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Emily Morgan - Day 16 - Ships' Clocks

Monday 6th December. Noon (Ship's Clock) position: 15 degrees 34 minutes North; 053 degrees 25 minutes West. Day's run: 180.8 nautical miles

On board a boat in the mid-Atlantic, the simple question 'What time is it?' is unanswered until you are more specific. Do mean the Ship's Clock which regulates when you are on or off watch? Do you mean time at your home port? Or do you mean time at your destination port?
Today we had to work out 'local noon' which bore no relation to any of the above three times but is based on UTC time (Universal Time Co-ordinated). For this we consult the Ship's Chronometer, a small, cheap, digital watch Velcro-ed above the chart table. In the past this could have been the most expensive item on board a ship and John Harrison, the maker of the first clock to keep accurate time at sea, received a king's ransom for his invention. The real possibility of malfunctioning software has ensured that working out where you are at sea without electronic instruments is still an essential part of a mariner's training. So, in the spirit of ocean voyagers we once again tackled the basic 'noon sight' method of determining latitude. The first step was to figure out what time to do this. 15.23 UTC was the answer after we looked up the sun's 'meridian passage' for December 7th in the 2021 Nautical Almanac 'daily pages' and then went to the 'conversion of arc to time' page to adjust the given time for our current longitude. Clare and I struggled to take noon sights with the heavy sextant in the heat of mid-day on the moving deck and we were ready to 'shoot the sun' and to blame Brody at the helm but finally got a series of reasonable readings to work on.

Anna's lunch of freshly baked bread and a spinach, bacon and mushroom frittata provided a welcome diversion from beginning the mathematical calculations. As we are all on different timescales, a communal lunch is a rare thing. The afternoon passed in pleasant camaraderie sitting around the cockpit in the shade of the bimini. On board a boat in the middle of the ocean, life is reduced to its basic elements. Eat, Sleep, Sail. Dinner becomes a major event as it is the only time we all get together and discussions as to who is making what on their day for dinner take on a serious significance with people bagging ingredients and laying claim to meal ideas. We sleep in snatches throughout the day and, if not on watch, go to bed at a ridiculously early hour, usually soon after the 5.30 dinner when the sun sinks below the horizon and Alex's daily question 'Will there be a green flash?' has been answered. The remaining time is spent sailing. We're on watch 9 hours out of 24 and during each three hour watch you take turns with your watch mate helming and checking for squalls and other boats. We have gradually adapted to the rhythm of the days and now exist, untouched by and unaware of world events, in our own small world on Emily Morgan.


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