It’s 12:30 UTC on Friday. I’m lounging in the cockpit, awaiting my turn at the helm. We spotted our first ship in the daytime passing us to our starboard about 1 nautical mile north. A massive tanker, making its way toward the Med or North Sea, I expect. Proof that humanity still exists. Absent her appearance, there is nothing on the horizon. Puffy cumulus clouds fan out from our ship in all directions, giving us momentary relief from the tropical sun. Winds are light, so the sound of our main sail and spinnaker flaking provide a background chorus to our setting. We’re bobbing along, in no hurry.
All of this looks and feels like yesterday. And it may be the same tomorrow, and the next day, or two days prior. So it goes out here. One day lazily morphs into the next. And yet, no boredom, no anxiety, no wishing it along, or slowing it down. This feeling of contentedness, brought on after a few days at sea, will last until a day or two out from shore, when planning, and expecting, and anticipating all return. It’s a strange phenomenon, that I’m sure science or Brenne Brown can explain, but it has set in. And it’s good.
In today’s entry, I thought we could explore celestial observation.
Last night, our team had two watches. 8pm until midnight, and then 4am until 8am. That gave us nearly eight hours of star gazing, along with a sunset and sunrise. Though these simple pleasures of observing a sun’s circumnavigation are offered up daily, I can’t recall the last time, if ever, I experienced them. To watch the sun drop over one watery horizon only to reappear, magically (according the flat earthers) on the other, over the same body of water is, well, magical. A visual orgy, which, as much as I’ve grown attached to this crew, is the only one I’d like to experience on this crossing, thank you very much Staton.
On the topic of the former, we discovered a star gazing book, or map to the pleasure zone, if you want to keep with the metaphor. Pervert. In the opening pages, it heretically claims “while it can be difficult to find family activities that engage the young and old alike, everyone loves stargazing; children are awestruck, while the elderly see the stars as familiar old friends." Have you met my fucking children? If the entertainment is not delivered via TicTock or YouTube kids, you can forget about engaging let alone “awestruck." That said, my kin are not onboard, thank Zeus, so I kept investigating.
During our midnight watch, we observed the constellation, Orion. Most notable is his belt, made up of the three stars, Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka named after the specials on Little India’s lunch menu. It’s easily spotted by the perfectly linear alignment of the stars…or the fanny pack he sports in the late spring, or on any trip to DisneyWorld. Betelgeuse (Beetle-juice), and Bellatrix form his back and shoulder from which he shoots his bow, or wrestles a bear, or swings a golf club - one can never tell what those cosmic gods do when nobody is looking. Rigel is the brightest star in the constellation, 7th brightest in the sky, and makes up the front foot of Orion, the other foot being Saiph. Looking further up into the night sky we found Gemini, indicated by the two bright stars Pullox and Castor. I won’t bore you with the lesser stars that make out their two bodies. Have I lost your interest yet?
The Big Dipper helped us identify Polaris (the North Star) and once again we learned about Arcturus and Spica, two of the most brilliant stars in the sky. Follow the arc (of the Big Dipper) to Arcturus, and speed on to Spica (follow the same line to reach her). Spica is the brightest star in the constellation, Virgo. Unfortunately, Arcturus forms the constellation of some obscure Greco Roman God that nobody paid attention to - not dissimilar to that never-married third cousin you can’t seem to avoid at Thanksgiving until you consciously avoid the chip dip, where he invariable lurks. Poor Arcturus - he had so much potential.
We learned that one of the best gauges for the number of stars observed in the night is by locating Ursa MInor (Little Dipper) and looking at the four stars that make up her ladle. If you can see all four, then you should be able to observe nearly 3,000 stars. If one of the four disappears, the number drops to 800 stars, and so on. During our second watch, all four were visible, which clearly supported the theory, as the sky was alight with sparkles.
Finally, the Milky Way. Oh, Henry, the Milky Way. What almost appears as a light cloud covering, is actually a concentration of hundreds of billions of stars emitting a band of light. These stars, like many in the night sky, are millions of light years away. The speed of light covers 6 trillion miles in one year. Which is ridiculous to ponder, when Rivian advertises a whopping 400 miles to every charge. Sucker. Sirius, named after a satellite radio station, is one of earth’s closest neighbors. She is easily identified by her brightness or quick advertisement on Willie’s Roadhouse station. A mere 8 million light years away, this neighbor is JUST out of reach for space travel and you can forget about borrowing milk or a cup of sugar, when in need.
As we progress through our passage, I will look forward to these familiar faces in the night sky…I’ve certainly grown tired of those of my watch mates.
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Home Base | Denver, CO
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