Download Night Watch
In daylight, the watch is bounded by a vast circumference of ocean that stretches off to the horizon on all points of the compass. Daylight affords the comfort of the familiar—boat, sea, and sky. The pencil scratches on the ship’s charts lend reason and form to the seascape. We see what’s there and we react. The night watch on the other hand, is a bewitching time.
In the darkness of the night watch, the great circle of the horizon, comforting in the light of day, is only discernable by the pinpoints starlight as they pop up from the ocean’s darkness in the southeastern sky, travel overhead, and then disappear again in the blackness to the southwest. And if the night sky is obscured by cloud, or if the sea is so calm that the dome of starlight is reflected almost perfectly by a glassy surface, then the horizon is gone and you and your tiny ship ride alone, suspended in the middle.
On the night watch, your circle of awareness constricts to no more than the ghostly teardrop shape of the boat’s hull, fringed by a phosphorescing beard of foam, and the eerie light of the nav station instruments looming up through the companionway.
On the night watch, your visual habit is thwarted. Sounds, smells, tastes, movements, and the breeze’s touch, take their rightful place among the big dogs of conventional experience. Now on a level playing field, all of your senses begin to resonate in unison, flooded by tiny inputs—flutters, bumps, chirps, hisses, twists, turns, rises and falls—a symphony of sensation.
On the night watch, rhythm is the messenger. A beat missed or out of step alerts you. Something’s changed! What could it be? Take a deep breath then exhale slowly. Relax and open your pores. First you feel it and then you decipher the message. Trim the jib. Bear away a few degrees. Flatten a sail. Tuck in a reef. Do a radar sweep. Make a log entry. Feel the message. Decipher the message. Find the new rhythm. Stand the watch.
On the night watch, you ride your tiny ship suspended in the middle. You are at the center. You are nothing and you are everything—a rhythm—a song—a symphony.