23 november 2023
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Tres Hombres

The night’s sky (Bram Hoestra)

Last night, there was an amazing shooting star in the sky. A breathtaking green light drew a glowing stripe against the black, before it fell apart into two or three white flashes. The whole spectacle lasted about two seconds. Abundance of magnesium and copper in such burning space debris, a little online research would suggest.

I was extra surprised because I was on land. A friend and I had just left a restaurant. We were lucky to have been walking in exactly the right direction and not have anything blocking our view. It was the second brightest shooting star I have seen so far.

Since getting back home, I find myself gazing up to the night’s sky more frequently than before I went out sailing. This is out of melancholy, since the view is of course bitterly disappointing in comparison to when at sea. There is something highly addictive about stargazing. On board Tres Hombres, there is a beautiful map of the stars and the main constellations in both hemispheres. Before long, I couldn’t stop comparing it to our cope of heaven.

Sure, the full moon is gorgeous. Unmistakably, she holds so much power over us. She defines life at sea, she writes the rules. She brings safety; it’s easier to see on deck when she’s there. And she is of a magical beauty, too beautiful to look at her for long, really. But also… she… gets in the way sometimes. With the moon in the sky you can’t see the Milky Way, won’t be able to connect the dim stars that form the giant Cetus constellation, you get lost when you try to imagine sailing a friendly little wooden sloop down river Eridanus’s rippling waters.

Once I was able to identify almost all constellations, certainly the main ones, I only felt the desire to learn more. Alkain, Mizar, Alioth, Megrez, Phecda, Merak, Dubhe… the seven brightest stars in Ursa Maior. The Arab names of stars are even more beautiful than the Greek or Roman references for constellations. Particularly since they’re from a language I don’t know, it made studying them a challenge – where was this dedication when I was in school?

“Sirius is eight point six light years away / Arcteryx is thirty-seven” I had Nick Cave’s “We Real Cool” ring through my mind almost every night. There is a fascinating parallel between the sensation of that song and that of a star-lit night all alone on a quiet little vessel.

I was on board Tres Hombres when the brightest shooting star I ever saw came crashing down. An emerald dragon entered the heaven roaring, proudly blew around white hot flames that blessed the earth and disappeared in a whisper. I stood stupefied.

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