Skip to content

Hearing Voices

July 5, 2012

July 5

Day 15

Noon Position, HST
GPS: 49.27.384N by 153.18.836W
Rain then heavy cloud blocked all sun shot opportunities.

Course: 45 degrees true
Speed: 3 knots
Wind: 6 WSW
Sea: 1 – 3 feet
Sky: Rain, sometimes heavy in the morning, low and gray the rest Bar: 1022
Air Temp (in the cabin): 43 degrees when I woke, up to 48 by noon Water Temp: 41.5 degrees
Sails: All sails up. Wind on port quarter.

Since last noon: 111
Total for passage: 1710
Daily average: 114
Miles to Sitka: 775

Debris: A child’s baseball helmet, white, upturned and floating high.

Ships and other piloted vessels: None.

Birds: No albatrosses again today. Saw a tern over the masts, filling the niche of the Tropic Bird. Got it narrowed down to three potential species based on territory: Common Tern, Aleutian Tern, Arctic Tern. I think it’s the latter due to white belly.


Rain all morning took away the wind. In the afternoon there was a moment of clearing, a patch of blue sky the size of a postage stamp, and then a white sun made the sea look like undulating snow fields. This lasted two and a half minutes before both sky and sun were banished and cloud resumed its rule.

Light breezes then returned. I went wing and wing in the afternoon, polling out the jib. This lasted an hour before wind swung abeam and the pole had to come down. I reefed the main, and snugged all up. Then the wind went back astern and softened. Ah, the life of a sailor.

Have I mentioned I hear voices?

Not all that unusual for singlehanders. Some go one better and imagine real people. Joshua Slocum (first man to solo circumnavigate the globe) once developed a fancy for dried prunes in the middle of an ocean crossing and promptly ate the entire stock he had been given at his previous port of call. His fancy was immediately followed by a prolonged period of groaning from a position prostrate upon the cabin sole, and his boat, SPRAY, was left to fend for herself while Joshua worked through his agony. Occasionally he would lift his head to find at the helm an ancient Portuguese navigator. I forget his name, the navigator’s. Let’s call him Pigafetta. Pigafetta would doff his hat to Joshua and continue sailing the boat. When Joshua recovered, Pigafetta vanished, but under his care SPRAY had maintained her course all the while.

My visitors are not nearly so well developed nor historical. Often I hear an older woman speaking softly, reproachfully to a younger man. Softly he objects. The conversation is intimate without being amorous, and yet the woman is neither the man’s mother nor his wife. I cannot quite make out the subject line–encouraging examples upon a more upright or more profitable life, perhaps. I can make out words like “You should…” and “It would be best if…”, but always the tones are soft and the remainder is just beyond earshot. It took me a week to figure out that this quiet conversation was the alto and tenor squeaking of the mizzen sheet block.

In certain seas an “Ooh! Ooooh! Ooh! Ooooh!” can be heard inside the cabin that reminds of a female parrot at the very height of pleasure. This turned out to be a piece of line for one of the food hammocks rubbing up against a coach roof frame as the hammock swung. I’m not a prude, but hearing the pleasure of others does not necessarily increase my own, so I put a bit of grease between the line and the frame, at which point the parrot flew off to join crew on a less puritanical ship.

From below the jib sheet block, a big bronze piece, sounds very like gun fire when it is jerked hard against its car, also bronze. Worse, the active block seems always to be just inches from my ear when I’m sleeping, and so the sound has figured prominently in several dreams with unfortunate endings.

There are other, more random sounds. The fairly common and completely inexplicable honking of a New York Taxi Cab, for example, or the “ping” that announces I’ve just received an instant message from my wife. This would be lovely, but the phone has been off since departure. Occasionally a “Hey You!” very loud and from no where in particular or a “Hello” just behind my back, but when I look up there is never anyone there to take responsibility for the greeting.

I’ve not hallucinated any physical sightings as yet, like waking to find Joshua Slocum at Murre’s wheel when I’ve eaten too much now mouldy dried Marlin. With one possible exception.

After observing the Sea Otter a couple days ago, I asked my friend Jim to explore for me what the chances were of a Sea Otter being so far from land, and this was his response:

“Initial research indicates sea otters usually stay within 1 kilometer of the coast! They have no blubber (though they do possess the ultimate in water-repellent dense fur), and must consume 20-38% of body weight DAILY in order to fuel metabolism (100 degree F. body temp) in those cold waters. Diving capacity listed at up to five minutes and 350 feet, though rarely beyond 4 minutes and 75-90 feet deep. While they mostly eat
shellfish, apparently the western Aleutian population eats a fair a bit of fish,
but mostly slow-moving, bottom-dwelling fish. Hard to imagine your otter making it the many thousands of feet to the ocean floor for a meal. Thus, it sounds like your otter may have been entirely out of typical habitat. I’ll forward your sighting to some CA researchers, and we’ll see if they grace us with a response.”

So it could be I have hallucinated after all.

On a different tack entirely, I would like to announce that my friend Kelton has been appointed Poet Laureate of Murre, for his below master-work which celebrates my decision to stop listing in extreme detail each piece of marine debris I find, a practice he disliked intensely.

Randall Reeves, a sailor, he;
Saw concrete float upon the sea.
Ran into the concrete, twice,
Then overboard for a bag of rice.
Captain Reeves has left the boat!
Luck for him, his fleece pants float.
Climbed back aboard his ocean perch,
And quoth: A pox on sea research!

Please join me in saying “Bravo!”


  1. Quintus permalink
    July 6, 2012 8:46 am

    I graciously accept this high honor of P.L. du Murre. Gird yourself for more doggerel. Currently I’m working on “The Reproachful Matron and the Profligate Young Man,” to be composed entirely in Iambic Parrotameter. Certain to elicit squeals of pleasure all around. Unless some killjoy greases the lines, that is.

  2. Lawrence Killingsworth permalink
    July 6, 2012 10:26 am

    Bravo, indeed!
    Fine poetry, to supplement Randall’s daily rambles.
    Keep it up, both of you.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: