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Upended Ship

June 27, 2012

Day 6

Local Noon Position (12:55pm Hawaii Standard Time):
By GPS: (failed to check)
By Sextant: 34.35.2N by 163.38W

Course: 350 to 0 degrees true
Speed: 2 to 3 knots most of day
Wind: 0 to 5 SE first half, 5 -7 SW second half
Sea: 0 – 3 feet
Sky: 80 to 100% occluded until afternoon, then entirely clear Bar: 1033 down to 1032
Air Temp (in the cabin): 73 degrees
Water Temp: 72.1 degrees
Sails: All plain sail. Wind abeam.

Since last noon: 66
Total for passage: 776
Daily average: 129

Debris: Same density as on other days but pieces are starting to be bigger, and some floating above water. Bigger items included a four by four piece of plastic mat, a whole five gallon jerry jug, a small plastic table, and an orange plastic flashlight. Then there was the half sunk fishing boat. Below.

Ships and other piloted vessels: None.

Birds: Three Black Footed Albatross throughout day, and three Layson’s Albatross. Two Gadfly Petrels. Several Black Storm Petrels and one very small storm petrel with white barred rump, a first for this passage!


Slept in one hour increments as Murre drifted. There was some wind but it was light and would have required significant effort to get Murre to hold a course, especially in the dark of a moonless night, so I slept.

At 5:30am I got to work. And I call this work because in very light wind, in this case 2 – 6 knots from the SSE, Molly, the wind vane, struggles tremendously. There simply isn’t enough wind to push the paddle that turns the wheel. She wanders off and needs constant minding.

Debris was sparse at first, then suddenly an upturned bottle and an upturned boot, heavily encrusted with growth.

The boot reminded me that I regretted the use in yesterday’s post of the word “trash” in reference to the flotsam in this part of the ocean. Some of what we have already seen and much to come is material that was sucked away from peoples’s lives by a great wave. It often sucked away the lives too. I am told that many of the boots and shoes in the debris field had bodies attached to them when they first entered the water. In some respects this part of the ocean is a burial ground and deserves more respect than my flippant remark.

Still, bobbing for plastic is challenging and a diversion from tending Murre’s wheel in whispers of wind.

I made a grab for the small bottle and got it. Printed on the under side was OLIMPIA, SA, a hint, but to what I did not know. Later I made a valiant effort at a laundry detergent bottle, but its handle alluded me. We passed a four foot by four foot piece of plastic floor mat, home to a school of small yellow fish. I hauled up a plastic table with four legs but missing a top. At the insistence of the crabs and barnacles now calling it home, I tossed it back after a photo shoot. I got a small, blue fishing float covered in Japanese script and missed a five gallon jerry jug by inches.

For a time wind was south and Murre wore her sails wing and wing. Then it swung to the southwest to the benefit of no one because it was still all of five knots.

A piece of Styrofoam floated by. Got it. Its resident crab objected. I threw it back. Then an orange plastic flashlight, but too late, already past.

I had fish sandwiches for lunch and sat watching stuff float by. The field is not dense. One item in view at a time every minute or so and often fifteen minutes pass with nothing.

At 330pm and as the day began to clear, I noticed a white speck on the horizon to the north. In binoculars the speck was triangular. Sails for sure. I had company.

For a long time I watched as the sail seemed to make no way. The sail positions also made no sense–it was as though she were running with a blue spinnaker down to my location, though we were upwind of her.

And the blue spinnaker was tiny compared to the white sails. Something didn’t add up.

Then in a flash I knew, though I’m not sure how. My visitor was an upended ship and the blue was its bottom.

I shivered. I started the engine.

Murre and I motored at five knots for half an hour to its location. Under a now brilliant sun the white sides of the vessel had shown like sails and the blue was indeed its underside. It stood half in and half out of the water, bow pointing straight into the air like a boat perpetually in the act of dying, falling in the swell but then rising, gaining as much as six feet in the exchange. A Japanese work boat of some forty feet in length, open, undecked, the name in Japanese script on each side of the bow from which a long rope sagged off to leeward. I wondered for a moment if it was anchored. A small cuddy over the bow and a hatch whose cover was missing. The boat was bare. Not stripped bare, just bare of any hardware, no cleats, no winches, no fenders, no fishing equipment, no sign, except the name, of a specific identity or function. Up close the water was so clear I could see all the way down to its stern from which a school of Dorado swam out to greet Murre. I circled twice, took nine photographs, and left.

Not then but later I thought the Dorado leant to it a certain naturalness. A certain fitness. It was in fact not a boat any longer–that was my mistake. I got the clues wrong. It was a floating reef.

Late in the afternoon a school of dolphins found Murre and escorted her until the sun touched the horizon. Now night. Clear and blazing with stars. The wind is again but a breath, but tonight I’ll leave the sails up.



For those who want more detail, here is the email I sent UoH

Half sunk vessel observed.

Location of Vessel: 34.40.660N by 163.40.904W
Date Observed: June 27, 2012
Time Observed: 02:31 GMT

Vessel description: Vessel is sunk by the stern with bow sticking nearly vertically out of the water. Overall length is 30 to 40 feet and vessel is approximately 15 feet wide. From about half to one third of the overall length is above water, and a growth line of six feet describes the difference as the vessel pumps in the swell. Vessel is an open hull design (no deck, no house, etc.). There is, however, a small cuddy deck right at the bow with a hatch opening of two feet by two feet square; the hatch is missing. Hull is white; bottom paint is blue; interior of boat is bluish. There are five Japanese or Chinese characters on each side of the bow that together form two words, the first of three letters the second of two if read left to right; text color is black, and each letter is about six inches square. Construction is fiberglass and presumably double hulled, which allows it to float. The angle of repose is not exactly vertical, but rather the vessel lists inward (leans away from its bottom) by about 20 degrees. A rope is attached to the bow and extends out about 20 feet. A large school of Dorado is in company.

Weather Description:
Wind: SW 5 – 7 knots
Sea: Local sea zero; background swell up to 3 feet from the east. Sky: Clear
Bar: 1032 and dropping slowly.

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