Happy sunset hour from just outside of Poor Knights Island!
We just finished a lovely dinner of pulled pork sliders. After my Stu Stew day yesterday (Student Steward, shadowing our lovely chefs Ashley and Morgan) I have a much greater appreciation of all of the galley's inner-workings and the thought that goes into every meal. For example: how to make soup as tumultuous waves throw ingredients and tilt the entire galley, or the importance of securing sharp tools down before moving on to a new task. Today marked my watch's first shift on the FINAL MISSION! We've come a long way from the days when we couldn't explain a gybe or a tack if our lives depended on it. Now, we're in charge of everything from sail handling and navigation to lab deployments and analyzing samples. Today's neuston net tow brought in another large salp haul, but nothing can top the fateful dawn watch that I, along with Cricket and D'Elle, had to count a whopping 1,700 stinky salps from the delirious hours of 0100 to 0700. It was all worth it for the jaw-dropping sunrise though. Considering it was my watch's first time entirely in charge, today's afternoon watch went remarkably well. We were all able to play into each other's strengths, splitting up between deck and lab and creating a precise schedule to smoothly rotate between roles-weather and navigation, helm, lookout, etc. It was a beautiful, sunny day, with calm waves and some lush, green islands on the horizon-our first land sighting since Napier! We were even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a hammerhead shark! During class a few days ago, we were asked to reflect on some ways in which we will describe this experience to others once we return home. To me, so much of ship life is indescribable. I've grown so accustomed to this home that is never still, to being awake at all hours of the day and night, and experiencing the weird phenomenon that is ship time. I'm no longer surprised when saltwater douses me as I stand lookout when the bow dips over a particularly large wave, and I've perfected my bedtime burrito to keep me from rolling around while I sleep. However, I'm still awestruck by the sheer number of stars that appear above me most nights. I still have my breath taken away by dawn watch sunrises, or when we are greeted by a friendly flock of dolphins. And I am still in perpetual amazement, and gratitude, for this experience. Nearing the end of our voyage brings about a multitude of emotions, from excitement for seeing loved ones again to fear at leaving our sweet little bubble and facing the real world again. This trip has given me an entirely new perspective I will take with me afterwards, our 40-person, floating community just a speck in the Southern Pacific. I will remember and cherish the sense of closeness that this lifestyle brings. Truly, each and every one of us relies on each other. When I go to sleep, I am comforted in the knowledge that my classmates are dutifully up on deck, keeping the boat safe and on course. When, for example, a few watches ago we quickly needed to strike the mains'l at the change of the watch, everyone leapt into action, even the sleepy watch that had just been woken up mere minutes before. We all climbed up onto the housetop, and took turns calling orders-"Up! Aft! Down!" and listening as they were called back. This same feeling of teamwork and reliance is present anytime I hand the steering wheel off to someone new, or make fast a line while someone holds it down for me, or fall asleep knowing someone will wake me up at the correct time. Speaking of falling asleep-which I don't do much of around here-I have morning watch tomorrow so I must begin my bedtime tasks. Those mainly include shoving all my rogue belongings into one corner of my tiny, overcrowded bunk and then attempting to flop myself sideways into bed without knocking myself out on the ceiling. The final step is, of course, the bedtime burrito. As you can see I've got a lot to do so I must be going! Lucy Hylton Colorado College B Watch P.S. Hi family! I love and miss you all so very much. I'm so looking forward to seeing you all again! I hope everything is well at home, and also get ready for NEVERENDING BOAT STORIES! I'm sending you lots of hugs, all the way from offshore New Zealand!