In my former life every aspect of my day was constrained by time. Even down time, holidays and weekends off, was the conscious presence of time lingering in the background. Perhaps the definition of childhood, is lack of time awareness, as a child life just is and we live in the moment and experiences on offer. The cycles of tiredness, sleep and eating are the only constraints I remember as a very young child. Could growing up be defined as becoming aware of responsibilities, in the boundaries of time.
The good news for those thinking of following in our footsteps when crossing the Pacific, time loses all its hold over modern life. Instead of asking what time is it, you may instead ask the heady question of what is time. You certainly have time to consider the answer.
Sunrise and sunset are the bookends of the day, activities are based on the task at hand, what feels right or necessary according to need and sea conditions. The luxury of travelling as a couple meant there were no set watches, length of watch was based on the length of time the other person slept. If this was 6 or 8 hours so be it, it didn’t really matter. If you didn’t sleep at one point you would sleep at another. Food was eaten when we were hungry as was drinking and all entertainment. Sure we fell into regular patterns but it was dictated by our body needs or weather demands, not by a ticking clock. Regarding meals we tended to eat a hearty breakfast, no lunch and reasonably early evening meal, so everything was over and done before nightfall.
On Miss Catana we didn’t change our clock instead we kept all log entries based on our departing Panamanian time. (The further we travelled away from our starting point the more ridiculous Panamanian time became.) However we didn’t change our clocks until we eventually arrived at our destination, and got around to working out how many hours it actually took us to complete our voyage, the calculation would be easier and not require adjustment to time changes. The fact that we did not use the standard measures of time such as GMT or UTC confused our fellow sailors no end.
Their boats travelled with luxury, or disadvantage of an SSB radio, depending on how you look at it, their short band radios meant each day they got to converse and share the experience, not only with themselves but other boats in the vicinity. The major disadvantage was because of the set radio schedule, it was necessary for each boat to know the real time based on UTC. If one boat should miscalculate the correct time they would miss the daily radio schedule.
Not so for us, not having this radio setup, we managed to talk to one another for the entire trip, we also managed to keep any form of time management on hold until we arrived at Nuku Hiva the largest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.
Time on Miss Catana included meal time, wine time, crossword time, alone time, together time, sleeping time, watch TV time, sexy time and look at the horizon time. A favourite time was email time. We loved getting and returning emails each day to our friends, families, plus the three boats we departed with. Each day we would let them know our location, as well as chart their positions. Daily conversation points included wind, boat speed or lack of, sail configurations, attempts at poetry and the wearing or lack of underpants on certain sailors. Our lack of knowing the correct time and Panamanian time caused no end of frustration and amusement from fellow rally members.
My Favourite Time
This was reserved for the quiet of night, no moon and looking up into the night sky. The pure unpolluted night sky was both shocking and magical. I always thought somewhat smugly, that in Tasmania it’s easy to watch the clear night sky. When we crossed the Atlantic Ocean the night view was magical. I thought I had the night sky covered.
On the moonless nights or prior to the new moon, the star display was beyond any words I can offer. It was as if all back lighting had been turned off, we saw so many stars that had been hiding in prior times.
The arm of the Milky Way that is visible, seemed so milky, so white it was like there was no room for more stars to shine. Larger stars shone brightly, with an intensity that made you think they were going to drop into our atmosphere. There were a regular supply of meteor showers- nature’s firework display, although solitary affairs they were deeply moving experiences, no less impressive than any New Year’s Eve celebration. Looking at the vastness of the sky, I was actually sad that this magnificent display is lost to most of humanity, I am only seeing it as a fleeting experience in my lifetime. In our quest for control over our modern lives we have harnessed the power of light, in our strength we have denined ourselves this connection with the celestial bodies and heavens above us.
My most memorable night was with my feet on the helm set edge, my head back on the arm rest and looking up at the night sky. The stars appeared to be moving under the thin veil of cloud, as though they had moved out of normal formation and slipped into our atmosphere for an evening visit. I know it may sound like I was under the influence of drugs, this was not the case. I was instead intoxicated by the stars. Cool hey. I can now understand how early sailors loved the stars and used the sexton to guide them.
It Wasn’t All About The Night
The day views were also impressive even if they sound a touch repetitive. You would not think blue waves, blue sky and clouds could be ever changing but they were. Watching the waves roll and change, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, were part of daily routine. Add to the view burning hot sun, that we usually tried to keep away from. During the four week trip we used three quarters of a litre of sunblock. No doubt this tidbit, will make the Captain’s Mum happy. Views, sun, sweat and shade dictated our daily routine. The dolphins came to greet us as we approached Nuku Hiva, it was a welcome break to the blue routine.
My Southern Cross
One of my favourite if not proudest moments on the journey, was standing at the helm on the first night after leaving Galapagos. Having the Southern Cross low on the horizon directly in front of us, with its two bright pointing stars, was one of those travel moments you know will not be forgotten. Looking at the Southern Cross, I felt it belonged to me, the same way I view the backdrop of Mt Wellington in Hobart, something I am part of. For Australian and New Zealand children, it’s the Southern Cross we were taught to find in the night sky when we were very young. We also look with pride at the Southern Cross on our flag. Now all I need is some way for that pesky Union Jack to stay out of our flag.
I know, I know, I need to get over it, but seriously Australia, isn’t it time for a flag of our very own….
PS -The Internet is very slow so loading photos takes a long time in Nuku Hiva…..
PPS – Some Very Cool Facts About The Milky Way Taken From The Internet!
- The Romans called our galaxy the Milky Road because it reminded them of milk. The Greeks called it the Milky Circle. In fact, the word “galaxy” is from the Greek word for milk.
The ancient Greeks believed the Milky Way was formed by Hera’s milk – (Takes Breast Milk to a whole new level of fabulous)
- When a person sees the Milky Way at night, they are seeing only about 0.0000025% of the galaxy’s hundreds of billions of stars. (How small we are!)
- The very centre of the Milky Way contains a powerful gravitational force that scientists believe is a black hole, which they named Sagittarius A*. Astronomers believe this black hole weighs as much as 4 million of our suns put together.
- The Milky Way is a galaxy—a huge group of stars, gas, dust, and other matter held together in space by mutual gravitational pull, it is just one of billions of galaxies in the universe. (Too big to get your head around really)
- The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy that has curved arms that spin out from its centre. In 1990s Astronomers discovered it was barred (meaning the center is bar-shaped) rather than an ordinary spiral galaxy ( the centre is a spherical bulge) The oldest known star in the Milky Way is at least 13.6 billion years old – (The Captain asked me if I found this one….)
The Milky Way rotates at a speed of 168 miles per second. So, the actual place in space where you were an hour ago is now roughly 600,000 miles away. (So Miss Catana is never going slow – ever!)
- The Milky Way has a halo of dark matter that makes up over 90% of its mass. What this means is that all we can see, even with telescopes, is less than 10% of the mass of our galaxy.
- The sun, Earth, and all of the solar system are located about 27,000 light-years away from the Milky Way’s Galactic Centre, on the inner edge of a minor arm of the galaxy, named the Orion Arm.
- Scientists believe the Milky Way contains up to 400 billion stars, at least as many planets. The largest galaxy known IC 1101, has over 100 trillion stars. Smaller galaxies, like the Large Magellanic Cloud, have about 10 billion stars. The most stars a person can see from any point on Earth are about 2,500. The Milky Way galaxy is 26.000 light-years from Earth and 14 million miles across. If a rocket could travel at the speed of light, it would take 100,000 years to cross the galaxy. By comparison, light can go from Earth to moon in just one second.
- The sun and our solar system have orbited the galaxy fewer than 20 times since our solar system was born about 4.6 billion years ago. It has made 1/1250 of a revolution since the origin of humans.
- Scientists call the Milky Way and about 40 other galaxies nearby the Local Group. They are held together by mutual gravitational attraction. The Local Group belongs to an even larger group of galaxies called the Local Super cluster. This supercluster is about 100 million light years across.
- If the Milky Way had the same diameter as a Frisbee, the thickness of the disk would be like a sheet of paper. (Wow think about that)
- All galaxies are not alike, most fit into one of three main groups: #1 spiral galaxies (such as the Milky Way), #2 elliptical galaxies, #3 irregular galaxies. (Try and bring that into your daily conversation)
- Scientists believe that the Milky Way is consuming a small galaxy called the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy. (Bad luck Sagittarius)
- Astronomers must study the Milky Way with telescopes that detect radio waves, infrared light, and X-rays. Optical telescopes, which detect only visible light, cannot pass through the thick clouds of gas and dust.
- It would take a spaceship thousands of years, travelling at the speed of light to get far enough to capture a picture of the entire galaxy. Every picture of the Milky Way that we have seen, is either a picture of another galaxy or an artist’s interpretation.
- The Milky Way has only two major arms rather than four. The major arms, the Scutum-Centaurus Arm and the Perseus Arm, extend from the ends of the galaxy’s central bar of stars. The solar system lies on the Orion Spur, a branch of the Sagittarius Arm.
- Until 100 years ago, astronomers believed the Milky Way was the entire universe.
In the 1920s, astronomer Edwin Hubble, created a new way to measure the distance between other galaxies based on how bright a star is. He was able to prove that there were other galaxies outside the Milky Way, also the universe is millions of times bigger than our galaxy. (Hubble the Captain Cook of Astronomy)
- Since Dinosaurs died out about 65 million years ago, the sun is estimated to have travelled about 1/3 around the Milky Way’s centre.
- According to Cherokee legend, the Milky Way was formed when a dog stole some cornmeal and was chased way. He ran to the north, spilling cornmeal as he ran. Thus the Milky Way is called “The Way the Dog Ran Away” (Way to go cornmeal dog, love your work)
What can I say except the universe is Awesome and our lives are tiny in comparison.
Miss Advice – next time someone offers you an adventure take it because in the scheme of things our lives are sadly too fleeting. May as well do something special with it..