Floating through time
Wednesday, May 6th, 4pm
Position 00.51N 174.59E Winds 10-15 SW, course 135, boat speed 4.5 knots Tracking map: http://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Learnativity
We saw whales this morning! A whole pod of them. I don’t know how many. The sky is low and gray today, with dark black squalls playing around the horizon. The wind had recently shifted 180 degrees, and when I first saw a bit of white water, I just thought it was an odd white cap created by the mixed wind and seas. But when I saw the next patch of white water, I saw the spout of spray as the whale exhaled, followed by the small dorsal fin and the smooth gray back.
Wayne was sleeping on the cockpit seat with Ruby curled up behind his knees, while I was sitting up in the captain’s chair with Barney on my lap. I jumped up and said, “Whales!” All four of us sprang to attention, and while I peered through the rain-spotted windshield and side curtains, Wayne slid over the coaming and stood at the lifelines. The whales were headed south, too, following a course parallel to ours. We saw three more spouts, then they were gone. We are in contact via satellite email with our friend Philip, a solo sailor on his Outremer catamaran who left for Fiji three days ahead of us. When he was passing through these same waters, he had a whale rub up against his boat. When he felt the bump, Phil ran topsides, and he found himself staring into the huge eye. The whale left and swam around the boat, then returned for more rubbing. The whale was as long as his boat, and Philip was both scared and awe-struck.
This route we are sailing takes us along a string of islands. On the north is the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) and in the south is Tuvalu. The islands are all atolls and if you are trying to find them on Google Earth, you have to really zoom in. They are tiny. Between 1820 and 1870, these waters were where the whalers came to hunt the sperm whales. Those leviathans have been swimming around these waters since before the first humans immigrated from Southeast Asia out to the Pacific Islands.
Today is our fifth day at sea, and we are starting to lose track of time as we know it on land. This 52-foot steel boat is our world and the only real parameters that govern our decisions are keeping it and us safe and strong. We eat when we feel like eating, and we sleep the same way. Wayne also keeps a blog (www.learnativity.typepad.com) and since he has spent so much time working on the boat these past few days, he had fallen behind in getting his posts out. We decided to postpone dinner until he got something posted last night, and then we encountered some technical problems getting his satellite email set up. Once again we ate around 10:30. Wayne took the first watch at 11:30 while I slept. When I awoke at 2:30, I sent him to sleep. He showed up with Barney in his arms at 6:30 — the little guy had let him know he need to visit the mat on the aft deck. We usually eat breakfast early, but I told him I needed a bit more sleep, so we ate breakfast burritos when I got up three hours later. We just go with the flow of what our bodies need. We live on boat time.
As one who first sailed the South Pacific in 1975-1976 on a boat with no communications whatsoever, I am continually astounded by how much our world has changed in my lifetime. When I am on night watch, I can look up at the stars and wonder which of those pin pricks of light is a star billions of years old, and which is actually one of the satellites I just used to send an email to my friend. We are in touch with fellow sailors, family and weather computers. I even had a text chat with son on his cell phone in real time via the Iridium Go Messages app. Forty years ago, we navigated with a sextant, and the most high tech piece of equipment was our all-band receiver we used to listen to Greenwich Mean Time to calculate our position. Had someone told us then that GPS would one day exist, we would not have believed it. Our encounter with the whales, this huge ocean we are floating in, and my stargazing all remind me what a newcomer I am in this universe. Some people find that smallness depressing. Others think time is their enemy as they are always growing older. To me, it is quite the contrary. I keep thinking about how incredibly fortunate I’ve been to witness how the world has changed exponentially in my lifetime. Time is my ally and friend, and I intend to appreciate every additional second of it I get.