[editor’s note, by sandy]: This entry was written on Friday, April 22, about the night of the 21-22. It has been translated from the Spanish.
(c) Oceana / Paloma Larena
Once we’ve set sail from Miami, Carlos Pérez, first mate on board, convenes the crew to give a lesson on security and assign the night watches. We do them in pairs, in three-hour shifts, starting at six in the evening. David and Annie start. I’m with Carlos, from midnight to three a.m. It makes me feel safe, because Carlos is an experienced sailor. With a little luck, he says, maybe some of his knowledge will rub off on me. I go to bed to see if I can sleep a few hours.
11:50 p.m., Thursday the 21st. I wake to the sound of my cell phone alarm and am out of bed in a flash. It’s my first watch on board and I want to be on time. I throw on a polar fleece, in case it’s cold, adjust the flashlight at my forehead and hang binoculars around my neck. Before we go out to the cockpit, Carlos and I put on life jackets with safety rings. “The life jacket has an automatic safety device that, if you fall in the water, inflates, keeping you afloat and marking your position with a light.”
(c) Oceana / Paloma Larena
Whew – it’s a relief to know it!! We are not allowed to go out on deck at night without the jacket and, for my part, I only hope never to have to test it. We are both ready to relieve Indi, the cook, and Jose, sailor and dive-master. Their watch has been calm and I hope that ours will be as well. Out we go!
12:00 p.m. During a watch you have to scan the horizon continually, at the prow, the stern, to port and to starboard to ensure that no other boat is on a collision course with us. This is the first step. The second is to check the radar, which shows our trajectory and the presence of potential obstacles.
1:00 a.m., Friday the 22nd. Oceana’s catamaran is going, literally, like a shot. I agree with what Nuño told us some days ago, that the Ranger, specially designed for transoceanic sailing, is very sturdy. I’ve also heard Carlos say on various occasions that this boat is “noble.” From my limited experience as a deckhand, I’d say that she has a beautiful motion. It feels as if the Ranger is sliding gently, undulating to the measure of the waves, as if it were rocking us in a cradle. “Relax your knees and let your body take the rhythmic movement,” Carlos advises me, to prevent possible seasickness. Done. It seems to make things better. “It’s the Ranger swing,” my companion adds, with a knowing smile.
2:40 a.m. Our destination appears on the radar: Bimini Island, our first port of call in the Bahamas! The second will be a few days afterward, at Abaco Island. We’re going in search of sea turtles. This area is the natural habitat of five species. It is a mating and nesting ground. From a scientific point of view, Oceana is interested in all five species, since most complete a long migration into European waters. But we especially want to film a loggerhead (Caretta caretta).
2:55 a.m. The night has passed without event and the three hours of our watch have flown by. Carlos descends to wake the next pair, Ricardo and Bibi, our Galician mate from Cambados, who you know already from previous episodes. Although the captain is the only one not required to keep watch – his job is to be continually on call for whatever needs doing on the boat – he comes out to see how things are going. We are sailing at six knots, and if we keep it up we’ll arrive at Bimini (in the Bahamas) ahead of schedule, so we slow the pace to four knots.
When day breaks our diving team will return to the water once again, looking for turtles. For that reason they are not on watch. That is the other rule I’ve just learned: the day before a dive the divers are exempt from watch, as well as the day after. I don’t know about Carlos, but me, after such an exciting day – “I’m goin’ to bed,” as Bibi would say.