When she found out what I do for a so-called living, a woman once said to me, with a look of awe in her eyes, “I wish I could see the things you’ve seen”. It made me realize that I have indeed seen some pretty amazing things. Here are my Top Five.
5. The Junk Raft: not wanting to disparage the Hunks on the Junk by placing them fifth, but as mere humans I felt they ought to cede priority to the natural wonders to follow. Nevertheless, by any standards the Junk Raft, made from 10,000 empty water bottles, a grid of yacht masts, and the fuselage of a Cessna aircraft, was an amazing sight, and all the more welcome because it also represented a long-awaited fresh fish supper and a resupply of fresh water. (Pacific Stage 1, between San Francisco and Hawaii)
4. Low-flying squid: I didn’t know squid could fly, until three of them thudded onto the deck of my boat, missing me by inches, leaving a horrible mess of squid ink and gelatinous corpses. People have asked why I didn’t fry them up as calamari for my supper. Take it from me, they did not look appetizing. (Pacific Stage 2, between Hawaii and Kiribati)
3. Electrical storms at night: as I was struggling through the doldrums just north of the Equator, I found great consolation in the almost nightly spectacle of towering cumulonimbus clouds, lit from within by flashes of lightning. Simply stunning. (Pacific Stage 2, between Hawaii and Kiribati)
2. Moonbow: I hadn’t even known that moonbows existed until I saw this one. There was a bright full moon in the east, and on the opposite horizon a raincloud. Voila – a moonbow. Like a rainbow, but in black and white. (Not sure if this was Pacific Stage 2 or 3)
1. Whale shark: still the coolest wildlife I have ever seen. It was a Sunday morning, and I’d had the sea anchor out overnight. The wind had changed, so I pulled the sea anchor back in. A baby whale shark, *only* 8 feet long, attracted by the big red and yellow object, followed it right up to my boat. It then spent the next 20 minutes swimming laps around me, occasionally breaking the surface, while I ran from side to side of the boat, all the better to watch it. A very special experience. (Pacific Stage 2)
There have also been the turtles, dolphins, and whales, which are always a welcome and “wow, cool” sight. And on this voyage I’ve really enjoyed watching the aerobatics of the storm petrels. Today the wind has been gusting up to 30 knots, and they have been loving it, swooping and skimming and zipping along at phenomenal speeds. Down at sea level, I have not been reveling in the conditions, nor zipping along, emphasizing the point that no matter how long I spend out here, this is very much their habitat, not mine. I can only watch and wonder and marvel.
Less marvellous, I’ve been seeing more debris in the ocean the last couple of days. Yesterday I saw 5 or 6 pieces of rubbish within the space of 15 minutes, and today passed close to a big ball of rope and netting. It wasn’t exactly a “ghost net”, as it was a tight bundle and couldn’t have ensnared wildlife, fortunately. Interesting that I am seeing more at this halfway mark of the voyage, possibly providing evidence for the 5Gyres theory that the debris congregates in the centre of each ocean.
Natalie – Alcatraz had good food? I won’t even ask how you know that… I suspect that these days prisons serve up mostly junk food and preservatives. Even prison isn’t like it used to be….!
Jacob – good to hear from you. Interesting to hear the Africa famine linked to ocean activity. But not surprising. Now that I have rowed around most of this world, I can tell you that although it is a big world, it is nowhere near as big as we think it is – or not big enough for the way we treat it.
Thanks to everybody who has been campaigning for the plastic bag ban. It would make me deliriously happy if London (or even better, England) bans the bag forever. Banning the bag is a seriously good start at saving the environment.
Quote: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” (Origin disputed.)
Sponsored Miles: Thank you: Julian Gall, Karen Morss, Jennifer Bester, Kamas Industries, Christopher Schmidt and Peter Bromley.