Wednesday, May 22, 2013


A picture says it all.  216 sea days, now 6 months on the beach...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Labrador Current brought us cold air and water the color of olives that
churns a deep spinach green and black- a frigid but nutrient rich soup
feeding the critters that feed the critters that feed the 6 whales and 3
herds of dolphin I saw today on my last day on watch for this voyage.

Right now we're approaching the final waypoint where we begin our slowdown-
it's an hour before taking on the pilot and I'm too stoked to sleep.

My phone rumbled about an hour ago alerting me to a text from Timberly
Cricket and heralding in the news that I am once again inside the world of
the internets... I'll enjoy browsing while at the airport later today, but
before that can happen I have to help dock a ship.

I'm going to try sleeping again.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A White Whale!!!!

250 nautical miles from the nearest Azores and 800 nautical miles from
Newfoundland's closest shore the calm water became a deep jade green that
churned a lighter green of the same hue. Green water denotes a high algae
and chlorophyll-based plant content and the food chain was evident as we
moved into the warm Atlantic Current and bands of yellow water - a plankton,
phytoplankton, and krill soup - filled the sea from horizon to horizon, the
micro-animals grazing on the micro-plants.

It didn't take long to see a flock of gannet circling over water churning
with either tuna or mackerel, surrounded by hunting dolphin who leapt in and
out of the roiling mess, taking their meal with them one mouthful at a time
as they went. And I saw dozens of pilot whales, their smoke-on-the-water
spouts standing out against the yellow and green streaked ocean. It was
like watching that series "Earth," the Oceans episode... minus the fantastic
up-close and personal videography, of course- the story, however, is

That was yesterday. Last night a breeze whipped the water into motion and
the microscopic plant and animal life was smashed into their smaller
chemical components, known as smithereens, which then drifted down to the
ocean floor to become the limestone of tomorrow. Indigo blue water and
whitecaps, 40 knot winds from the SE, and a cloudless sky greeted me at
watch this morning... and being 450 miles closer to Newfoundland, of course.

The most plentiful whales in the ocean are ghost whales- which are the
hundreds of whales you think you just saw after actually seeing a real one.
Every whitecap becomes a plume, every shadow a dorsal, pectoral, or tail
fin... and when the water is choppy, like it is today, I don't even bother
to look for them. So imagine my surprise when I train my binoculars on what
I assume is a raft of grass coming down the starboard side and instead focus
in on a white pilot whale with black spots on its tail, lazily swimming just
below the surface, noncommittally breeching for air and for all intents and
porpoises more manatee than anything else.

So add a white whale to my list of things Forrest-saw-at-sea.
Two more days and a wakeup. My bags are packed, my room is mostly ready for
the next sailor, and I am so antsy it does no one any good to even try
talking to me. I am also dead-set on finishing off the last of the 7 lbs.
of coffee I bought when on the east coast last, back in February, and my
highly-caffeinated, no overtime working, restless self is going to unpack,
then repack, my stuff again today. Just because.

Two more days and a wakeup. I have designed a small boat to build, planned
how to sell my existing boat and what its replacement will be, designed
another container house (duh- the damned things are staring me in my face
all day), planned getting my truck batteries charged, boat batteries
charged, grass cut, driver's license updated, union dues paid, new drug test
card, my USCG licensing updates updated... all in my head. Every day.
While staring at the Atlantic.

Two more days and a wakeup. NYC, ETA 0400 zone time, May 20.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Six and a Wakeup.

Last night I watched the earth's shadow eclipse the waxing crescent moon -
one minute the bright scythe hung low in the sky and then the blade of the
moon began to grow thinner and thinner. By the time it had dropped to the
horizon the eclipse was full and that Cheshire grin had turned completely
dark. The moonset was accompanied by the setting of Jupiter- who did not
quit the job when it was almost complete like his lunar counterpart- and
once Jupiter had set fully the guiding constellations left filling the sky
were Gemini, Canis Minor, and Auriga- as has been the case since leaving the
Suez. By the end of watch they'd fallen below the horizon, too, and I
handed over my watch with Leo on the bow.

I posted about how Crux (no longer visible) is so easy to confuse with the
union of Vela and Carina- I just realized that this union of constellations
I call "the pseudo-crux," like the actual Southern Cross, is not visible
above 25 degrees north latitude, either, to which I must say "Oops. My
Bad." I hope nobody actually went out on a starry night to check... but if
you did, you're most welcome.

I watched the Rock of Gibraltar and the looming hills of Africa slide past
in the fog this morning as the shipping traffic miraculously flowed around
us on all sides like bubbles of mercury- always moving yet never touching.
I consider the Light on the Isla de Tarifa to be the actual gate post to the
Atlantic on the European shore- it is the point furthest to sea on the
Strait, and around that point the land climbs immediately north and away
from the shipping lanes. I watched a small sailboat with a reefed main and
no jib run around that point, rolling in the following seas and flying
before 30 knot winds, before tacking and setting off on a beam reach up the
coast with no small amount of jealousy- and like most sailors, I was highly
critical of his unbalanced rig (reef it again and fly your storm jib, you
dolt) but envied his predicament, nonetheless.

The flint water that churned green glass-in-the-sun on the Med side of the
tide rips in the mouth of the Strait became flint water that churned a
robin's egg blue on the Atlantic side, and the following winds whipped up
swells where only ships and whitehorses tirelessly roam... no fishing boats
to bedevil us, three sailboats in total (one large cat with no canvas up)
out to play in the wind, and we behemoths. Oh, and one Tug- Bella- rolling
like a drunken whore, refusing to answer our hails, and abusing her unequal
power of being the overtaken vessel by placing herself fully in our way no
matter what our heading... her captain amused me to no end, particularly
because my watch partner- the Worst Mate Ever- became so frustrated by her.
It truly is the little things in life...

Six days and a wake up! Tomorrow I will start the actual packing process.
The Atlantic swells are mild so I won't be tightening lashing rods anytime
soon with my Wonderbar (tm) and singing in my finest German accent (to the
tune of "Oh Christmas Tree," as I am known to do) "Oh Wonderbar, Oh
Wonderbar, Oh how you make me wonder...." So pack I shall.

And oh yeah... you're welcome for that.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Whistling up... OT?

At the end of my 2000 to midnight watch there will be 8 days and a wakeup
remaining before I am back on the beach. I will have been at sea for 216
straight days, working a 56 hour work-week (before overtime), 7 days a week,
and I will have averaged 5.14 hours of overtime a day- which means I will
have worked (on average) 13.14 hours every single day since October 14th,
2012. That is 2832 hours. Which is equivalent to seventy-one 40 hour
work-weeks... but who's counting, right?

It is amazing the difference a day can make. Transiting the Suez I was in
shorts and a teeshirt, as I have been since March 17th when we last came
through, carrying my ever present water bottle and hiding in the shade. A
single day out of Damietta and I had dug out my wool base layer. Today I'm
wearing my hat and fleece and I'm still shivering... I had just gotten my
body regulated to working in 100 degrees, 99% humidity, in the shade
temperatures and the sunny 60 degrees now feels positively arctic. I
suspect no one in Seattle will feel my pain, but my peoples down in the Low
Country will know exactly what I'm talking about.

So I'm starting to throw away work clothes and the detritus of life that
gathers in drawers, cabinets, corners, under and over furniture nooks,
window sills, refrigerators, et cetera, in preparation for the end of my
incarceration. I am gifting any and every thing (memory foam mattress pad,
cotton sheets, carhart foulies, boiler suits, playboy calendar- gifted from
the last bosun, of course- water filter, quart of honey... you get the
picture) firstly to the Fisherman, aka my brother-from-another-mother,
secondly to Gipetto's apprentice, the most courteous but physically
diminutive Philippino AB who is, through no fault of his own, everyone's
favorite mascot, and finally to the trash- b/c everyone else on this ship
can kiss my ass.

Late tomorrow or early the next day (I haven't bothered to look, actually)
we pass the Rock, so in two days time we'll be maneuvering the last of the
European fishing fleets and crossing the Africa-Europe ship traffic in the
Atlantic. Tonight will be all about weather predictions, I do predict...
usually it's a conversation had sooner before hitting the Atlantic but this
mate I'm watch partners with is a bit... um... well. If you can't say
something nice, right? I'll ask the Chief Mate when we relieve him and get
the skinny, but a good storm would require a massive lashing gear tightening
spree and I might be able to get more OT- which I want, of course. So I've
started whistling. A lot.

Bring on the OT!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Transit Number 6

Hmmm.... Where could this be?  Hint: that might be the Suez light.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dolphin and Gannets

Yesterday the indigo water was mostly calm (force 3-4) and the weather
extremely clear. Herds of dolphin, each about 50 strong, leapt, flipped,
and played in the waves and I realized it is almost impossible to watch them
without smiling. I also saw pilot whales and another unidentified whale,
but none were close enough to discern any other details.

Last night I watched Sirius set ahead of us as Antares followed Scorpio
skyward back astern, chasing close behind Libra (as always) up the dome of
the sky. The Southern Cross is still above the horizon and probably will be
for another few days, but Miaplacidus has fallen below the edge of the world
for good, now, as we move up in latitudes. Later, during security watch, I
witnessed great, fat-tailed meteors light up the northern celestial
hemisphere and shoot across the sky in front of the Little Bear, each
lasting between 1 to 7 seconds and crossing from horizon to horizon, east to
west, on the same transit as the ship, albeit through much different
atmospheres. You know it's a good night of watching "falling stars" when
you resort to just repeating the same wish over and over again,
automatically, each time a streak lights up the sky.

Today the sea was choppier than yesterday, following at force 6, and a dark,
dirty, and moody green the same hue as our faded bedroom paint at home (only
Laura will know the color, but it's kind of a NW moss). Off the shore of
Jabal Zuquar and Hanish al Kubra Islands were gannets riding the thermals
and diving at tremendous speed deep into the water after flying fish.
They're a big white bird with a wingspan of almost four feet accented with
black wingtips and edges, a black face with a long, bright yellow beak, and
a short, wide, flat body with stubby, black tail feathers. They're fast and
fun to watch- I was quite happy they were taking advantage of the thermals
around this floating tower and passing within ten feet of the bridge wings.
They would glance curiously at me as they stole silently and effortlessly by
and then I was disregarded as "not food" before they carried on with their
work day.

We should be picking up our first load of Egyptian flies for the slaughter
tomorrow night!