Maiden Voyage

There was a Milky Way above me and a Milky Way below.

I’ve never seen a more breathtaking sight at sea. The sky was clear, the sea alive with life and light.

We’d rounded Cape Agulhas — the Cape of Good Hope — around sunset. Hours later, I was up for the 2am shift, and we were heading north toward Cape Town. The stars were bright, as they can only be when away from civilization. With no contacts on the radar, I turned off our running lights and all the interior lights and let my eyes adjust to the darkness.

The darkness was hard to find. A bright glow emanated from Wayfinder’s stern. I suspected the underwater lights, or the blue transom lights, but all were off. No, the glow was from the boat’s wake, which was disturbing the phosphorescence in the water. Twin trails of bright blue lit up the cockpit. The sea was on fire.

Over the next two hours, I watched the same blue trails spin off the sea’s wildlife. Dolphin came to investigate the boat, and they were alive with electricity, like zipping UFOs. A bright ball of phosphorescence that must’ve been one of the many whales we saw breaching and breathing during the day. Balls of bait fish, like great orbs of luminescence. And now this, an underwater river of blue glow, a Milky Way beneath the sea, stretching out in a line right across the twin bows of the boat.

We were going to pass through her. A lace of ethereal light. A long trail of racing fish, setting the sea aglow. Overhead, the Milky Way stretched from one horizon to the other. Below, a mirror image of phosphor did the same. Holding the rail along the bimini, I leaned out over the sea to take it all in. A near-religious experience. A sight so remote, we can only find it here, in the middle of the night, on the deck of a heaving boat, around one of the great capes of the southern ocean, with a clear night above and a hectic stirring of sea life below.

Wayfinder trudged on, plowing through this bright blue river stretching across her bows, just the first of many a voyage racing beneath her keels, the winds urging us to Cape Town, the rest of the world open and waiting, the Milky Way mocking with its vastness, with its quiet serenity.

18 responses to “Maiden Voyage”

  1. Steven Bloomfield Avatar


  2. Beautiful. Thanks for taking us along.

  3. There are moments in life when you stop and realize–this is why I’m here.

    Thanks for sharing your moment, Hugh.

  4. I’ve been enjoying the pictures of your trip on FB. Should’ve known you could paint a better one with words ;)

    This sounds amazing and wondrous. Thanks for bringing us along.

  5. Wow. Wonder if you saw the Super Blood Moon down there as well.

  6. That was beautiful and that sounds like it was breathtaking. Thanks for sharing. I was going to say take a picture next time but we all already have one in our mind so we don’t need one.

  7. Beautiful. Wonderful. I can only imagine how amazing that must have been. I have never experienced anything quite like that. Wish I could have seen it. What a blessing! :D

  8. Jennifer Daydreamer Avatar
    Jennifer Daydreamer

    So exciting! Up and running!

  9. Oh, man. You really do know how to paint a picture. Wow.

  10. Wow, Hugh,
    I’m breathless reading the words. Sounds transcendent!

  11. So beautiful.
    Your words have the power to take me there, so I can see what you saw, smell and hear the sea, feel the swell, and be there, all in my mind.
    Thank you.

  12. So…reading this. I want to say, “pics or it didn’t happen,” or in more modern vernacular, “y u no selfie”.

    Pull out a good camera, something with low light sensitivity (gonna have to use a decent DSLR probably for that) and show us what you mean. Almost no one here has ever seen what you describe, and never will – countless books from the past have descriptions similar to yours, including things like the Hornblower books.

  13. This sounds so beautiful. Your evocative description, Hugh, had me spellbound. I’m looking forward to further Posts, sharing, however vicariously, this wondrous adventure.

  14. Beautiful experience. Thanks for sharing it with everyone. Godspeed.

  15. ирэна голда Avatar
    ирэна голда

    Очень красиво…я вас обожаю..

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