First Watch

After the sails finally went up we set our course from Colon towards the San Blas Islands. Angela and I had our first watch from 10:00 pm to midnight. We had timed our departure so that we would arrive at the San Blas islands just after sunrise. This would allow us to use dead reckoning to dodge the shallow rocks and choral reefs. Everything started out serene. Angela sat at the wheel, following the big red compass like a video game. Left, right, hard left, slowly back right, there was no end to the corrections that were needed. I sat on the side of the ship looking out, watching for little lights on the horizon that warned of oncoming ships. The stars were absolutely brilliant making it easy to trace out the patches of dark clouds. In the distance, straight ahead, silent lightning flashes lit up the sky. Phosphorescent plankton sparkled blue and green in our wake. Even though the stars were brilliant directly above us, it was strangely very dark. The water had a dark pull to it. If our instruments were correct the waters were more than a mile deep. It already felt like an adventure, like we were on a star ship, setting out to explore what lay beyond the horizon. Rocking side to side, up and down, we were in a soothing trance, caressed by the rhythm of Nature. In the distance small lights appeared, red and white. This meant that they were passing to our left and were not on a collision course. If they were heading straight for us we would see red, green and white. Slowly the cargo ship trailed off to the left. After the first hour the waves began to become excited. The rocking gained amplitude and began to become a bit violent. Then it became even more violent. Very quickly we learned all about what the local seamen call ‘chicken assholes’ – a term they use to describe when the sky falls down on you and the ocean tries to throw it back up. Our whole ship was tossed and turned around so much that the mast went from almost touching one side of the water to the other side in only a couple of seconds. The rain was pouring down and thunder cracked all around us. The waves were far taller than we were, meaning that there wasn’t a chance in hell that we’d see an oncoming ship. Steering seemed pointless too. Our captain, Gwen, who only sleeps with one eye at a time, jumped up from his bed the second the chicken asshole started dumping on us. He was out on the deck being thrown back and forth, barefoot, wearing only a swimming suit, taking down the sails so we wouldn’t be decorating the sea floor tonight. When he came back in the cabin, soaking wet, he laughed at Angela and me because the terror on our faces was more than obvious. After about 20 minutes of this, the chicken asshole stopped as quickly as it started. My stomach was sick, but somehow I had avoided throwing up. When our shift was over we went into our cabin and fell right asleep. If another chicken asshole hit us as least we wouldn’t be driving J.

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2 Responses to First Watch

  1. elaine emmi says:

    Now I’m seasick 🙁

  2. Kathy says:

    Eye the blasted sea! It loves ya and then it chews you up and spits you out. Onward sailors!