Day 52: In which we row and watch and wonder


This is a rather sleepy rower writing in from a rather stuffy cabin in the rather still and misty North Pacific after the second day in a row of – wait for it –  rowing in the right direction. As you can imagine, this feels something of a novelty after recent weeks of looping and looping and the enforced time off the oars after The Big Fish Fright.  That’s the good thing about the current mist, you see, in that you don’t really see much at all, so second time round you don’t feel like you are seeing old stuff.

Moonbow in the mist

Moonbow in the mist

Thankfully the sun has also been strong burning in and out of the mist and through it, so it hasn’t felt quite so flat a greyish white as on previous mistings. My only gripe about the mist is that it means I can’t see wildlife so far away – my tiny world gets even smaller. The past few nights I have heard various harrumphs from whales and this evening I heard the radioesque swirls and tuning of passing dolphins – but I haven’t seen any of them.

Crab Island

Crab Island

And yet it has felt full of wildlife, and on a much closer scale. The calm waters means I see more rubbish which in turn has shown me a handful of crabs clawing out an existence on whatever bit of flotsam they can cling on to. This morning I saw something jumping up and down on a floating board and, as we approached, made out a small fish jumping itself back into the water. Then there was the turtle this afternoon, a wee one, about the size of dinner plate who swam on by with nothing more than a flipper wave.  Close up footage of a turtle is the holy grail – up there with closes ups of whales, sharks and dolphins. On the shark front, I am yet to see any from Happy Socks. Having seen lots in my month at sea with Gulliver last year, I am hopeful – a whale shark would make my day,  my voyage in fact, and could only be topped by an Orca (there is a chance of this on the other side) or, the king of them all, a bluey. Yes, a blue whale is all time top of my wildlife wishlist. 30 metres long and with arteries big enough to swim through….amazing doesn’t even come close.

Microscoping : Good but not great onboard lab

Microscoping : Good but not great onboard lab

Zooming in to the teeniest of the ocean beasties, one of my favourite things to do on a calm day is peer into the blue at the plankton, picking out shapes and shades of this and that. I tried out my microscope on some for the first time the other day  and realised a few things: a) it is really tricky to use a microscope on a small wobbly boat b) I need a better microscope with higher resolution to see much more than fish eggs in any detail c) maybe it would have been better to bring a few specimen bottles and formaldehyde and take some samples for looking at ashore.  Still, there’s always the Atlantic.

Bird in the hand : the Gadfly petrel who spent the night aboard

Bird in the hand : the Gadfly petrel who spent the night aboard

Our onboard visitor today was a beautiful Gadfly petrel, much bigger than the Wilson’s/Leech’s petrels that we have had previously. I patted her gently with a tshirt before popping her back over the side. Check out the picture – you can clearly see the tube on the top of the nose for excreting salt. That would be an ace thing to have wouldn’t it?

Tube nosed: salt excretion means drinking sea water is no problem

Tube nosed: salt excretion means drinking sea water is no problem

And so my journey continues, and the wildlife continues to delight, surprise and intrigue me, keeping me company and keeping me curious. Here’s to more ahead.

All salty best,

Sarah and Happy Socks x.

PS Neck just about sorted now. Still popping the pills and doing my stretches, but rowing the last two days has felt Ok.

PPS: For those wondering at the Big Fish Fright – see the last phonecast, which will then make the previous blog make sense too.

Replies to comments:

Phil Harnett : Ni hao! I do indeed still have your music player though sadly the ace headphones are aboard Gulliver. I have particularly enjoyed the folk so far and the Tallis Scholars. Best to you and Michelle.

Peter Booth: Some of the fish beneath the boat are pilot fish (the ones I call the Tweedles) though I don’t know the others – I think there are two further species.



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7 Responses to Day 52: In which we row and watch and wonder

  1. Gigi Walentiny says:

    Wow – what a smorgasbord of a post…a dab of this, a touch of that!! Fabulous!! So glad you’ve been able to row and that your neck seems to be sorting itself out!

    ~Gigi in Va. Beach

  2. Alan says:

    Well, I’m just checking that you know about the “binoculars-reversed-make-a-microscope” trick. Look at something through the wrong end of a set of binoculars, really really close (like an inch away) and you will have a super magnified image – distored, but great in a pinch.
    Happy easterly travels!

  3. peter booth says:

    Glad your neck is getting better Sarah. Must feel good to be able to row again.I wondered what Tweedles were.Now I know. weather here in the UK improving slightly. Looks like being a little warmer today. Have you passed any islands yet. Do not know a lot about the pacific. I remember when I was in Singapore.I was out in a small boat in the straits of Johore when a large whale surfaced alongside. Frightened me to death. It amazes me that they never come up under the boat. Well until the next time keep smiling and god bless. Peter from Nottingham.

  4. Bruce Ellen says:

    Hi Sarah.

    That was a terrific blog covering all the small things in a big world.
    Glad to hear that your neck is on the mend [ the amount of loops
    that you have been doing would give anyone a pain in the neck ].
    Glad to hear that you are rowing again and that it is in the right
    direction [ hope it keeps up for the next month and that you will
    be able to sail in a straight line to get out of the present hole ].
    Enough of my rambling.
    Keep rowing and keep safe the tables are going turn soon.

    Cheers from sunny Queensland.

  5. Ros Mulholland-Gullick says:

    I so love reading your messages of what you have seen and are currently experiencing. Today’s took me back to a whale-watching trip out of Vancouver Island in 2006. I was in an excellent position on the top deck of the boat and could clearly see a shoal followed by a large shape. Then the shape surfaced. it was a sight I shall never forget. it was a Minky apparently doing water ballet. Fascinating and I still fee privileged to have witnessed that magnificent sight. I look forward to your next tale of the Pacific from Happy Socks.


  6. Bruce says:

    Ocean currents often move in swirling vortices, not straight lines. This NASA video shows them. Sarah, the good news is that the Kuroshio current straightens out by about the 170 E meridian. After that it’s smooth going all the way to the west coast of North America. So hang in there, Sarah, you’re almost free and clear of them!

    P.S. Loved the impromptu visit by Sir David Attenborough. He must have rappelled down from a helicopter?

  7. Susie Hewson says:

    Envious!!! So much wildlife – Hang on, is this really a Solo row?

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