11/07/17 - Ocean Classroom 2017: 340 Miles from Land

Ocean Classroom 2017: 340 Miles from Land


November 7, 2017: There are the days that really define what Ocean Classroom is all about. The days when we find ourselves eight-hundred miles from land in the continental United States, three-hundred and forty miles from the closest point of land. The days when we’re closer to humans on the International Space Station than other human beings on the planet. It puts into perspective just how alone we are out here, and how together.

I’m inspired by the ingenuity of our engineer and crew, rebuilding the busted gaff jaws and re-hoisting our mains’l. Working day and night, these students continue to amaze me with the quality of their writing and their positivity—all while functioning on little sleep, beginning to melt in our bunks below as we travel further south, and standing watch at all hours of the day. The effort this takes is nearly unfathomable, and constantly I'm reminded of how lucky I am to be traveling alongside them, learning as I teach. I am so proud of each and every one of them. I am humbled by their presence every day.

How fortunate am I to wake up (rather, to be woken, by the students of the “dawn watch”) each morning to watch the sunrise? I meditate on a cabin top or at the bow, sometimes with a cup of coffee and sometimes not. I take time to clear my mind, to focus on the water. I try to really see it. Like I'm looking at the surface as the light sparkles on the crests and wavelets for the first time. Indeed, I am; the surface is ever-changing and the water’s color shifts and transforms before my eyes as the light meets it at different angles, under clouds then open skies. Today, I've been contemplating to color “indigo” as I watch waves break atop long rolling swells. Have I ever seen it before? Oliver Sacks describes its illusory nature, a spectral color Newton named, somewhere between blue and violet. I'm lost in the search. There are shades out here that I've never witnessed in any other place, “the color of the Paleozoic Sea, the color the ocean used to be.”

Another ten days, then we’ll be in Old San Juan. Time, like water, seems transient, ephemeral on a voyage such as this. Now you see it, now you don’t. Where have all the days gone? How have we came this far, yet it still feels as it an eternity lies ahead before it’s over? The arc of the journey keeps me coming back. There is more to see. More to feel. More time to stretch out days more fully, rising with the sun and falling with the stars. The depth of our bonds with one-another-in conversation, collaboration, and support—seems proportional to the depth of the ocean. 4,865 meters deep, as of 2000 hours. Sounds about right.