Posted by: adventuressetravels | March 4, 2011

Ships Passing in the Night

We glided through the velvet black of the balmy night.  The boat gently rocking with the waves that helped push us along.  It was mid-shift, midnight to 4:00 a.m., my watch, and I stood outside soaking up the perfect night air.  An orangey half-full moon hung heavy in the sky, like some enormous half-round of the most delicious cheddar you’ve ever tasted. Moonlight spilled across the waves like a gleaming pathway inviting us into another world.  But we were not sailing in that direction, not today.

Looking up, the stars’ brilliance and clarity took my breath away.  On the ocean stars never dreamed of outside the driest of deserts spangled  the unbelievably vast heavens.  Inhaling the tangy air of the open ocean, I felt the breath cleanse my lungs down to the last air sack.

Moving to the boat’s stern, I gazed down into the churned-up waters following us in our wake.  Brilliant glowing greeny flashes of bioluminescence flecked the dark water, leaving a sparkling trail behind us.  The ocean’s diversity never ceased to amaze me.

Shaking my head I snapped myself of the trance the night had laid on me.  It may have been a quiet night watch but that didn’t mean I could afford not to pay attention.  I had come out to check for contacts, or ships in the vicinity.

Of course I checked the radar at the helm station, but often you could spot the little points of lights in the black distance before you spotted them on the radar.  Besides, leaving the radar running all night drained the batteries and I didn’t want to run the generator.

I scanned the inky horizon; no boats coming up behind us.  I walked forward; the little point of light from a ship that had passed us on the previous watch lingered to our left, port side.  No danger there, just a matter of time before it disappeared into the distance.  But what was this?

A new, larger glow had appeared, about ten degrees to the right of our old contact.  This one wasn’t getting any smaller.  I found the ship on the radar to determine the bearing drift, or which direction she was headed and tagged the location.  When I poked my head back outside I could clearly make out the flashy lights of one of the fancy cruise ships; floating frat parties as the captain liked to call them.  Not surprising.  The waters around the Yucatan peninsula, where we were sailing, was full of them.

Checking the radar again I breathed a sigh of relief: significant right bearing drift.  In other words, no danger of an impact.  Walking out on deck I watched the enormous lighted vessel speed silently past us, rocking the boat back and forth with the waves kicked up by its massive wake.  Another contact speeding safely past us.  Just a couple of ships passing in the night


  1. Nice mood piece. What would be done without radar? And has “four bells” terminology dropped out of sea talk?

  2. Lovely. I probably missed the post where you indicate this…but how did you wind up on this boat anyway?

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