The Main Thing About Dawn Watch…
April 16, 2023
Chloe Keating, C Watch, Deckhand
7° 32’S x 141° 22’W
1026 nautical miles
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Hot and sunny! Winds and seas out of the East, Beaufort force 4 with 4ft swells. Sailing under the mainstays’l, forestays’l, jib and tops’l
Description of location
South Central Pacific Ocean
Today began for C Watch at 0100. Dawn watch (0100 – 0700) is consistently cited by students and crew alike as their favorite time to stand and I count myself among them. This might seem unthinkable, but if you’ve seen the constellations out here it’s no mystery. The novelty never wears off. There is also something deeply peaceful about keeping our little home safe and moving while our shipmates sleep below. It can be a time of reflection on lookout or bonding during “tea time” (a 0400 morale boost involving midnight rations and stories). It can be a time of uninterrupted focus to calculate nautical twilight or set up a morning star frenzy. It can be a time of hustle and wonder as you balance waking up your relief with watching the sunrise. The one thing dawn watch never promises to be is predictable.
We took the deck in relative quiet. There were a few clouds on the horizon but fair winds and following seas were keeping our spirits high. After the pinrail chase yesterday we had nearly the entire ship’s company help set the mains’l (even with 22 people, hauling on that halyard is hard work!) and she was still helping us make a nice 6.5 knots eight hours later. C watch loved the consistency of sailing under our four lowers. Dawn watch didn’t. Nearing hour three the winds picked up, gusting up to 38 knots. A heavy squall was catching up to us. I was in the chart house plotting the ship’s hourly position when I heard rain thunder down. Papers started to scatter and I covered them quickly before hearing a crash from the galley. In the seconds it took to get there and find what needed to be secured our steward Raechel had made it from her bunk to help me. She knows as well as anyone that you’ve always got to be prepared for anything.
Back in the charthouse I met Captain Allison working with the radar and calling commands to deck. She saw that our speed over ground had shot up to
10.4 knots and made a plan. I was sent to wake our chief mate Rocky with the news that we had to strike the mains’l immediately. On deck I found the engineers Marshall and Beth there to help too. Between C watch and those extra hands we ran the mains’l down, dealing with a few literal snags on the way. It was a quick and ugly furl in the dark but as long as all that sail was secured safely no one cares about the aesthetics, let alone at 0341. The rest of dawn watch we were on alert for more squalls but luckily everyone stayed as dry as they could hope to be. We also had the joy of passing 1000 nautical miles before turnover!
During my 0500 boat check our steward Tobi asked me “what was that loud noise earlier?” and I could only reply, “which one?” Waves slamming against the hull, a metal drawer in the galley crashing open, the wind kicking up or the mains’l coming down? In any case, I’d be surprised if anyone slept through the entire evolution. If they did, waking up wedged under their shelf or pin balling through the halls to breakfast would still be a pretty clear indication our sea state and sail plan changed overnight. But that’s part of the deal! And so much part of the fun. Mostly any momentary chaos here turns into just a few wet sole towels and a story to tell at breakfast.
Side note: I took a break while writing this blog to do help with daily chores and have some incredible handmade cinnamon rolls (thanks Tobi!) for
1600 snack on the Quarter Deck. Two sips into my coffee I heard “hands to set the main!” and jumped up. Only 11 of us were on the halyard this time but harder hauling can make for a sweeter sight when she’s set. And that work paid off immediately! We increased our speed from 4 to 7 knots, which made Captain Allison on the helm very happy. Everyone below will appreciate the air flow and everyone on deck loves feeling of sailing speedily along.
Adaptability is the name of the game here but let’s hope we get to keep that mains’l up overnight!
Sending love and wishing all the best to those at home,
Chloe Keating, C Watch, Deckhand
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