Around The World Voyage : Commentary : Leg 4

May 17, 2002

Lat 12.57.772, Lon 64.52.838, heading 260 degrees and averaging 7 knots. Wind and sea directly behind. The Floscan totalizer is giving me a digital read out of 141.7 gallons used and averaging out 3.5 gallons per hour consumption (these totals do not include diesel used by the generator. Aruba is just over 300 miles away. Dan and Mike have cashed in their chips - the ride has mellowed since the sun went down and they are probably fully played.

It's 23:15 Greenwich time and 19:15 boat time. We decided earlier on that we would use our departure time zone as official ship's time and reset only if we can see the dotted line of a time zone or come to a stop at an anchorage and can restart our clock. This is relatively insignificant, but it makes it easier to follow the watch schedule - Mike is really good at subtracting four, but I've been struggling. Dan reset the laptop time and I reset the stereo. I'm surprised that Mike hasn't set the microwave (he's our chef and resident nuclear engineer after all), I might have some fun with that and flick off the microwave breaker so he can get some practice setting the time - I'm going to be in big trouble is he ever reads any of my ramblings).

The sun set about a half hour ago I had the running lights on 15 minutes before that. The search light breaker is on with the beam positioned straight forward if I activate it.

The salon door is shut and dogged. Grego suggested this as a nighttime security measure - you never know what can happen but if we are targeted by ne'er do wells, they are going to have to come in the front door and do we have some surprises prepared for them - I'd tell you, but then I'd have to ...

At night the radar is your copilot - constantly on watch. Presently I have a tanker who crossed our stern an hour ago and he is 10 miles beyond our wake and likely headed towards Caracas or points south. I'm set up on 2 mile rings so I can see out 12 nm's in all directions. At the push of a button I can change the rings to 4, 8 or 12 miles and I can close in to 1, .5, and .25 miles. The second time I click .25 I go to a wider ring distance (6 rings about 3/4 of an inch apart to 3 rings about an inch and a half apart. This 'zoom" function gives me a bigger picture between rings to more likely find a blip. I can also zoom .1/8 and 1/16 nautical miles - which is great for close quarter maneuvering I guess, but not anything I'd trade for out here.

I'd like to thank the obscure Australian rock band "Daddy Cool" for cleaning my ears with some long forgotten rockers that I hadn't listened to for years. I've got my Sony disc man on and in between songs I take off the headphones for a quick listen around.

I turn off the overhead lights and dim down the radar displays - it's easier to see out into the dark if you're in the dark too. All other lights on the boat are turned off except the galley cabinet overheads. These are placed perfectly to not give you any glare looking out the wheelhouse and yet make it easy to go up and down the wheel house stairs (located to starboard) and make it easy to get anything you might need from the galley.

Every 15 minutes I take off my glasses and grab the Steiner long eyes. I do a quick check of the radar to see if there is anything to try to focus on and then go out to the Portuguese bridge and do a full horizon scan. I just did this very thing and we have a nice new moon off the starboard bow. It's pretty easy to see the horizon on the starboard side, but starting to get too dark on the port side. There are a lot of stars and we have clear skies, but it hasn't yet been the light show I was expecting being so far from land.

Last night I had one of those really weird experiences so here's the story-

About 19:30 I did my bridge horizon job - nothing. But I saw some very small blue lights pinhead size on the radar screen. So back outside for another look. The horizon was black, I thought I saw a light and then realized I was angling the Steiner binoculars up and had locked on to a star. So someone needs to invent a level for goofballs like me who have a tough time looking out straight when the boat is rocking and rolling. I scanned again and saw a light, but not just a white light, a flashing white light - a strobe light. Holy WTF (weather tracking fixture?) - is that an EPIRB? Is someone drifting out here and we're going to save them? Is it chart anomaly of some position where they have a pick up for offshore oil tankers? I can't adjust the Steiner's any clearer and I can't tell how far away it is because it's now not showing on the radar, but over the next 15 minutes I was definitely closing in on it (or was it gaining ground on me?). About this time Dan came cruising into the wheelhouse, (man it's always nice to share a freak-out with someone else,you know when the going gets weird, the weird get going). It was not a panic situation, but I definitely had my antenna out and my adrenalin was getting my heart all worked up. I told Dan I was visually tracking a strobe light and asked him to take a look. I got out our paper charts to see if there was any notice to mariners or indication of an explosives dumping ground or one of those kinds of things (location approx.13.2.269 lat and 62.4.350 lon) and couldn't find anything.

Dan suggested we put the search light out that direction. Good idea, but I've never used one so it took me a minute to see where it was (on the mast) and that it wasn't covered. Then I turned it on using the touch pad at the dash and kept pushing buttons for short periods (never longer than a three count) and the I'd step out on to the bridge to see I was illuminating our mast to give the enemy a better line of sight. Finally got it figured out and in the mean time Dan hit the deck lights -SURPRISE those babies have the candle power of the sun and I was afraid our Livingston dinghy cover would fade or melt. OK, Mr. blinking light - (OK, Senor blinking light?) What are your intentions? Que es necessario para usted? (That would at least earn us some credit points for trying to use the local language). We waited and got closer. The VHF interrupted our quiet with a quick blurb that was unintelligible - this happened a couple of more times. We held our course - if someone wants to be rescued wouldn't they shoot up a flare or try something dramatic with the strobe light to get us to react - our attention they've got, but we're not looking for trouble either. We arrived on the scene, our steady course taking us a quarter mile from what actually was just a blinking light out in the middle of nowhere. I checked out the Radar Screen again and saw more blue pin pricks - what? Got out the Steiner's - oh man two more strobe lights and, wait there's a red light too. Must be a boat out there. This was behind us and way out to the starboard side, why didn't I see this before? Checked the port side and on the horizon a red and green light was moving toward a red light - OK two boats coming together at least one of them is going away from us. So, let's quickly summarize, we're off the coast of Venezuela which borders Columbia so these guys must be...fishing! Yeah, the strobes must be the ends of their nets. Maybe one boat holds the net and the other runs around in a big wide circle to surround the fish. Man we didn't stick around to learn the industry we just kept on going and those lights faded into the background. We shut down our helicopter landing light show on the boat deck and continued a vigilant binocular look out the rest of the night.

A couple of night time observations now. Cupping your hands around the eye sockets of the binoculars knocks out a lot of ambient light and helps a lot. Light is best used in moderation - keep your pupils big and make sure you get outside a lot to see what's happening around you. Mike pointed out that the port and starboard running lights put out some glare and that red and green light reflects off the white bungee cords that are steadying the paravane forward guy cables. We talked about it and agreed a horizontal "shelf" below the lights would be an easy add on (many boats use this type of arrangement - probably also to reduce glare) I told him he could probably patent the idea and that I think a good marketing name is 'gregoflectors'. We're still unsure of our next move - Aqua Signal if you are reading this please get in touch with our agents and be ready to get hit up for a big donation next time we send a Nordhavn around the world. Move about with caution and keep everything in its' place - really helps when you look for something if you can find it the first place you look, not the last place. Bring a star guide. Grego is our astronomer and we think we're seeing the Southern Cross, but it's not coming in with a lot of clarity. The night time is a great time to reflect, I think we all cherish our grave yard shifts, especially the time you get to wake up the next guy. Talk to you tomorrow, it's now 9:00 and Grego just showed up right on schedule. Good night from Nordhavn.

 

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