Midnight to 3:00 AM Watch

Sunday, July 11 — 3:30 AM
Here’s what a night watch is like. Since I’m running the Pac Cup morning (position report) and evening (informal) radio nets, I have assigned myself a fixed watch schedule. Everyone else rotates through the watches, so they don’t have to stand the 03:00 – 06:00 watch (for example) every night.
11:30 PM – I am sleeping in the quarterberth, my head back where the rudder is. I wake up (sometimes I require shouts and kicks for this, but tonight for some reason I just wake up)and listen to the loud rushing and gurgling of the water as it flows past a few inched from my ears. VALIS has a canoe stern, and is pretty quiet until we approach hull-speed. Once our speed reached seven knots things get pretty noisy by the stern, and you learn to gauge the boat speed by the charactistics of the sound.
The boat is sailing smoothly. We’ve been bouncing around quite a bit as the seas have picked up, and I wonder if things have calmed down, afraid that we’ve lost the wind again. But the sound is unmistakable: we’re still zooming along at around 8 kts.
When I last went below it was foggy, damp, and cold, and the occasional wave-slap was throwing water into the cockpit. I poke myy head through the companionway and see that nothinghas changed. So, I suit up in my full set of foulies, put on my PFD (lifejacket), fill my water bottle, and climb on deck.
00:00AM (midnite) – Topsides, David is steering and Tirso is preparing to come down to catch some sleep. I clip on my tether and settle in, Tirso goes below.
We stand three-hour watches, and every 1-1/2 hours someone goes on, and another goes off-watch. Usually, the new crewmember sits in the cockpit, trimming sails as necessary for the first half-hour, while the already on-watch crewmember steers. I watch David steer, we discuss the wind, waves, sail trim, etc, and I try to adjust to the conditions.
00:30 – It’s my turn to steer. David slides over and I take the wheel. The boat is trimmed nicely, with an almost neutral helm. The seas are 6-8 ft (it’s hard to estimate, especially at night), and when a swell rushes us from the quarter the stern is lifted up and tries to slide down the wave. I have to turn the wheel with considerable force to keep us from pushed sideways and to remain on course. As the wave passes an opposite steering motion is needed, but with much less force required.
The wind is around 20 kts, with periods of much stronger — up to 26 kts at times. We heel, but with the reefed genoa, our staysail, and a well-trimmed main, it’s not too bad. The boat is speeding along at 8 kts, with an occasional burst into the mid-nines as we get a push from a swell. Our bow and stern wake is churning up the phosphorescence, and along with the whitecaps that mark the crests of the larger swells, the boat is illuminated with a soft glow. The sky remains overcast, and the fog, and occasional splash from a wave, make me glad I’m dressed appropriately.
01:00 – I’m done driving. David takes over and I get to rest my arms and shoulders. Every now and then David calls out a high boat speed (9.52 kts!) or an impressive windspeed. I scan the horixion for ships
01:30 – I take the wheel, Edward has come up to replace David. David goes below. Edward and I talk, I steer, he gets comfortable.
02:00 – Edward steers, I relax. It’s getting pretty windy.
02:30 – I take the wheel. The windspeed is jumping up to 30 kts at times. The boat still handles well. We are hitting 9+ kts more often now. My universe has shrunk down to include only our compass, with an occasional glance at the wind gauge, and a very occasional glance at the mast-top windex or the sails. I focus on keeping VALIS on course: 235 magnetic.
03:00 – I’m off! Edward takes the helm, John comes up, and in short order I head below. I check the AIS display and see a ship, still 40 miles off, that may approach us within 3 miles in two hours. I poke my head up and tell John and Edward to keep an eye out for her.
While checking our navigation data and downloading the latest weather forecast, I feel a shudder and hear a splash, shortly followed by exclamations from topsides. It’s no big deal, just a well-aimed wave that has drenched the on-watch crew. They are well-dressed for the occasion, but still, better them than me!
03:25 – More shouts from topside. We have been attacked by a large flying fish! It is flapping around and threatening to bite anyone that gets too close. It is lying in a pool of water, and isn’t too happy. Edward and John decide to not add it to our menu, and draw straws to see who has to approach the snapping creature. John loses, and tosses the lucky fish overboard. First though, he snaps a picture, as Edward protects his eyes from the camera’s flash.
03:45 – I turn in for some sleep.
Ant that’s my evening watch. -Paul / VALIS

Flying Fish.JPG

Responses are currently closed.