Day 10 Monday, May 27, 2013
1020 Position: Latitude 01 32.4 S, Longitude 148 56.2 W
Speed 14.6, Course 036,
Barometer 1010, Weather: Sunny, partly cloudy, hot
Total miles run: 2819.3
At 10:30 am, we've got 120 miles to go to the Equator! We're also halfway to our first stop in Ensenada, Mexico. It's another classic equatorial day: hot, sunny, almost windless, and the pale blue sky is dotted with cumulus. Flying fish are launching themselves off our bow wave; the sea is turquoise where the sun hits it and blue-green under clouds.
As mentioned before, the container ship that we and Sockdolager are aboard, the M/V Hugo Schulte, is going more slowly than it normally would, in order to save fuel. Chief Engineer Lawrence told us that at normal speeds (22 knots) this voyage would take ten days. But who would want to rush? After all the sailing we've done, being mere passengers with no duties is both weird and pleasureable.
Later, on the Equator: the crossing ceremony was a complete surprise to its intended "victim," and everyone had a good time. Jim and I bought a few bottles of wine for the celebration, and RJ the steward made a huge delicious lemon cake. We toasted the occasion with the crew.
Jim looked magnificent in his Neptune costume complete with tinfoil crown and epaulets, and I felt elegant as Aphrodite in my cape and knotted turk's head jewelry. The entire Russian crew wanted their photos taken with Neptune and Aphrodite, and we obliged. The Captain presented Barbara with an Official Diploma recognizing her ascension from Polliwog to Shellback, Neptune gave a stirring speech in his best stentorian tones, a poem was read, a bit of saltwater was sprinkled over Barbara, and immediately after dinner we all rushed six stories up from the mess hall to the wheelhouse, to witness the actual crossing of the Equator.
"Wait'll you see it," I said, "There's an actual, visible line in the water!"
"There is?" said Barbara.
"Oh yes," said Lawrence. "In fact, if you want, we can dip down with a bucket and take a little piece of the Equator for you. It's so big, nobody'll miss it."
By then Barbara had caught on, but she was a good sport. "I'd like to see what Customs would do with that," she commented drily.
Picture yourself going through Customs, we all pondered aloud. 'What's in the jar?' they'd ask. 'Oh, that's just a piece of the Equator,' we'd say. 'Lady, please step out of the line,' they'd say.
As we crossed the line the First Officer let loose with a big long blast on the ship's horn. Oh, I would love to sound the horn, I said to the Captain, you know, sort of a shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits signal. He replied that if I did that, the crew would be at their muster stations ready to abandon ship. Okay then, bad idea!
Here's the poem we wrote for the occasion:
Neptune's Excellent Equator Crossing Poem
I could not say anything greater
than, "You have just crossed the Equator."
The sea's my domain
And forever I'll reign
with my trident and charts by Mercator.
A Polliwog you are, no longa
Having crossed 'tween Hawaii and Tonga
It's Shellback, you daughter
Of open blue water
From now on you'll be wiser and stronga.
It was a totally excellent day.
Day 11 Tuesday, May 28, 2013
1100 Position: Latitude 02 56.4 N, Longitude 145 18.3 W
Speed 14, Course 046,
Barometer 1010.7, Weather: Sunny, partly cloudy, hot
Total miles run: 3167
Jim likes to stay up late and sleep in, and I'm more of an early bird. The other night he stayed up and watched a movie.
Me: Which one was it?
Jim: Oh, it was one I knew you wouldn't love. It's called 'Earth's Last Day.'
Me: Was it good?
Jim: It was really, really bad.
Me: Tell me about it!
He describes just the beginning, which involves a piece of dark matter falling to earth and going right through some guy's chest. It leaves a big smoking hole and then it burns through the earth and goes out the other side. The holed guy, still alive, is found by onlookers, and he gives them his last words—'Don't forget the circles.'
Me: Whoa. Intense. Yawn.
Jim: I concluded that it's highly doubtful that a guy missing his lungs and heart could speak.
Me: This is your medical training at work. Let me know when you have other deep conclusions like that.
Jim: Happy to help. I'm watching all the bad movies so you don't have to.
At lunch, both the Captain and the Chief Engineer were eager to know what we plan to celebrate next. We brainstormed a list of holidays that occur between now and next week, in the US, Croatia and Romania, but the list is pretty thin. Maybe we should declare International Cake and Ice Cream Day, with RJ as its patron saint.
Today, a tropicbird is following the ship, soaring and swooping overhead. It's bright white but otherwise did not match the description or picture of either the red-tailed or white-tailed species in my identification book; it has a yellowish beak but not the exact same wing markings as a yellow-tailed tropicbird, and its tail plume is yellowish-white.
I watched it for quite awhile. Tropicbirds are so lovely and graceful. The other birds we've seen since leaving NZ and colder waters were a couple of flocks of agile Phoenix petrels having good luck with their fishing. Later: We came upon a flock of tropicbirds; one was sitting in the water before rising and flapping away. I've never seen one land on the water before. Barbara reported that she'd seen a bird that matched the description of a Phoenix petrel, sitting atop the forward crane until it saw something, then diving for it and returning to its perch with a meal of fish. Other than these sightings, we've seen very little bird life. This far out to sea, there is less of it. But the Big Dipper is visible again!
Day 12 Wednesday, May 29, 2013
1315 Position: Latitude 07 58.7 N, Longitude 141 08.8 W
Speed 14.6, Course 039,
Barometer 1008, Weather: Cloudy, squalls, hot
Total miles run: 3559
Maybe it's psychological, but it feels and looks different in the northern hemisphere. Within half a day of crossing the Equator, the cloud cover began to increase until today it's mostly cloudy with occasional squalls. It's the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone again, and this time we get to sleep through every squall and stay warm and dry. The swell is now more markedly northeast, including those long ocean ground swells. Looks like we're near the Northeast Trades.
This has been an idyllic trip so far; the Captain said he's had an easy time of it, but when it gets rough (and it can get very rough because this ship goes year-round) he and the crew must steer around the storms and hang on. In our cabin the chairs have little chains for attaching to the floor, and everything else is attached to something so it doesn't come adrift. Late May is fairly benign in terms of hurricane frequency, but they are possible in the northern hemisphere. However, nothing worrisome shows up on the weather forecast.
Last night in an effort to get a last sighting of the Southern Cross, Jim went up to the bridge deck but stayed outside the wheelhouse, walking the perimeter. He walked past the AB (able-bodied seaman) on watch who was gazing out the wheelhouse window, and without meaning to, gave the poor fellow the fright of his life. Ghosts on ships are not a good thing. The tradition is to announce "on the bridge" whenever you arrive up there, and we will do that from now on.
Today we asked RJ to show us the ship's giant freezers and fridges, and they are indeed huge.
It's ice cream Wednesday! The Captain has instituted this new tradition in our honor, and also because he admits to a fondness for it, and also because there's plenty of it to last until we get to Oakland, hooray!