Velella's Drift

An account of Velella's voyage from Seattle to New York via Panama, 2009-2011

A Surprise Guest

25 31.32’N
113 37.03’W

The last couple of nights have been drenched with dew. When the sun comes up in the morning I see a dry cocoon of blankets and pillows that my body has kept warm against the wet–like how the base of a pine tree melts the snow. I grumble when the wind shifts, because it requires me to take one slippered step onto the wet cushions to reach the airvane course control line, one wet elbow as I lean on the combing to pull the line, and one wet hand as I grasp the slick, cold binnacle to pull myself back toward my dry nest. Though it’s not very cold, the dampness makes a chill, so I tuck both hands under the blankets and grasp little carbon-filled handwarmers to help encourage my body to continue producing heat.

Not six hours on either side of this scene I can be found on deck in a swimsuit, dipping my toe over the side because the sun is so hot. There’s plenty of evidence that we’ve made our way almost 600 miles towards the equator in the last 3 weeks. We’re beginning to see sea life that didn’t appear up north: funny flocks of tiny unfamiliar birds, an enormous sea turtle plodding slowly by, as if he were moving through honey instead of saltwater. Large waving forests of “Turkish towels” flourish in the warmer water–their heavy leaves sound like fish flopping as the breeze lifts them from the surface and slaps each one back down again. They throw tiny spray and move with humanlike languidness, like an old Turkish woman snapping her wet dishtowel at the flies. The clouds have vanished almost permanently from the achingly blue, 360-degree horizon, and the sun now sets as an unfettered fireball silently extinguished in the deep indigo sea. Coins of bright green phosphorescence glitter in Velella’s wake at night, and occasionally, a pair of dolphins give us a twisting neon underwater light show as they dart beneath the boat. What I was completely unprepared for, however, was the surprise guest I received at 2:45am last night.

I was mid-grumble because the wind had shifted again, and I had to uncurl and step out into the wet to adjust our course. I quickly flipped on my headlamp to illuminate the masthead tell-tale, then glanced back toward the wind vane on the stern, when something unusually shiny caught my eye in the cockpit. I stifled a scream when I realize that what caught my eye was an EYE, a big round glazed eye belonging to a squid in my cockpit! It lay there staring at me with its one disarming eye, breathing a little bit, and both of us wishing it werent there. I wanted very much to pick it up and throw it overboard, but every time I steeled myself to touch it, I got chills all the way down my spine and involuntarily made what is best described as the “heebie-jeebie” noise. I kind of paced back and forth, willing Prescott to wake up and save me from having to deal with this thing. Finally, I settled on grabbing a plastic spatula to deal with the squid, but touching it with that spatula elicited a scream audible enough to wake Prescott apparently. He came up and was manly about it and just picked it up with his hands without hesitating.

And all this is why, at almost 9am, I am still alone in the cockpit when my watch ended at 7, because I’m letting Prescott sleep in. Because on a boat, tiny heroisms feel big.



  ogm wrote @


  stofnsara wrote @

What beautiful descriptions!

  Sara wrote @

Is it bad of me to suggest that calamari is quite tasty? I talk big, but pretty sure that Josh would have needed to save me too.

  Peter C. wrote @

Another example of Prescott-utility. Chivalry lives!! What a guy! I think you should keep him around.
And to think..he didn’t need a swim-cap, goggles, snorkel, tongs, and flippers, or any other hazardous duty gear. (Meg – you’ll recall the “dark duty machine” … )
Appears Prescott will be a capable addition to the family… I could use his help as the field mice and chipmunks seek pre-winter warm shelter and food here in MN. (bird seed + warm garage = trouble… )

  anna wrote @

When you went for the spatula i thought for sure you had dinner. i wouldn’t have touched it either, not with a nine foot whisker pole.

  Josh wrote @

I love this entry! It had me longing for the tropics, giggling like a school girl, and gave me warm fuzzies at the end.

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