With a series of three hour watches all alone under the dark moonless sky when the waves can be felt but not seen, it’s a humbling experience and easy to get emotional, especially after five long bruising nights bumping around relentlessly on our passage from Townsville, Australia to the Louisiades.
However, it is hard to be melancholic when faced with the vast infiniteness of the ocean, so full of potential, so full of energy and as changeable as an idea. Most of the time I find myself unconsciously gripping the rails, teeth-clenched with realisation that we have no control over the wind, the waves, the whims of the weather. My thought patterns are short and quick, needless banter is quietened as I focus getting myself through the next hour of my watch.
On the calm nights like tonight (half way on a two day trip to the Shortland Islands on the top end of the Solomons) my thoughts are more relaxed and given free range to wander.
Through the thick darkness the bio-luminescence are sparkling and glowing around the contours of the yacht that is quietly slipping through the seas in a gentle wind. If you have never seen them it is like something out of a fairy tale, lighting up our path like the fleeting sparks from a wizard’s wand.
I sit and contemplate the idea of infinity, wondering how to fit that momentous space in the confines of my mind.
I imagine that each little bio-luminescent is a star in space, then think of each star as an entire galaxy. Then taking a deep breath I stretch my mind to visualize an entire ocean filled with the little glowing bodies of light which begins to give me a glimpse of infinity and my place in it. Deep!
As dawn breaks the deep night turns purple, an inky purple that blends in with the sea making it hard to see where the sea ends and the sky begins, then continues its transformation like a woman going through her wardrobe deciding what to wear, finally settling on a billowing, floaty dress of peach and crimson, smiling happily with her choice in the vibrant reflection in the oily calm waters.
Land is on the horizon – a collection of small round islands dotted everywhere like barnacles on a big blue whales back – a feast for my eyes after days full of nothing but the wide expanse of the ocean. Finally something solid, consistent and unmoving to fix on that brings me back to reality.
As we draw closer more details of the little island become distinguishable; the coconut trees like curious gangly teenagers peer out over top of each other, impatient to see who is coming. With the gentle morning breeze through their branches they are beckoning us ashore.
Vibrant square-headed red parrots fly out from these branches signalling our arrival with high-pitched squeaks, coming out to inspect our boat in angry groups like brightly coloured customs officials.
Groups of islanders can now be seen; coal-black and bare-footed, padding quietly upright, arms swinging to island time, what’s the hurry no rush. They exude a calm dignity as they go about their day.
A couple climb into small a dugout canoe. Strapped on with mismatched bits of twine and material the outriggers move like wiggly teeth with every stroke of the carved wooden paddles. Water slowly seeps on board through little cavities that keep the occupants busy bailing bailing as they go. They are coming towards us but stop when they disturb a school of fish that dance around in front of them. They plop a hand line down and haul up a little colourful reef fish almost instantly with well-practised tweaks of the thin nylon attached to stubs of bamboo, repeating the process twice more before continuing on towards us with a friendly wave and big toothy smiles.