A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about night

A Quiet Week in Baja

A Meeting of Desert, Ocean, and Vagabond

sunny 79 °F

I’m sitting on a table on our bridge deck (our highest deck). My legs dangle in the breeze. I lean back and look up to the rising moon. I have a cold beer in my left hand and my Ipod with select cuts in my right. I’m rocking out to a big moon, and a beautiful Mexican seascape. I’ve got it pretty damn good.

I’m thinking about what I want to write about this week, but I can’t come up with anything. It doesn’t matter. I take a sip of beer and smile. This week is good. I’m doing good. And sometimes, there just isn’t anything to say.

Bonanza Bay Slack-Line Session
It took me three tries to find the right set up for this line. It was hard to find the right combination of distance, boulders and height to make this line happen. It’s hard to wrap a line around a boulder and make it hold. A taut line on boulders tends to slip no matter how hard I pull the tension. Using a couple of different knots, I finally got the line to hold.

This was the highest line I’ve ever walked. I know it doesn’t look very high, but the landing was sketchy. Should I fall, a small bed of boulders would break my fall. It took me a couple of tries to get comfortable on the line, but I overcame my fears and relaxed. I told myself it’s no different than a low line, it was just higher. For some reason, this line of logic worked, and I walked it.
The best part of this session was soaking in the cool crystalline waters of the Sea of Cortez afterward.

Orange Whispers
I love dawn. There’s something proper to sipping a good cup of coffee and watching the sun rise over the waking world.

The Magic of Isla Magdalena
Isla Magdalena never fails to impress me with its diverse beauty. I’ve written extensively in the past about the finer features of Isla Magdalena. It never fails to provide me with a sense of peace, a sense of place, and a sense of time.

My buddy Paul and I walk across the wind swept dunes to the Pacific side. A fine layer of sand blows over the dunes as thin as smoke. We lose ourselves in conversation, the dunes and our destiny.
On the Pacific side, I drop my accessories and run off into the ocean. I run until the waves trip me and I fall forward into the water. I love this beach. I love this ocean. I love this place. I time the waves and jump with them hoping for that magical feeling of flying. It’s elusive, but I finally catch the perfect wave. I accelerate as the wave curls and breaks. It seems I‘m better at flying in water than I am in the air.
I leave fully satisfied and refreshed. To swim in the Pacific is good for the soul.

Sea Lion in Death
A dead sea lion lay on the sand. Paul and I walk around it, inspecting it. It smells like death. It’s interesting and puts life into perspective. Everything here is temporary, so what the hell is all the fuss about? I don’t know. Neither does Paul.
Isla Magdalena is home to the dead. The bones of countless animals, and perhaps men, litter the island. I can’t think of a more beautiful place to lie still.

Undocumented Moments
This week I experienced several moments I can only tell you about. I’ve kept camera mostly tucked away this week. I didn’t want any distractions. I kept my senses wide open, receptive to it all. I was not disappointed.

I saw three blue whales this week. One of which brought its fluke into the sky as it dove away into the wild blue. I was inches away from several gray whales this week. When they breathed, I was blasted in the face with their breath. Some whales expel their breath at over 100 miles and hour. I breathed the same air a whale expelled. That has to be some kind of good karma, right? I watched streaking dolphins glide through black water. They are ghostly, lit by bioluminescence.

My favorite part of the week was realizing I love my job. I’m a mariner, and I work on the sea. Sometimes the sea gets lumpy and hard to work on. Every move I made was difficult. I was at the mercy of the water and the wind.

I worked with my mates and we got the job done, despite the challenging conditions. We ate a late dinner in the relative peace of the crew lounge enjoying the camaraderie of a good days work done well.
To work here, you need a sense of timing, physical coordination, and knowledge of the sea. It’s an ancient craft, and I’m happy to say it is mine.

Posted by Rhombus 22:51 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches night desert mexico whales sunrise time photography moons slacklining Comments (0)

An Autumn Wind

The End Of Summer, The Start of Autumn, Favorite Pictures of the Week

sunny 75 °F

An Autumn Wind
Yesterday was… It’s hard to describe yesterday. I will try. It was hot, dusty and exceedingly bright. One had to squint to try to alleviate the discomfort. Squinting all day makes you tense and irritable. It was hard on the eyes. A listless pall of negativity surrounded the ship. I felt it. This was heavy and draining. It affected everyone. I saw many stifled yawns. I saw many frowns. I felt mildly annoyed all day.

Evening came on, without much improvement. I had stowed the flags, I was standing watch at the gangway enjoying the cool darkening of the skies. From somewhere unknown, an unexpected wind arrived. It hammered into us. I’ve felt the slap of the wind before, but it has been awhile since it has punched me. This was no love tap; this was a well balanced punch with a strong follow through. This wind blew for forty-five minutes without letting up. This was an impressive wall of nearly invisible energy.

I turned and faced into the melee. Cool, moist air engulfed my mouth, my nose and lungs. It whipped through my hair, tousling my beard. Then the wind began scouring our decks. Our garbage cans went sailing, empty gas cans tumbled across the lido. Three kayaks toppled from their racks onto the deck. Our mooring lines stretched taut under the strain, and our deck mats flipped upside down asunder.

The deck crew assumed headless chicken stances, and ran around the boat securing all loose ends in order of importance. It took awhile, but eventually we secured our decks. When I stepped inside, the ship seemed so calm and peaceful compared to the tumult raging outside. I went back out into the wind. It was awesome.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this gale cleaned that dying breath of the last day of summer right out of us. Amongst the crew, moods visibly improved (myself included). I felt more alive, much happier, and more buoyant.
As quickly as it came, the wind dissipated and vanished. The waters were calmed down; the stars reappeared above. You would never believe that a straight-line wind had ripped though.

This morning, I awoke fresh. I could feel the difference from yesterday to today. The morning light seems brighter. The air is fresh. It’s chilly out, whereas yesterday it was sticky. The autumn has arrived. Our second mate noticed it last night during the gale saying, “Holy crap. Is that the end of summer?”

I started my day with the following passage:

“Foolish. Of course! To give up a steady job in order to gratify a few vague daydreams. To leave a life of comfort for one of constant danger, discomfort and insolvency. Surely that is the height of foolishness. I reasoned with myself. How in the first place could I ever find the money to do it? But I was young, argued that other restless self, and a lad of twenty-one can always find a way to realize his desire.

And the desire grew and grew until it rang in my ears like a trumpet call.”

Dennis Puleston ~ Blue Water Vagabond.

I came to the park equipped with coffee cup, muffin, yogurt, orange, phone, books and slack line. I chatted with my brother Karl, talking of many good things. Our conversation covered comfort, breakfast nooks, Limo, our brother Eric, paradigms, the wind, and autumn. We complimented each other on our prospective journeys and appreciation for all the good things in our lives, and ended on a good vibe.

I breathed that fresh cool air; I ate my breakfast in the shady company of trees. After many minutes, I set up my slack line and found my balance.

This is good. This is how I like to start my day.

I'll end this entry with my favorite pictures of the week. Enjoy!

Posted by Rhombus 01:37 Archived in USA Tagged night rivers friends autumn moon photography washington wind Comments (0)


Working The Graveyard, Solitude, Takes on the Night

sunny 45 °F

I’m working the graveyard shift right now, from 7 pm to 7 am. I’ve never worked night shift before, and I was curious to see how I would function trying something completely different. So far, I’ve found that I can handle it quite well, and relatively easily. After my shift, I eat breakfast, take a shower and go to bed to hopefully sleep for 8 hours. Sleep is the name of the game. It’s important to get enough of it, because any shortage will make the early hours a challenge to stay awake. I’ve also done it without caffeine. Of course, I have my usual cup of coffee when I wake up, and I like a cup of hot tea about 2 am, but that’s it. I didn’t want to be a hopped up, caffeine dependent slave. I wanted to be alert, and functioning, adapting to the night instead of fighting it. My plan has worked, and I’ve enjoyed the darkest hours.

Embracing the night has its moments: I’ve found myself dying of laughter all by myself in the empty dining room, remembering a funny bit from a movie. I love leaning on the rail immersed in the deep inky darkness of the night. There is a ceiling of stars above me, along freight train flying by on the riverbank, and a fresh cool breeze whipping by my face. It’s so very beautiful and tranquil.

There’s a quality to the night that embraces you, enveloping you in the hidden knowledge of darkness. The night is a peaceful solitude. I like the idea that I’m the only person awake and the entire world is asleep. I like having the ship to myself. Living in such a small area as a boat makes it hard to find privacy.

There are nightly chores to finish every night, and a bridge watch to assist. Another deckhand and I, switch this job up hourly after making a security round to break up the chores we have to do. This also helps break up the monotony of staring into the darkness trying to stay awake. I like being on the watch late at night. Our second mate likes old classic country music, which he plays as soon as he gets on shift. He usually has the heat blasting, “I like to bring a little South Carolina wherever I go.” Old music warbles out the radio played by Bob Wills, Jon Conlee, Marty Robbins, and Tom T. Hall among many others. So I sit there, scanning the horizon for navigation lights, logs, boat traffic, and anything else, listening to old tunes in the hot cabin, and making light conversation about whatever comes to mind.

Fringe benefits of this job:

Watching the silver moonlight shimmer on the river. I can’t help but think of David Bromberg’s “Moonlight on the Water”. It’s so very beautiful, especially when view with binoculars.

We have very high-powered binoculars up on the bridge. The other night, I used them to scope out Venus, and I saw its three moons like tiny glimmering mosquitoes circling around an orb.

Midnight milkshakes. Enough said.

Seeing the Columbia River and Snake River from the water is a cool perspective. For those of you who are interested in amazing engineering projects, the nine locks that we pass through on our upstream voyage and downstream voyage are very impressive. As a deckhand, one of our jobs is to toss a loop of 2 inch line around a bollard, making it fast to secure the vessel to the side of the lock. This is a lot of fun. On my first throw, I was too keyed up and ready to throw that when my partner said, “Wait.” I threw the line into the water. I was about 15 feet away from the bollard, and didn’t know that we closed in before we had to throw. It was quite funny. I was able to reload and make the next toss with plenty of time to spare. I generally learn from bad experience, and when learning something completely new, I tend to make a mess of it. Ah well, no worries, I haven’t missed a lock toss since that very first throw.
Today I took part in perhaps the first ever banjo sale on the streets of Portland. I have been itching to get my hands on one, as I hadn’t played in quite some time. Using the all-powerful tool called the internet, I located one, contacted the owner, convinced her to drive to the dock, and met her on the street to see if it was worth purchasing. The meeting took place after I stayed awake all night working, and giving myself just under two hours of sleep before I had to get up for the meeting. I feel I was looking and feeling my best, bleary eyed, stumbling, mumbling, I somehow communicated my feelings through a mixture of spastic gestures and slow grunts that I wanted to buy it. I handed over a pile of uncounted cash, grabbed my new friend and made plans to dismantle it and rebuilding it to a workable piece.

On my way back from the banjo purchase, I noticed an old pair of work boots sitting along side of the dock. They didn’t have any laces, were worn and scuffed, and completely alone. I vowed to return later, to give them their proper respect, but I needed sleep more than I needed that picture. After catching some rejuvenating sleep, I returned with my camera, and took a satisfying picture of the boots.
I’ve been fortunate to find satisfying photographs on my limited time off the vessel. Granted, I’m open to my environment and usually can find a pleasing scene. Take the boots. I didn’t have a lot of time to go out for a shot, but I had an idea that they would make a cool shot. I found them, just as I had seen them earlier, and took five photos of them. Upon editing, I only kept one.

“Some say it’s darkest before the dawn. This thought keeps me, moving on. If we could heed these early warnings. The time is now, come early morning.” Pete Seeger

Author’s Note: I find this particular entry very disjointed. I wrote it over a period of several days during the week I was working nights. I’ve decided to keep it as is, because I think it’s a good example of how I was thinking during the long night shifts. In the night, ideas come and go, often abruptly, then come back in new forms.
You probably aren’t asking yourself, “What’s next for our fearless adventurer?” I’ll tell you anyway. A little day hike down to Palouse Falls.

Posted by Rhombus 22:43 Archived in USA Tagged night rivers boating photography Comments (2)

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