Monday and Tuesday we made the thirty hour passage from Astoria to Coos Bay, Oregon. The seas were calm; the Pacific Ocean swell, although ever-present, was under six feet, and the boat motion was generally comfortable. And the sky - brilliantly clear! Although there was some fog now and then, for most of the night the stars and the waning crescent moon were bright and beautiful.
The mate, it seems, has spent most nights of her life asleep indoors, so she hasn't learned much about the stars. The Captain, on the other hand, spent many nights awake, but most of those in hospital corridors and operating rooms. But now we have a built-in opportunity to make up for lost star-gazing time. Long watches offshore, nothing much else to do, night vision clear since the navigation instruments and minimal belowdecks lighting are all shifted to nighttime red lights.
But it's damn hard to read a star chart on a boat that rocks in the swell. I started with the Pleiades and Orion, which even I can recognize (they show up above on the detail of the start chart I was using). Where do we go from there?
My next plan is to turn to my favorite book about the star, The Stars and How to See Them
, by H.A. Rey. (Yes, he also wrote and illustrated the Curious George
books). This is his illustration of Orion. I figure maybe I can learn to hop from Betelgeuse to Rigel and on across the sky from one bright star to the next.