Timelessness and Time

October 12, 2018

Day 8

Noon Position: 21 00N 132 22W

Course/Speed: S 5+

Wind: NNE 7 – 10

Sea: NE 3

Sky: Clear.

Bar: 1700, falling

Cabin Degrees Fahrenheit: 82

Water Degrees Fahrenheit: 76

Percent Relative Humidity: 61

Sail: Asymmetrical spinnaker and main, portside broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 101

Avg. Miles/Day: 148

Miles since departure: 1180

All night, the main slapped and banged its frustration as Mo lolled in a lazy, hand-me-down swell. As the hours of dark played out, the cloud cleared away. I could see Orion there above the mast and Sirius winking as if in code. But still the wind only exhaled to its bitter end, and by dawn we had four knots of nothing from the north.

By mid-morning, however, wind had filled in. It even felt fresh. I raised the spinnaker by way of a dare, which the wind took, and since then we’ve been riding a light breeze, unprecedented in its desire to remain steady.

Nothing seems more improbable than a spinnaker. From appearances, so fragile–a piece of gossamer tacked into the sky by three corners–but it floats there hour after hour as if a thing immobile, a piece of Sinbad’s flying shell or a fragment of the celestial sphere made manifest. It is mesmerizing to watch, and Mo too is caught up in the spell, for she isn’t pulled forward by the sail so much as she is compelled to follow.

The sail has imbued the day with a sense of wonder. With wind enough to loft us, the sea is again beautiful and as I gaze out over the empty ranges, empty save for a scattering sparkle of flying fish here and the white swoosh of a tropic bird there, I am reminded of Steven Callahan’s description of ocean as a “big blue desert.” That’s only fitting in these middle latitudes, but it is perfectly fitting. Here lives timelessness. Here, it has been like this forever.

Romance to one side, the rest of the day has been more practical in focus. Like making sure I know what time it is, in fact.

I recently received the following warning:

“The National Weather Service Marine Storm Warning announcements, broadcast on WWV and WWVH since 1971 will be discontinued after October 31, 2018. NIST radio station WWV broadcasts time and frequency information 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to millions of listeners worldwide.”

This is bad news for navigators who need to know the time exactly. Sure, my chart plotter uses precise GMT for its functions, but I’ve found its time *display* to be frustratingly unstable. Thus, for WWV broadcasts, I’ve been relying on an small, inexpensive Eton single sideband radio from Celestaire (www.celestaire.com), the makers of my sextant and other astro-nav kit. The radio can faintly pick up WWV on the 10000 kHz band with just the built-in, extendable antenna, but (note photo) clipping the antenna to the backstay makes the broadcast clear as a bell.

Thus, in preparation for the loss of WWV, I’ve started a time gain/loss study of the ship’s chronometers, a collection of cheap (under $50) Timex quarts wrist watches. Knowing their gain/loss rates will allow me to stay “on time” without WWV or the chart plotter.

3 Comments on “Timelessness and Time

  1. Whoa! How can do that???!!!! Isn’t that like threatening the life of someone at sea??!! (i.e. taking GMT broadcasts down)

  2. PS. Over what period of time will you measure gain/loss of each of the watches?
    I recall that when I sailed out of port from Hawaii in 1977 that the quartz watch was a relatively new thing and we were thrilled to have such an accurate time piece to substitute for a real chronometer.

  3. WWV is not being discontinued. The National Weather Service Marine Storm Warning announcements, which WWV has been carrying, are being discontinued. WWV will continue broadcasting the time.

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