The Things of the Night (or, What is the Point of Penguins)?!

Simon Ridley
Tue 20 May 2014 16:04
LAT 34.49 N LON 50.31 W
I really should write one of these at night time because everything feels different when the sun goes down. Only thing is, I’m usually too awe-struck (and/or tired) to leave my watch. There is the sunset, and if we’re lucky we get to see the whole orb dip into the ocean. Then, if the clouds are right (or wrong, if you’re a cloud), then come the stars. I’ve been lucky enough to see the stars from the top of mountains, the middle of deserts and various other dark corners of Latin America, but out here on the water it is something else. Sometimes they feel so low, as if they could prick us. Usually, though, they seem incredibly far away and unbelievably numerous. The constellations become clear, especially those that I don’t know. And they give us something to point Gertha at. Then gradually, as if in mimicry, the little things of the sea drift toward the surface and glow as phosphorescence, lighting up our wake. This is occasionally punctuated by a bulbous orb of light with dangly bits: jellyfish, our sea-lanterns, bobbing behind us in a trail of luminous light. I would love to see it from above. Simon has told us that it’s possible to see dolphins hunting in the phosphorescence at night. Fingers crossed! And then, shortly after she turns the horizon a lighter shade of dark, the moon will rise and drown out some of the stars. She will be crescent in a few days. Even though the night watches can be tough, they are a special time that I won’t quickly forget. It is so satisfying to be able to chart the passage of time by our celestial friends!
All the while, we’ll be collecting the moisture of the ocean night, our clothes and things and hair and skin sponging it up and having us clambering down for extra layers or some cheeky biscuits. We generally sit quietly through the night, listening to music or podcasts, or just the water and the wind. Sometimes we’ll spin a yarn or chatter about whatever passes through our minds, find out about Tina or Isla or Valerie (HAPPY BIRTHDAY)! But anyway, point is, the nights are their own thing, very different from the day. I get it back on land: at night I’ll think wild and exciting and silly things that have me pointing in a new direction or seeing something afresh, and then in the morning I’ll feel almost embarrassed of myself, bashful at the way I saw things just those few hours ago. On the water, though, it is different, and even though I’ve been thinking a lot, I’ve often also caught myself...well...not myself, completely unawares, unconscious almost, snapping suddenly back into the magic, real, glowing night-time of the Atlantic ocean.
Anyhow, mustn’t ramble too much more. Major points of the day:
-We had our first showers for a good long while this fine morning. Not sure whether we cleaned ourselves or just dirtied the shower;
- We are possibly half way through this leg already! It’s gone by so quickly, yet has been so full...especially considering there isn’t all that much to do out here;
- Emma and I had our most abortive attempts at fore-decking last night (I was actually on keys, where I spent an embarrassingly long time wondering why the spinnaker wouldn’t hoist whilst I was tugging, feet against side, at the rope that lifted the pole, that I’d just attached myself. Also managed to stub my toe something nasty and wedge my nail backwards into it. Looking rather grey and forlorn this morning, the stupid little lump of flesh;
- But, we’re on our asymmetric sail today, which we managed to get up pretty smoothly. Emma is at the helm and we’re pulling around 6 knots in what feels like no wind;
- We’ve had a beer each and Mauritz just bought us a Dark ‘n’ Stormy (Bermudan rum with ginger beer) for extra inspiration;
- Visitors have included a couple of Manx Shearwaters and our old friends the sailing Cornish pasty people;
- Simon will soon make scones again Smile;
- We have officially recorded our first full night’s, sustained and deep sleep from a crew member. In the early hours of this morning, Mauritz was heard snoring, much to the chagrin of the Chief Medical Officer;
Real-time update from Mauritz himself:

”I can’t decide yet whether this is a race, a vacation or a transport passage,” he says, sipping his rum and reclining. “In a week’s time, just think about it. I wonder what kind of feeling I will have when I see land. Maybe in six days time we’ll see the clouds surrounding the islands, and then a while after we’ll be able to see the mountains.”
Well said, Mr. Swede. Another pearl of wisdom from Mauritz:
“What is the point in penguins?! They choose to live in stupid, cold places. They have to spend two weeks hunting enough fish to then vomit in their baby’s mouths, and then be short of rations and do it again. And then, when they go out there are killer whales waiting to make toys of them. What is the point?!”

Quite, Mauritz.
Right, I’m a little tipsy and rather jolly. It’s my lay day today so I’ll get a full night’s sleep and maybe an extra beer. Sweet!
Cheers, again,