Current position of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the tools, top right, to change the map style or view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
November 05, 2015
A Frenzy of Star Frenzies
32° 04.5’ S x 173° 46.5’ E
160° Per Ship’s Compass
Sailing under the four lowers, JT, Fish, Tops’l, and Raffee
3/8 cloud cover, Force 4 winds from West by West, 18° Celcius
It is day ten of this leg of sailing from Fiji to Opua, New Zealand, and we have yet to use the GPS! We are living like sailors of yore, plotting our charts using dead reckoning and sun lines and star fixes when it’s clear out (luckily, the weather’s been gorgeous 80% of the time). We’re not nearly at the level of the ancient Polynesians we learned about, who knew wave and weather patterns and all the stars off the top of their heads, but we are becoming proficient with the sextants!
Twice a day we have “star frenzy” right at dawn and right at dusk. These are the times of day where it’s light enough that you can see the horizon, but dark enough where there are stars visible. It only lasts about fifteen minutes though, so it is really is a frenzy as eight different students (as many sextants as we have) are all shouting, for example, “stand by to mark Cordelia on Betelgeuse!” and then “mark!” all while one person is frantically writing down the exact time – to the second – that everyone is shooting their stars, as well as the sextant angles they report. It’s all worth it in the end though, because with more people shooting stars, we get more LOPs (Lines of Position), which gives us a more accurate idea of where we are on the globe. So far it seems to be working – we haven’t hit anything yet! (We are about 140 nautical miles from land, though…)
It is empowering to know that we are steadily becoming part of the small number of people who can use the sun and the stars to navigate their way around the world. We have met a number of other people who spend their lives sailing in the South Pacific and rely solely on GPS and radar for navigation. While we have these tools, and use them when necessary, they are primarily backup for our own celestial navigation. While we’re just a bunch of 21st century college kids, we’re gaining the skills perfected by early European explorers, with tools no more sophisticated than theirs. We have an
uncommon connection to our ancestors and to the sea that we will remember and cherish for many years to come.
We have only a couple of days of sailing left, which is a little sad and scary to think about. In just a matter of months we have gone from complete strangers to near family, and I know that it will be quite a shock to go our separate ways in a couple of weeks. We’ll just have to really live up the rest of our voyage together, and secretly hope that it’ll never end. Do you think anyone would notice if we just stayed on the high seas forever?