Some stars are so low on the horizon that you can easily mistake them for
boats. Some hardly shine bright at all so they seem to fade off while
you’re looking at them, leaving you to wonder if they were ever there to
begin with, and then occasionally they fade back on. Some stars are so low
and shine so bright that they leave a slight glimmer on the surface of the
water, like a small moon.
There has not been any moon these past two nights. I know nothing about
the moon cycle so I have no idea what that means. She showed up this
morning as the sun was rising. To the East above the pink horizon and
above a row of clouds, her bottom side was illuminated into a crescent.
She looked like a slight white smile against the blue of the early morning
sky. Was she smiling on us? Was she mocking us?
Sometimes, while out at sea, you see things, and then wonder if they ever
really were there. Yesterday at dinner time I was seated on the couch in
our living space looking out to the sea ahead of us. Suddenly I saw a fin.
It couldn’t possibly be a dolphin. Dolphins travel in packs and they jump
out of water, pirouetting and showing off. Could it be a shark? I went out
on deck to get a better look, but were there a fish with a fin to begin
with, it was gone. Did I imagine it? Was it just a wave that appeared
darker in the shadow of the sun? A trick of clair/obscure?
I sometimes see someone moving out of the corner of my eye, and then I
look, startled, but it is just some cords of our main sail or the French
pavilion swaying in the wind.
I can understand how sailors of the past could imagine a mermaid and feel
her pull. I too have heard voices when there was no one there.
When the night is dark and there is no moon, it is hard to see where the
sea stops and the sky begins. If there are rain clouds in the sky, they
block out the lights of the celestial constellations in huge blotchy
patterns. Indeed, they appear as big and uneven dark masses looming
I can understand how people of the past could imagine the rain clouds of
the night sky as evil spirits come to take you over. I can understand the
sense of dread it instills.
I see nothing ahead of us apart from darkness. Nothing appears on our
radar. We seem to be alone out here in the night, somewhere in the
Atlantic off the African coast. When our friends and family comment about
sailing the seas, they mostly imagine the vastness of the oceans. They
bring up being on water without seeing any land on the horizon. That’s the
idea that seems to send shivers down most people’s spine. They fail to
imagine sailing at night time. They ask about our sleeping shifts but not
about our watch. When the night is this dark, the darkness embraces you.
It closes in and makes you feel like you are not moving in space. You feel
like you are in a closed room. The darkness hangs around you like heavy
drapes that bear off the real world. Space doesn’t seem vast but the
opposite, quite finite.