Monday, 11 July 2016

... a star to steer her by

I must go down to the sea again - to the lonely sea and the sky
And all I ask is a tall ship …. and a star to steer her by

Last night we had to take turns hand-steering. Earlier, the GPS had hiccuped - but the Captain got it working again. And then just around nightfall, it autopilot failed altogether. I found it took some skill to master hand-steering again. At first I could only concentrate for 35 minutes. However, knowing we had another 14 hours of steering, I needed to do my share. So from about 11pm until 5a.m. we each took hourly turns.

Starting out, I found plenty of stars to choose from. You just need to pick a couple who are in a close relation with each other and concentrate totally on keeping them in the same relative position to each other. Every now and then, you check to make sure the heading on the compass is the right one (ours was 120 degrees) and you correct for it and then look for your stars once again.

As the night progressed, I kept having to adjust my gaze upwards because the stars closer to the horizon disappeared and I had to choose new and more elevated stars as clouds appeared on the horizon. I developed a 'crick' in my neck and sciatica …. when I had my off-time I couldn't sleep for the pain.

So now I could no longer use stars as navigation aids, in order to steer 120, I had to gaze and concentrate fully on the compass. I was in such a state of deep concentration that had a humpback whale appeared next to the boat and sprayed me with it's fetid breath, I would probably not have noticed. At 5am I asked Larry if he would mind switching to 2-hr relays as some sleep now seemed essential.

When Larry woke me at 7am, it was light out. I was able to use some clouds to navigate by. Using the small patch of blue between a baby whale and its mother did the trick for a while, as did staying just to the left of a chicken hurrying away to the west. The horizon became more clouded with just a few patches of blue. But I was able to keep a seam allowance of 5/8 inches between the forestay (it forms a straight line exactly in the middle of the bow of the boat) and the edge of a cloud to the right of it. Sewing is an unusually useful skill on a boat!

We both memorized the John Masefield poem while we were in grade school in the Edmonton Public School system. Who would have thought this could benefit a prairie school child? … certainly we didn't at the time. It's just an example of why a fine general education for each and every child (with plenty of Music and Arts) is so important in a democracy. Of course, as a former Primary school teacher I am somewhat biased.

At 7/12/2016 03:24 (utc) our position was 20°04.35'S 148°55.71'E

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