Oceano - Log Day 6 - Weather Girl
Last night’s sunset was a thing of beauty. Opal-like, radiating pastel sky and clouds like taken from an impressionist painting. Almost everyone from the crew was at the deck taking pictures or just staring in pure amazement at this spectacle people call weather.
I do love sunsets at the boat too, but my favorite time of day is this delicate time frame just before the sun rises, when colors gradually come back to the sky, darkness is slowly dissolving into grey, then lighter shades of violet, navy, blue and finally pink, white, eggy yellow, golden shades that release the sun like a pearl, and with it the warmth and clarity of the day. I am not a morning person, but I am always excited for this kind of ocean dawn. It is less kitschy and attention seeking than a sunset, less cliche. And it usually meets you in silence when everybody is still asleep. You make it your own.
People who don’t sail sometimes suggest that being on an ocean for so long like during an Atlantic crossing must be awfully boring. What is there to see? Only endless fields of water, constant flow of the waves and clouds moving on the sky. These people don’t understand how fascinating staring at the waves can be. The light changes all the time and with it the shades on the moving water, the sunlight glistens like white gold only to be put out by the deep blue. The light moves like a river of lava, sometimes slithers snake-like, decomposes into patches, sprinkles, sparks and sparkling confetti.
And at dusk, when the all lights are dimmed, the sky and the sea seem like liquid silk, matte, balsamic and soothing. Usually. Once I had a most beautiful sunset and dusk in circumstances that were dramatic both in lighting and our sailing situation. The storm was gathering force and magnitude, it was already blowing over 50 knots and we where heading from Ushuaia to the Falklands - so through a wild and untamed ocean territory. Among towering waves caressed by the violently pink, almost fuchsia tainted sunset, a wandering albatross was circling, elegantly like it was aware of its beautiful shape over the inflamed ocean. I was at the string wheel, trying to catch a wave like a surfer and guide the boat to a slide and then up again. It was my first time in such weather and I was terrified but at the same time I couldn’t stop smiling. It was deadly but also gorgeous. And when I thought I can’t get any better, dolphins started frolicking around us, jumping from the waves into the canvas of reddish skies. I will never forget this sight. And I have a bunch equally beautiful memories that consist mostly of the sun, the sky and the ocean.
The books about the weather for sailors are my favorites. I feel like some ancient priest looking up and judging the future from the shape of the clouds, the aura around the moon or the sun, the colors. This landscape we’re moving through, in the middle of the Atlantic, is almost unstained by our industrial lights, immaculate and primordial. When I dive deep into this hypnotic dance of the sea and the sky, I feel as if they’re a conscious being, like an intelligent ocean from Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris.
And even after the most intensely colored sunset, the night must come. Everyone is gone from deck, the dinner is served, people hide in their favorite places inside. Darkness hushes all the colors and bioluminescent algae appear, vivid and truly fairytale like, tiny greenish dots of light hurried by the waves, tiny stars captured by the ocean like blessings. I stare in wonder imagining our boat is a magical vehicle leaving trace of light in its track.
And above our heads - the night sky slowly but surely fills with stars, planets, constellations, space stations and satellites moving in their orbits. And when finally every bit of the day is devoured by the black - the cosmos shows itself in full glory. A few days ago I have found my favorite star. Her name is Canopus and she is a great luminary in Carina (the Kneel), 53 degrees south of the celestial equator. Canopus is not visible from latitudes above 37 degrees north - so residents US ( mostly), Canada and Europe ( apart from the deepest south) usually can’t see it. It is our companion on our way to the Caribbean, like it was a friend for Jason when he was sailing on a journey to find a golden bough - or how we like to imagine in mythology.
Canopus in ancient times used to be considered an Alpha star of constellation Argo. Modern astronomy broke the ancient ship into separate parts - Carina, Puppis ( the Stern ) and Vela ( the sails). When I noticed Canopus ( thanks to the wonders of modern technology - being one of the astro apps ) I can’t stop looking for it every night. It reassures me, connects me to the mythical, to the stories we’ve been telling each other and placing at the sky since the beginning of culture. Sailors have always had a special relationship with the stars. They comforted them, guided them, were the stuff for imagination, their friends, helpers, their Netflix, their church.
I will probably never feel as close to a galactic journey as when we dim all the lights on the boat as much as possible and I stare at the starry sky and the luminescent water from the fly deck, feeling transported out of earth’s hemisphere. At this moment I am an astronaut - which is nothing other than the sailor of the stars.