Monday, 26 January 2015

The Light

You can tell where in the world you are by the light on the horizon.

The further from the equator you are, the longer the light lingers before and after breaking the surface of the horizon. When you are around the equator (plus or minus 10 degrees) you know the sun has risen because it is bearing down on you furiously and there is no safe haven except under cover. The sun is up or it is down. There are no pinkish hues or tell-tale glimmers in the clouds, it is up at 6am and is relentless until 6pm when it promptly drops, to be replaced by a pitch black and it's memory ablaze on your retinas. The age-old conundrum baffles the double handed sailing team, do you have dinner with some natural light under which to eat it (and eat ridiculously early) or eat at a reasonable time in the dark? Much time during those long ocean passages is filled with the healthy debate about what time the dinner meal should be consumed, because it inevitably leads to the first watch/sleeping shift.

View from amidship looking aft while the sky is on fire with the
sunset - The Coral Sea, PNG

As you draw away from the equator maximising your summer months, you are given some warning of the sun’s movements because of the different angle of the globe to the sun at that location. It starts with a dull grey creeping across the sky from the east at 5am until it gives way to some yellows, then light blues, pinks and the start of some golden beams as it slowly stretches its arms and lightly taps you on the shoulder to let you know that it is time to get moving. Then at night you get the reverse, the sun leaves you with a relaxing twilight in which to ponder the idea of making dinner or at least finishing up your sundowner drink before the light completely departs at about 9pm.

Sundowners and nibbles, boat life can be quite
spoilt - Pittwater NSW

You have lots of time to ponder the intricacies of the earth while you are at sea, and the role of the sun is central to every single one of those intricacies. The comfort of the sun and its light can not be underestimated, a night filled with storms or squalls can trigger the fear emotions, but a day with storms is not as frightening because you can see them coming. 

I could never get tired of watching the sun set on the ocean. It glows across the surface with waves nipping at it's circumference, then slowly dips below, distorting slightly as you bathe in it's penumbral light. There are no buildings or mountains or other obstacles to block any portion of the view as the sun does the same thing that it has done for 4.54 billion years, watch us circle around it. There is some isolating emotion that comes with the vast distance you are from any other human life and the sun is the only one to bear witness to any mysteries surrounding your whereabouts.

The sun is glimmering over the horizon behind me, reflecting pinks across the
clouds - South China Sea, Borneo

The light marks the end of the night shift and a new day, you are one more day closer to land and the routines of the sun change minutely as you travel further north or south.

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