Sunsets At Sea

Sea Blog – All At Sea – A Humbling Opportunity

By Laura Coleman

15 July 2014

I finished my watch at 9am this morning, accompanied by leaping pilot whales and the blow of a sperm whale in the distance, just as the rain abated and the sun came out.  Then I took a rest on the rolled up staysail (yes – I know what a staysail is…although the purpose of one still does elude me) at the bow of the boat, hood up against the wind, rocked to sleep by the gentle motion of Sea Dragon.  Only disturbed by the need not to close my eyes, not to miss anything, so every so often I wake and dozily watch for dolphins.

We’re all waiting for someone to shout, “Whale!”  There have been a few sightings – the best was this morning when we spotted a series of sideways blows on the horizon.  Quietly, we slipped through the waves towards them, but just as we drew close enough to make out the shape of it, the solitary male dipped and dived, throwing its tail in the air in goodbye.  Our skipper, Rodrigo Olson, is an expert captain, and a pro at whale spotting.  He has sailed over 300,000 nautical miles, searching for some of the planet’s more mysterious whale species.  We all feel very much like there are whales out there, whales and dolphins and many more elusive creatures.  We have seen hints of them, but as we steam a steady course towards the Faroes, sails now soaring, it feels like we are passing them by.  We are content though, happy to watch the colours change on the waves, knowing that there are whales down there – somewhere deep below.

Jonathan Hyde, artist and photographer, is wrapped up in his Icelandic flea market purchase – a horse-y smelly fur onesie, looking for all the world like he was born on a boat.  Out of all of us, he was the most anxious about getting sea sick – but as it turns out his stomach was tougher than he anticipated.  He is looking forward to setting foot on the Faroes tomorrow, but unexpectedly for him, he rather wishes that Sea Dragon was continuing for a full week or more at sea. Rodrigo claims it takes a week to clear one’s mind of the detritus of daily life, and once done, that’s when the sea-inspired epiphanies start to come.  Already Jonathan feels like he is beginning to lose track of time.  He is searching for a blank slate, a recalibration of his creative focus.  Usually, his art is fuelled by exploration.  He likes to walk and experience the world his own way – wherever the mood takes him.  Such a process is very instinctual. Here, however, he is experiencing the opposite.  Stuck in a confined space, with no control over his route, he is trying to discover new ways of seeing and interpreting what he is seeing.  How this may or may not translate into his work is yet to be determined.

So far, he has felt markedly uninspired in this landscape.  Today though, for the first time, he got excited about taking pictures.  Placing his camera over his binoculars, and adjusting the focus not how you would normally but the opposite – adjusting the lenses to the nearest, rather than furthest object, the photos he takes through this additional lens become so much more mysterious.  Alternatively, if he turns the binoculars around, the image becomes minuscule – and thus the portraits he captures the opposite of what you might expect.

Naturally Jonathan is feeling disappointed at not seeing more whales and dolphins, but he says that’s part of it.  He just can’t get his head around the size of these creatures, and the fact that they are living underneath him – “happy as Larry” – in such vast and endless spaces.  For him, the idea of such spaces is terrifying.   It’s humbling when you have the opportunity, like we all do on this boat, to learn a little more about such highly intelligent creatures, occupying a space completely uninhabitable to us.