5:22 a.m. Wakeup Call
03 September 2007 | Contadora, Pearl Islands, Panama
For just over a month now I've slept with my head just a few inches above the waterline. My berth is located towards the front of the boat and is essentially the shape or contour of the bow. My ears are quite close to the hull of the boat, which is basically a glorified piece of plastic, just a few inches thick in some parts. The swishing and swashing of the water can be easily heard and calms me as it gently pushes against the hull. Above my head is a large hatch that measures 2 feet by 2 feet. The hatch's main purpose is to raise and lower the spinnaker, although it provides excellent ventilation as an alternative. I enjoy sleeping when the wind blows through the cabin and cools me. What is fun about having a good sized window so close to my head, is the ability to wake up in the middle of the night and take a quick look. Staring at the bright and illuminated stars from my bed every night is also an added treat. The rain however, is somewhat problematic with this setup as I am often rudely awoken to a sudden downpour coming through my window and onto my bed. Fortunately the hatch slides shut quickly and efficiently, although it is no fun to sleep with damp sheets the rest of the night.
Although I believe I am somewhat hard of hearing, my ears have become in tune to the boat's various sounds, which I believe is very important for various reasons.. A rocking boat makes constant noise, which I have become custom to recognizing and locating. For instance, the mast is fitted with multiple halyards, ropes, and rigging that often times slap against the mast or each other in the wind. This action sometimes produces a "ping, ping, ping" noise. While on anchor, the dingy is hoisted up to the side of the boat and sometimes rubs against the rails. This also makes a peculiar noise, although normal and customary to me now. Jackets, lifelines, and dive gear hang in my locker and often times like bounce against the side of the locker in rhythmic way, depending on the swell or wave motion. I have become used to these sounds and normally sleep through them with ease.
The strange noises that I do not recognize now trigger my sensitive inner alarm clock, and waken me with wide eyes. This morning was the most startling and alarming wake call I've had since I've been aboard Cisnecito. While dreaming away of catching fish and hula girls, I suddenly heard a very loud and pronounced noise extremely close to the boat's bow, which is where I soundly slept. The sound was so loud and close that I jolted awake with adrenaline pumping through my body. It sounded as if someone had blasted a large volume of air through a small pipe, at extremely high pressure. I threw on my glasses, popped my head up out of my hatch, and couldn't see a thing as it was still very dark. All a sudden another explosion of air and water erupted from the surface not 10-15 feet off the bow, and directly in front of me. "Oh my gosh", I said out loud as I figured it all out. Two beautiful humpback whales graced me with their presence at 5:22 am. They made gurgling and grunting noises as they inhaled and exhaled their gigantic and powerful lungs. It was as if they were moaning in the morning like humans do. They slowly and effortlessly swam by and I listened to them breath for a good 10 minutes. I never saw them because it was too dark, but could clearly hear and feel their presence which was like unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I felt as though it was just the two whales and me. I wonder if they knew they woke me up, or were just waking up themselves.