Alone Like a Rolling Stone

Night shift

We have a new moon. The night is deep black. The Milky Way is clearly visible above us. The millions of stars are, besides the plotter, the only source of light. In between, I call them wanderers, partly unexpected, the planets of our solar system. My eyes burn and the numbers on the screen, I perceive only through a veil. At 00:00 o'clock I note the position, in order to determine the Etmal for the day. Again under 100 nautical miles. The etmals we achieve on this crossing are just lousy. With an average of under three knots, we are well behind our set goal. In fact, we have never been so slow, and that on our longest leg so far. We can only hope that we will catch up a bit in the last third. South of the Gambier Islands, two cyclones pass through in quick succession. In between, a high pressure system has pushed itself, which is causing quite a stir in the South Pacific. North of the 18th parallel, changeable weather has set in. The wind is weak and gusty and often changes direction. Especially at night this brings its difficulties. The sails would have to be trimmed more often, which we, on consideration of the sleeping part of the night watch, omit. Overnight, we only do what is necessary as far as course and sails are concerned. So I record the position and enter it in the logbook. Afterwards I write an email and send it, via Iridium, to the Mare. Then I download the latest weather forecast from Kiel. This takes about two hours. A very annoying thing, because the data is transferred only drop by drop and there are countless disconnections. In addition, the amount of data is relatively large for Iridium. But I have time and so I always compete with the orange data bar, how far it may progress, until the next interruption. I always try to estimate how many KByte it was this time and I am happy when I am right. At three o'clock in the night, I wake up Gaby, who then takes over the shift. I hit the hay and fall into a restless sleep. Maybe I do have to get out if the wind, for example, stays away completely and the sails start to beat. Then we bring in the genoa so far that it can't hit anywhere. Theoretically, this can also be done alone, but at night, for safety reasons, I don't want any individual actions on board. We're still not quite sure what the best night routine is for us. We've tried a two, three and four hour interval now. Right now we are testing out, the first shift two hours, then the second shift, three hours. Anyway, the other morning, each of us is glad that the sun has risen again. A coffee helps to displace the tiredness, for now. Nevertheless, it soon caught up with you again, and so there are always longer periods of sleep during the day.

We sail into the night

In the meantime we have been at sea for 38 days. To the Gambier Islands there are still 1400 nautical miles. The moon has a crescent again and the man in the moon is casually flitting in it. He looks down at me cockily and grins to himself. By the way, in Japan the man in the moon is a rabbit. Probably he grins the same way. At some point, after 30 night shifts, it starts. At first, it only flashes briefly, not really noticeable, just as if someone were squinting around the corner of a house and then quickly pulls his head back again, but in such a way that you notice it. The feeling becomes more intense, one feels observed, there is something behind me. Inevitably, although you know very well that there can't be, you turn around and stare into the darkness. Something white is coming towards you, fluttering its ears and grinning just like the man in the moon. A white elephant, no a whole herd, rumbles past the boat. As fast as they came, as fast they are gone again. What remains is astonishment and unanswered questions. Can elephants walk on water? Probably only white ones. I think it's time to wake Gaby, I need a capful of sleep. The man in the moon is still looking at me with a grin. What a dork! The next morning I see a whole bunch of little clouds moving next to us. Very low, lit by the rising sun, the white has a slight pink color. Looks like a herd passing by our boat. A herd, yes what actually. A herd of white elephants. Yes one becomes strange with the time, if one is so long alone on sea. But out here it doesn't bother anyone, and if I'm lucky, the next time I go ashore, it's all gone again. If I am lucky! If not I must live probably with it. In this sense, always fair winds and keep a stiff upper lip. And feed your elephants!