Boat guardian of the hour: what happens on watch?

I’m sitting up at the helm, rocking and rolling around on a slightly choppy sea and studying the spinnaker – the big front sail – for the two holes that I spotted yesterday. They seem to have disappeared. Fair weather clouds clutter the sky, moments of beautiful sunshine breaking through and warming my bare feet.

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Up top pew…

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…with a view

We’re heading towards a dark lined horizon, maintaining a steady speed of between 6 to 7 knots but it feels slow after a great yesterday averaging 8.4kts. Tahiti is still over 2,500nm away, at least another two weeks on this empty ocean. It seems both a short while and an eternity.

Occasionally I contemplate how vulnerable we are: four somebodies floating along in a carbon fibre frame, trying to employ and mix ancient sailing wisdom with modern technology.

My skipper is relaxed and knowledgeable. I wonder if he ever wonders just how he ended up crossing the Pacific with three newbies. Too late to switch things up now. What we lack in experience and knowledge, we make up for in interest and enthusiasm. He keeps the lads busy changing sheets on the genoa and unfurling the spinnaker. Other than watch duty, I’ve put myself forward as cook. I’m keeping busy.

With four of us on board, we can develop a routine. Every six hours, for two hours it’s my watch time, during which I look out for potential collisions or obstructions, keep an eye on wind direction and speed, check the sails, make minor adjustments to our course and, where necessary, trim the sails (or rather, I help to trim the sails, because although I have a good idea of what needs doing I lack the experience and therefore the confidence to make any bigger decisions).

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Keeping an eye on the sails

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Captain’s seat

And I try not to hit the track button on the captain’s main computer. It resets everything. But then someone does hit the track button and our whole mapped course disappears. Uh oh.

Honestly, it wasn’t me.

Far out in the South Pacific and unsure of where we’re going or where we’ve been? Nah, it isn’t quite that drastic. A tech savvy captain and we are back on track with only a little gap in the mapped route to show for the mistake.

And I am reassured that even in the event of a full on technological failure, night sky navigation isn’t something unfamiliar to my skipper, Alan . I put my trust in him and my crewmate Matt, who starts to read up on celestial navigation.

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Night time nav and sail switch

But now, back to my watch and that oncoming moody horizon.
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2 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, nature, pacific, sailing, sea

2 responses to “Boat guardian of the hour: what happens on watch?

  1. Michael

    Any marine life out there? Flying fish? Seabirds? Must be beautiful with 360 degrees of uninterrupted natural views and the stars at night for a light show. Are you learning any celestial navigation?

    • I absolutely loved the night times… up on night watch, by myself, just taking it all in. Amazing. I learnt a little about the night sky but not enough to guide us! The only living things I came across were flying fish and squid early in the trip, some dolphins about a week in and then later as we approached French Polynesia various seabirds… although I’m unsure of what they were. Thanks for reading and commenting! Stick around.

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