From the Deck of Prospector 09 July 2300Z
If the definition of wilderness is a place lacking the obvious touch of
mankind then the North Atlantic surely qualifies. We have been out
now for more than a week and other than the first few hours of the
race, we have seen two or three freighters in the distance and, this
morning, another competitor as they crossed in front. That’s it.
Mercifully, we have seen almost not trash. So while we are alone, that
doesn’t mean there is nothing to see. Far from it.
For commercial shipping this wilderness is a really just a highway. A few
see it from the deck of a cruise ship. Most from an airplane window at
40,000 feet. Sailing across gives you an entirely different perspective.
We get to see it up close and personal. And it’s beautiful. The skies
during the day sometimes blue and sometimes boiling with rain squalls,
all reflected in the heaving swell. The seas themselves form their own
unique topography which is fascinating to watch as the crest and
change shape around the boat. At night the stars (when we can see
them) form the perfect dome across which we can easily see satellites
as they blink their tracks across the sky.
While we haven’t seen too much of our two legged brethren, there has
been plenty of wildlife. You don’t see it all the time like in the zoo. But
it’s here and a nearly constant presence. We see a lot of two kinds of
birds. The first are maybe Petrels(?) and they soar among the waves
literally without a wing beat as they use the wind and the air currents
flowing over the waves to create effortless flight. Very fun to watch.
The second are small black birds who flit endlessly in pairs up and down
the troughs of the waves. How many calories they must burn staying
continuously aloft is mindboggling to consider.
Of course everyone’s favorites are the dolphins. We see the white sided
variety multiple times a day. Sometimes they come charging up to the
boat to pay a visit and show off jumping in and out of our wake. At
night they look like torpedoes as the bio luminescence glows in their
wake. Other times they simply pay us no mind as they cross us heading
who knows where. When we were battling big seas the other day, we
saw them leaping out of the sides of literally 40 foot waves. Amazing.
We have seen multiple turtles including yesterday when we saw a huge
leatherback. Indeed, sadly, I think we hit one yesterday with the
rudder. He took a chunk out of the leading edge. Hopefully all he got
was a nasty shock. Yesterday we also saw our first whale, a sperm
whale that surfaced right next to the boat.
The wildlife isn’t only in the sea or in the air. We actually have some
right here on the boat. Most is the microscopic variety which is
inhabiting our clothes and our bunks. By anyone’s definition, too gross
to describe here in this family friendly post. We do, however, have a
larger species on board. The seldom seen Greater North Atlantic
Raccoon. Entirely nocturnal, he is nearly impossible to spot but you
know he is around. Occasionally you can catch him nosing through last
night’s cold freeze dried dinner or worse yet the congealed remains of
the “breakfast skillet”. He leaves candy wrappers in his wake and we
have tracked them to the carbon cave at the back of the boat. If you
shine a light back there all you see are the whites of his eyes and the
gleam of his teeth.
Let me finish today on a different note. In the very trying circumstances
of the day we tangled with Larry’s bear, I saw some outstanding
seamanship on the part of this crew as they handled this hooligan of a
race boat in very big winds and even bigger waves. Tery in particular
stands out as being cool under pressure and steering us away from the
center of the low during the first hour. The guys on the foredeck
wrestling reefs in and hauling down insanely flapping sails. I know that I
felt an absolute enormous responsibility for the safety of the crew and
the boat when I was at the wheel as we thundered down huge waves.
Tim Keyworth and Henry Little did an outstanding job in the dead of
night in zero visibility driving through 40 knot winds and spray while
navigating the mogul fields on the front of the waves. Often at 25 knots
of boat speed in the pitch black. We didn’t wreck once. The experience
only solidified my confidence in this boat, but more importantly, the