Day 5, St Helena to Ascension Island

0830Z 16MAY22, Day 5, St Helena to Ascension Island. Morale is soaring on Zephyros. The winds filled in late yesterday, boat speeds are up and we have been gliding smoothly along with under 170nm left to go. Today's is a lengthy post. Read-on to hear how Megan scored the "best midwatch ever" with a lunar eclipse party.

Current Position: 09 17S / 011 55W
24 hour progress: 113nm, 4.7kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 549nm, approximately 167nm to Ascension. We did not touch the sails / sail configuration in the past 24 hours. We continued sailing downwind with the asymmetric and 2 reefs in the main (reduces blocking of the asymmetric).

As we were waiting for the winds to fill in, we decided to do science in the morning when boat speeds were already low. That meant we could simply turn deeper downwind and block the chute a bit more with the main again. It worked fine, even as a slightly faster tow at around 3.5kts. Of course, this meant that we were pretty much waiting all day for the winds to fill back in and had a slow average speed for the first half of the day. We asked the boys if they wanted to do a second round of science sampling in the afternoon but they opted not to as we were not yet in the Ascension MPA which seems to be the focus of this project.

It continues to be hot! We relaxed outside in the breeze and got quite a bit of sun, even in the shade. We stared at the clear blue sea and actually saw at least one fish swimming along with us in the water! We think he was kind of hanging out in the shadow of our boat and we saw the same fish multiple times, but it could have been a couple of different fish. We put in the fishing line, but no bites. However, when Jon pulled in the line, changed from the squid to the cedar plug, and put the line back in, there was a dart out from under the boat for the cedar lure before the fish seemingly darted back under Zephyros. No problem, as he was too small anyway. Later, close to sunset, Megan thought she saw a fish jump next to the boat. Then a few minutes later, she definitely saw it. Either she is beginning to hallucinate or that fish believed he was a dolphin in training or had been a dolphin in a previous life (or maybe a porpoising penguin?).

We had heard there would be a full lunar eclipse visible in North America last night. Without the ability to search (and with our limited understanding of how eclipses work without said internet), we weren't sure how visible the eclipse would be for us here in the south eastern Atlantic. We were given a heads up on when it should start in North America - which translated to 0230am local for us. This timing more or less coincided with the start of Megan's midwatch. Jon was just closing out his watch and had been dutifully checking the moon to ensure it was still there after Daxton and Ronan had finished their watches. He told Megan that the eclipse was due to start in the next 5-10min in North America. He said good night and left a night order to wake him if it got interesting.

Soon after Jon's head hit the pillow, and right around 0230 the light got a bit different and the moon started to get blocked by the earth. Megan gave Jon a warning that it was looking good for us to see the eclipse and she would wake him up when it got closer to total. By 3 the moon was just over half gone and Megan started dreaming of songs to play loudly to announce the lunar eclipse party - Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" was the front runner (it is also a song with history of being used to harass Ronan when sung loudly and off key), but The Eagle's "Seven Bridges Road" was another contender as the moon faded and the "stars in the southern sky" became more and more vivid. At 0315 Megan began the wake up rounds. She opted to only discuss the musical playlist - and sing portions, loudly and off key, of course - rather than actually blare music. The wake-ups took a few tries as both boys were unaware there would be an eclipse or a middle of the night mandatory fun session.

By 0320, everyone was outside and Megan had the whole crew for company by the time she was about an hour into her watch. As the moon became more and more shrouded and the stars became more and more vivid we had nice conversations about what it must have been like before eclipses were well understood and predicted. By 0330 the last bit of bright moon was disappearing (deemed the moon's "toupee") and Ronan declared this type of moon was called a Blood Moon. Jon told him that he thought a Blood Moon was something different. Soon thereafter Ronan disappeared to his room, as he does - a teenager bored of the proceedings and tired from being unexpectedly woken up in the middle of the night. Moments later he returned with his phone to triumphantly read from his dictionary that the red moon seen during a full lunar eclipse is indeed called a Blood Moon and Dad was wrong!!!

By now, we had entered totality. We reflected on our lunar eclipse party back on the beach in Greece nearly 4 years ago and how all the animals acted weird. (The cats acted the normal weird that they do in the dark hours of the night. Nothing especially unusual.) We also added R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It" to the party playlist. Then a bird came by and made a crazy noise at us - just when we thought we would miss animals acting strange during an eclipse. We decided he was screaming at us that we were witches or that we were all going to die, unclear which exactly. But we all had a good laugh at the absurdity of the happening and crazy noise.

We passed around pieces of a chocolate bar with almond pieces as a party treat. Ronan stayed at the party for a few more minutes and quietly disappeared to bed again when nobody was looking. It's pretty much his MO, he'll be around helping or discussing something then quietly sneak off when people are distracted leaving us to later realize he's gone (usually when we really need him to do something) and all marvel that he has snuck off, yet again.

The rest of the crew continued chatting, staring at the moon, enjoying the cool night breeze and generally keeping Megan company. There was a discussion about how both Ronan and Daxton were sleeping the same - on their stomachs - when Mom went to wake them. Daxton then had a stellar entry into the "tell me your kid lives on a boat, without telling me your kid lives on a boat" competition with the emphatic declaration that this was, in fact, wrong - "No, I sleep on my chine!" This led to much laughter and then on to discussions of how this was the best and easiest midwatch ever - for Megan - as it soon would be Jon's turn to take over the watch! It was also pointed out that there was not much "watch" happening as we were all staring at the moon and the stars and not looking at where we were actually going or around to see if there were other boats. There was also a discussion of how much longer Jon should stay up. He wanted to see if the light came back to the moon from the opposite edge or back from where it disappeared. We thought the shadow should complete a transit, but couldn't remember for sure how it presented when observed. "Should I Stay or Should I go" was then sung a bit and promptly added to the mental lunar eclipse party playlist.

Soon Jon retired for a nap before he would return to watch. Megan and Daxton continued to hang out and enjoy the night sky and blood moon. The moon was sometimes covered by light clouds, but then the clouds would move past. It was incredible how the stars and Milky Way became so vivid with the dimming of the very bright full moon. Around 5am the "toupee" of bright moonlight returned - to the opposite side of the moon from where it had last been. The Milky Way and stars slowly dimmed again as the full moon gradually returned. Jon came back on watch just after 0530 and Daxton and Megan went to bed. Jon was left with the moon hidden behind a small ribbon of cloud, not quite back to full and in peace, gliding along. What amazing sailing and a unique and memorable experience! The moon was back to full by 6am, followed by its setting as the sunrise oranges and reds warmed the sky, before the sun actually peaked above the horizon. Amazing.

We are all still blissful, and slightly tired, after last night's party. But we are also energized as we are on the last leg and now and have goals to accomplish. Now that we are inside the Marine Protection Area for Ascension, we have the self-imposed goal of twice a day plankton and DNA sampling to accomplish. We are also looking good on reaching our goal of dropping anchor before sunset Tuesday!

1 comment:

  1. What an incredible experience! From science to lunar eclipse parties, your journey is truly captivating. Wishing you smooth sailing and continued adventures on the way to Ascension Island!

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