FROM 1-12. 26°S-Nose Brazil

Apr 28, 2005 - 2330hrs UTC

2330hrs 28 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 189

I will try to describe how it feels to be sailing through the night out here. No Moon, yet not dark. I’m standing in the cockpit, leaning on the dodger, 18 knots of breeze in my face and Berri moving through the water at 6+ knots, surrounded by phosphorescence with the occasional wave hitting the bows and throwing spray outwards – there isn’t quite enough wind to blow it back across the boat and we’ve, rather riskily, got the hatches open else the heat below is too much to sleep in. It feels as if I’m the only person alive, fixed in the centre of a huge black disc with a defined, yet indistinct edge just below eye level all around me. There’s a lovely line in Omar Khayyam that starts ‘Morning in the bowl of night..’ – wish I could remember it all – and it’s absolutely like that – the Bowl of Night is a pale glowing dome rising from the edge of the disc and almost solid with stars – some so densely packed that they really do seem to be touching, with the brighter ones and the constellations vivid and sparkling – seemingly in the foreground. A journey through time. The layer just above the edge of the disc is starless – there must be haze in the lower atmosphere. The Milky Way is a wavy slash of intensely packed stars and gas behind and above me, Orion low in the west, the Cross up in the Milky Way and the Great Bear every night a bit higher in the North – a measure of our progress. Stunning – exhilarating – utterly breathtaking – where are the gutsy adjectives?

That’s the high side – there is also the aching slowness of it all – technology allows me to see instantly the whole journey in pretty colours on this screen – and our daily progress as such a tiny part of it – we’re still nearly 600 miles  – almost a whole Hobart race – south of the Equator and, while in the bigger perspective that’s pretty small beer, in the reality of the moment it’s a hell of a long distance and an age away. So it isn’t all elation – it is very hard to maintain the balance between joy and – not despair, but something like listless abandonment of care. Does that make sense? Not even sure that it does to me but worth a go.

Wildlife – more stunning beauty. Today we saw three – only – huge Portuguese Men o’ War. They seemed to be about 120 mm long, not quite semicircular with one end tapering towards a point. The bubble was purple/mauve tinted and the sail the same, in glassy clear membrane. The outside rim of the sail – perhaps 15 – 20 mm wide was crinkly, frilly and brilliant cherry pink (magenta?) and seemed to have silvery flecks. Long tendrils under water, also coloured and appeared to reflect in places. The three were not close together – miles apart in fact, but wonderful to look at and very scary to be anywhere near in the water.

That’s quite enough puff for tonight.

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