes every time. (Think about that next time you do it --- it could be worse! 😛 ) Thinking of you all and excited to see you in August! (Tim: two turtle sightings so far!)

(Shoutout to Sydney's nana, Daryl's mom, Kai's mom, and all the moms- hi!! We're thriving here, don't worry. 🙂 )

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