I have never been one to exclaim that I’ve seen the light, but this time I feel compelled to write about it, as I am now a true believer. As they say, seeing is believing, and for me, seeing twice is believing.
The light I’ve seen is a phenomenon, known to many of us as Eddie’s Light. The first time he saw it was in Papua New Guinea. The light has appeared to him in white, green, orange, and red, sometimes very briefly and sometimes for several seconds, in total about fifteen times. Once he and Captain Claus were on deck and the light appeared above on the port side, and once with Kira he saw the light in green on the stern. He describes it as an extremely concentrated bright spot light, but with a colored trail similar to a jet stream. The light always appears somewhere in close proximity to the ship and is distinctly different from a shooting star. Eddie has seen it on port, starboard, above, and in South Africa across the entire ship from starboard to port.
The first time I saw the light was on the crossing from Freeport to Horta. It was night, during my 8pm to 12pm watch. I was on deck, sitting on the rigging box next to Lhasa. It appeared as a bright white light, about a foot in diameter, about 4 feet off the deck, just aft of the main roll bar. It illuminated the deck, and lasted about two seconds. We both saw it and were astonished.
My second sighting occurred a couple of nights ago, on my new watch, the 12am to 4am. Carlos was on the helm and I was again sitting on the rigging box. The light appeared in approximately the same location and had a similar duration. Carlos also saw it quite distinctly.
Neither Eddie nor I can recall anyone from another ship describing such a phenomenon, and none of the other sailors Eddie has asked have seen such a light. So perhaps we should call this the Heraclitus Light.
Whatever explanation for the light you gravitate to, if you are the type who requires explanations, or perhaps you are simply comfortable accepting it as a part of the Heraclitus’ magic, it now has a place in Heraclitean history.
For those of us who enjoy the magic of being on deck at night, the possibility of seeing the light again is ever present, and I somehow find it offers reassurance that the Heraclitus is indeed a magic ship, a unique vessel that is also a portal to another world where even seeing the light is possible.
From left to right: Mo (USA), Iordannis (Greek), Juan (Argentina), Jethro (Australia), Carlos (Honduras), Gilson (Brazil), Abi (USA), Rio (USA), Claus (German), Christine (German), Joan (USA), Lyn-Li (USA), Eddie (Solomon Islands)
We are alongside, most of the crew hanging out on deck and bringing back local wines, olives, cheeses, breads for savouring and enjoying being by land….the first new crew arrived, after we watched his airplane pass over our heads, Iordanis…it’s a seapeople’s town Horta, a seapeople port with blue water sailors, night is closing in and we rest assured with a gentle breeze knowing where we came from….and night out, night out…. (Christine)
It is still 400 nm. We are sailing, slowly and it’s sunny. We are experiencing a strong southerly current. There’s a sort of excitement in the air, but nobody openly speaks about arriving in the Azores yet- we are still out here…enjoying each day of this voyage….
And an entry back from July 14- seems weeks ago…
This morning the sky is loaded with clouds, but they keep to the South West horizon. It looks more like one big wallow, rolling over the edge of the sea behind us, slowly growing like puff pastry and catching up with Heraclitus. Is this going to be the wind? We are waiting for wind. Everything is waiting for the action- the bird chatter last night, the dolphins who have been accompanying us for over a week now. Even the turtle who’s massive ancient head appears every now and then from beneath the surface in a safe distance, seemingly taking in the image of the ‘large floating shell’ with lots of noise from the inside, which is us. There are bird feathers floating in the water for days. Small ones- little down feathers and larger ones that may have belonged to a wing. I have never seen anything like this at sea, consistently spread over a few hundred miles.
Since we aren’t obviously moving just now, just drifting with 1.6 knots in more or less the right direction, the crew has started to move more busily around the ship, pacing up and down, looking for stuff, sorting thru their belongings. Not short of pointing out details to each other. People are producing what I call extravagant or at least adventurous cuisine…. Much more attention is paid to what comes out of the galley. There is voluntary cooking and especially baking- just for new sensory experience, new tastes, surprises…the usual suspects tinker long after hours in the galley now, while the rest of us hope for the fairy to pass with whatever got produced.
I want to arrive. I am longing for land, foliage. But not for the price of burning fossil fuel and the roaring of the engine. There is a definite relationship between Western timing and Western technics—this said sailing on an Eastern type sailing rig….
The puff pastry turned out to be a patch of fog, which rolled over us and is now rolling away over the other horizon.
I found out more about the bird feathers– from previous crew member and ornithologist Duarte:
“From your description the feathers that you see on the surface belong to young birds that have left their nests still with down and are now at sea, swimming towards some feeding grounds and replacing their down feathers to proper flight, fully fledged plumage. All petrels and shear waters feed their young up to a certain point then when it is fat and ready, they abandon it and the young chick must make its way down to the water and swim (and fly) out to sea instinctively following its parents to a feeding area. At this time of the year some Northern breeding species have left their nests, so the down feathers, as they fall from the young bird, just float on the surface until eventually get wet and go underwater.”
The weather reports show a gale coming in from mainland USA by July 2, so we are hurrying East now to get out of range, with 6.5 knots. Obviously we are back in the gulf stream. It rained yesterday, and the day before- and seems to be getting cooler. The sky also looks different- of course, we are 36 North now…This afternoon, we repaired a few pending jobs on the rigging to get ready for weather. Filled the diesel drums from the deck into our tanks, took some things below deck for ship shaping, Eddie got his warm gear ready…just in case….so we were reminiscing about the North Pacific Crossing, which we did together on Heraclitus many years ago.
I cooked lunch today. Luckily, the fresh food is still holding up, even though most of it got refrigerated before coming onboard. But I have to admit, that I chose the tiny onions and garlic cloves still left from Cuba over the same from the Bahamas, which had been shipped in from mainland US. The fruits and vegetables from Cuba were exquisitely tasty. The produce we have now from Freeport looks unblemished and uniform, but it tastes bland and is going off rapidly.
Night before last, Eddie’s watch, the 12-4 broke the speed record –9.9 knots…I heard Eddie laughing with joy on the helm. Today we are doing 5.2 knots, mostly due to the wind, a force 6 and good sailing with 5 points behind the beam. The ‘leano-meter’ shows a 10-15 degrees angle. I admit our obsession with speed- of course faster means arriving somewhere earlier or relaxing and swim stops when there is no wind…Yesterday one of the battery chargers and converters stopped working and the SSB fuse blew- Claus and Rio communicated with Freddy and solved the problems. Just a reminder to appreciate technics…
A school of squid squirted past the ship, some landed on deck for potential snacks, small ones, 4-5 cm. Other than that a storm petrel keeps circling us and sargasso grass.
We are slowly going to move out of the center of the gulf stream, to stay with stronger winds-