Some poetry

Salsa af Stavsnas
Ellinor Ristoff Staffan Ehde
Tue 18 Jun 2013 17:06
Well, as we where sailing along for three weeks there was a lot of mail and radio contact with other boats under way.
Steven on Almacantar har a webb diary and he sent us a sample.
I thought his sample was so beautyful that I asked his permission to publish and he admitted.
So please enjoy a wonderful piece in a wonderful English:
So here I am again, on night watch and alone with the small ship and the
sea. Before me, in the dark cabin, with only the reds lighting the saloon
steps, a radar screen lies empty save for a scattering of wave-top
reflections. It has been like this for days, and on the visual horizon, it
is the same. Nothing but waves, and the occasional bottlenose or
roughtoothed dolphin or pilot whale sprightly transient on the bow or beam
or quarter, as if they had been made of water themselves, and disappear back
into the same again as quickly.

Just how I like it best.

In the dark night outside a mist is beginning to form, further concealing
the spirit of a giant petrel who has been shadowing us all day. A mist,
cooling the dark air on my face as I look forward over the sprayhood at
waves whose presence is only shown by the occasional bioluminescent
blue-green of a foamy crest and the constant shooshing and motion of the
boat, quietly under a full rig, hard on the wind. It is an unusual sensation
for me in the tropical seas, where mists are rare. The sea temperature
gauge, dim beside the radar screen tells me it is 31.6 degrees Celsius. The
water is cooling. Yesterday it was at 34.5 degrees. It is a strange
sensation heading South, so near the equator, with barely a degree and a
half of latitude to go, sidling up to it on a gentle beat, our course just
South of West: best course to windward in a breeze I expect to back, giving
us way to the archipelago South and West of us somewhere. It is a strange
sensation travelling here and yet feeling the air and the water cool as we
go South, towards the other half of the world, seems right, and good. A few
days ago, both air and sea were baking hot, and the water was a turbid
greenish brown, full of earth from Ecuador and Peru. For three days now it
has been the lapis lazuli of the deep pelagic sea. I had expected hammering
heat down here, in the last few slivers of latitude in my familiar North,
under my familiar stars... but as the Southern cross has risen, and the
plough dipped its share lower and lower to the sea, as Polaris, which has
been a constant companion through all my previous sailing nights has dimmed
and faded to nothing in the sea haze of the horizon, our little world is
cooling towards a sea unknown, to me.

Yes, little world. Since that is how it feels at sea, when you have been out
of sight of land for days and days, and  the disc of the horizon hems close
about the boat, its perfect centre, and small events and Ocean visitors come
to you briefly as if you were sailing round your own tiny world, like an
aqueous Petit Prince, not really going anywhere at all, and they briefly
passing from another world, similar, but their own.

But it is not monotonous. The sea, the sky, the wind, are always changing,
always new though paradoxically the same. From time to time squalls pass us
by on errands of their own, or seem to advance on us with a purpose, like
some half-conscious dark malevolence from Goya’s work, blindly bearing down
on us, and just as blindly blundering away. At times during the night we see
these beyond the dark horizon flashing silently, huge sprites of brilliant
energy blowing skyward above twisted, muscular forms briefly seen, as though
it were the ghost of some immense bombardment, long ago. The waves
themselves are always new, always new, always new, conveying information
from every direction, which, over time, it is possible to read like
messengers, dispatches from those distant struggles with the wind.

I am not sure why this military imagery is coming to me now, but then there
is something hostile, of course, about this place, at the juncture of the
phases of matter in our world. Above, the seabirds cruise from nothing to
nowhere in the sky, at ease in their world, untroubled. Below the fishes and
their companions do the same. But here, on the surface, the phase change
which supports us from the miles long fall to the unknown other world below,
the water has its perpetual commerce with the wind: always restless,
peaceful, in its way, but always ready to leap to its own form of arms. And
the sails and keel of the boat connect the two in an uneasy truce of our
little purpose, our small scrap, ambassador of land, scuttling between these
warring other worlds under our white flags, hoping for, and by and large
receiving, peace.

And so each sea tells its tale. The local waves bring no news, starting as
they do from our little ocean valley out to other parts, but below and
through them come messengers from other places, far distant. Sometimes, a
swell will arise which might be three hundred meters long, or more, telling
us of some intensity far to the South, other times and places, a sudden
sharpness to the waves alerts us to a current like a river in the sea,
writhing its way, perhaps, from a thousand leagues away. At other times the
waves will square their tops, standing to behind some island or reef,
refracting them like a lens so they confront each other of their own train
in a local civil skirmish. Off Cabo de la Vela weeks ago, we felt the
Windward Passage far to the North across the whole Caribbean sea, letting in
its messages of North Atlantic struggles, far away and refracting them
slowly across days of sail, so their angle gradually changed, crossing
through more local waves, from Northwest to North to Northeast and finally
behind us as we headed South again of Barranquilla. It would be possible,
without much other information, to navigate broadly by the likes of these
and knowledge of the unseen land alone. In any sea at all there are many
seas, and watching the apparent monotony of it all, is like listening to a
language not your own. At first it is indeed monotonous, and appears just a
random garble of sounds, conveying nothing but commotion and discomfort to
the senses. But gradually, gradually, the eye begins to read, the ear to
hear, and the language of the seas’ commerce with the wind and land
untangles itself from the seeming monotony of the waves.

So, as we head West by South, towards the Galapagos, the mist is telling me
of a long messenger from colder seas far South of here, and after days of
nothing, the sea is alive with squid in this bank of the Humboldt river,
their eyes a brilliant red in the beam of my cockpit searchlight, scattering
them briefly into the air. Yes, the air. These squid can fly. Ahead under
the night lies an island with Penguins.

On the equator.