Toau to Hilo: Day 9 -- Our Watch

Hey there!

To all our venerable and wise, Honorary Shellbacks, our valued Virtual Crew and precious little Pollywog newbies out there...

Tomorrow morning, at roughly 7 AM-WCT, Pura Vida should be nosing her way across that infamous and imaginary line (there sure isn't any sign of it out here other than the numbers on our GPS!).

We have new names on cloth, beads on our necks, songs in our hearts and prayers on our lips to offer to our great ocean.

So set your watch and join us, with your morning cup of coffee, or as you walk the dog or ride the bus to school... and spend a few moments, to send some positive thoughts and vibrations to our planet.


Peace, love and using less plastic,

The Pura Vida tribe

DAY 9 POST: Our Watch
Last night, on my first watch, I finally had a chance to read the story Emily posted on the blog.

The past few days, we have been having better luck with wind but its been rather challenging in the seas department. Still desperately trying to make incremental Easting whenever possible, we have kept Pura Vida as close-hauled to the wind as we can. Our boat is not a race boat, so holding her 45* to the wind, takes some effort on all of our parts. Its not a comfortable way to sail for days and days on end--especially with three-meter, confused seas, three seconds apart, smacking us on the beam the whole time.

Jon finished up his watch at 9pm, traded off the harness we wear at night, gave me a kiss and headed below to grab his three hours of sleep before the next changing of the guard. There's little room for more than this brief exchange. We take turns, tumbling exhausted into our rolling, tilted bunk, and willing ourselves to ignore the chaotic creaking and smashing of waves and joinery (we actually wear ear plugs when trying to sleep), while the other shakes of the bone-ache and weariness to stand alone against the night and the spooky, capricious marauding of the dark sea.

Each of us knows what's to be done, to hold the course true, to set the sails for whatever comes, we sleep, knowing in absolute certainty that the Other will not fail the Watch of the long night.

Approaching the ITCZ has us on our toes. A warning notice, received over the SSB confirms the nearby position of a trough (nasty weather system) in our expected Longitude, and promises to keep us focused on getting well behind it, rather than if front of it.

Days run into nights and on it goes, in the cosmic cycle of our 24 hour life at sea. Removing oneself from the normal world of routines, all trivial pursuits, every ounce of concentration wrung into the undiluted intention of the vigilant guard we keep, over the safety of our boat and her precious cargo. The rest becomes lost, your sense of self, your prior existence, your relationship to anything other than the next wave, sheer of wind and shudder of sail. Memories float up and swirl past, released from subconscious dormancy, ghostly, nebulous jellyfish, they cling to one another in symbiotic colonies that defy understanding. Daydreams, strung together like loose gems on the feeble thread of desire; momentary distractions as you are slowly, slowly swallowed whole by the infinite blue, the horizontal line, the swirling stars, wandering moon and the fathomless wonder beneath you.

It was icky out, and having a good excuse to spend some time inside, I read that story Emily posted, and it made me sad...
because it is true.

Despite all my gooey, shamanic, transcendence, there had been, in the past 9 days at sea, very little to actually see or hear over the waves (besides the occasional, whimpering, squeak of my vanishing Ego).

Other than the King of the Mahi-Mahi, who regaled Hunter and I with his golden-green splendor, we had seen NO dolphin, whales, very few sea birds, no sharks, or other predators, nothing except two, giant (but deeply inedible) Black Skip Jack had even come to bite on our tasty looking lure...
even the flying fish (which, when I was a child and sailed the tropics were abundant) were few and far between. Not so far and long ago, a sailor on this passage, would literally have to scrape them off the deck every morning before the sun came up to keep the boat from stinking of fish.

The only thing not quiet about this place is the weather, which, with a sneaking guilt, I suspect is also likely due to the stained human hand, messing with our planet's thermostat. Our friends on Nakia (who are now 150 miles South-East of us, and also heading for Hilo) have done this crossing three times. They have also toured French Polynesia three times before, in years of more "normal" weather patterns. The other night over the radio, as we were swapping stories of woe and discomfort due to the large and irregular seas, they told us that this was by far the worst beginning to a Pacific crossing they had ever had... and this whole cruising season, had been one of unusual and wonky weather!

We had thought it seemed a little odd that people often refer to this as the "coconut run", what with all sorts of boats around us hunkering down, being hit by lightening or thrown onto reefs and us experiencing some of the trials we went through. We had nothing to compare it to and as such, made the most of the good days-of which there were way, way more than enough, to make it all worth it!

But the story made me sad.

To think that we were so grossly affecting our planet in such a way, that we may never be able to reset it, made me feel futile and small and the ocean around me seemed as empty as a blue Mars.

I went to bed depressed.

Three hours later, I staggered out of my my bunk and ran the usual gauntlet of reaching the deck in a dark and jerking boat; slammed into a bulkhead, head first, careened down the companionway, smashing my shins and then my elbows, found my foulies on the floor in the main salon where I had dropped them in an exhausted stupor...

I climbed up the ladder, took the harness from Jon, gave him a kiss and sat down to stare out at the shadowed grey of a cloud-covered pre-dawn.

The wind was fair but we were making excellent speed, so we had found some favorable current. The weak Front that we had passed under during the night was showing signs of lifting as the first rays of morning snuck over the horizon.

I set out the fish lures, and sat on the empty cooler that we have strapped to our aft deck (where once upon a time, we carried rare luxuries, like beer and lemonade). This is the best seat in the house, as from here, I can see the length of the boat right to our bowsprit and the set of the sails was perfect and even though the seas were still big and lumpy Pura Vida was nosing over them, with grace and determination.

Something caught my eye off the beam.

I couldn't believe the size of it, when first I saw it.
I had to shake the sleep off, before I knew what I was looking at.

This was a really, really, big shark.

Photo by Robin Baird, borrowed from Cascadia Research.

Not fifteen yards from the boat, (he must have been at least fourteen feet long) a massive, Oceanic White Tip Shark glided slowly towards our hull, checking us out.

His curved dorsal fin was longer than my outstretched arms and as he was just cruising casually on the surface, I could see him perfectly: The wide body, graceful pectoral fins, stretched out wide, his impossibly long, thick tail, swishing slowly back and forth setting whirlpools spinning in his wake.

As he surfed the crest of a small wave, I saw that great, black eye...
take me in.

That moment, for me, shattered into a thousand pieces of Time.

It took about five seconds and with a stunning thrash of his massive tail, he disappeared beneath the waves.

I felt as humbled as if I had knelt before the temple at Delphi and was given an audience with the Goddess herself.

Sharks are, of all the sea's creatures, one of the oldest.

They have struggled and flourished, in our planet's oceans for millions of years...
and they know a thing or two about survival.

I was incredibly blessed to glimpse this rarely seen animal, in this way, especially on this morning.

It felt like the Universe had sent an emissary from the Deep,
with a message from the Planet;
that it is not too late.

Whether we like it or no, we have been given the helm.

It is up to each of us, to take responsibility for the safety, well being, freedom and happiness of all Earth's beings (including our own, marvellous, fumbling species).

To guide our beautiful, planet-ship and protect it, with all the skills that we have, from whatever harm it faces,
to do everything possible, to fix what we might have broken,
for the sake of our fellow creatures and our children.

It is their future...
and this is OUR watch.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant, beautiful, deeply moving, ditto, ditto, ditto.