First, just a note of thanks to all of you who sent me very nice words about the passing of my friend Richard. I did appreciate your thoughts and messages.
I saw it in the headline of La Vanguardia (a Spanish newspaper) recently …. La Aurora boreal podrá observarse esta noche, también en bajas latitudes. Los científicos sospechan que se apreciará desde bajas latitudes, ya que la onda de radiación y viento solar puede crear una tormenta geomagnética. (the quick and dirty translation is that due to the crazy solar storms that are taking place right now, it might be possible to see the northern lights from right here in Spain). My first reaction was how fab it would be to actually see it. My second reaction was that I was quite lucky to already be on Amélie where there would be less light pollution, just in case the magical light show is on.
I have always been fascinated by most things astronomical. When I was a young lad, I had a massive 5” reflecting telescope – which when I think about it now was pretty crap, but when you are 10 years old, it was like having Mt. Palomar in your own yard. The fact that the tube was a bit out of straight, and my lens selection was meagre at best, didn’t lessen the fact that I could actually see the stars. I can also remember when I first read about Halley’s Comet. With an orbit of 76 years or so, I quickly did the maths to figure out when it would return to be close to Earth so I could see it. (It did whiz past in 1986, but by then, much of my astronomical tendencies had dissipated apparently because I missed its visit). I had a 3” refracting telescope when we lived near Houston in Texas, and did manage to see the rings of Saturn several times. But now, the third of August, 2010, it was going to be possible to see the northern lights that have intrigued mankind for eons. This was going to be especially exciting, as normally, you can only see the lights from some place in the frozen tundra, but thanks to the craziness of the Sun, it might be possible to just sit on my aft deck and be mesmerised.
It was a very nice evening on the aft deck of Amélie watching the millions of stars, but the fabled northern lights didn’t make an appearance this far south. Besides, if they had been visible here, I wouldn’t have been able to document the event very well as the only camera I have onboard the boat, other than the trendy camera in my trendy iPhone, is the underwater camera I wrote about a few letters ago. This camera, whilst pretty great for capturing stuff going on below the surface of the sea, would be pretty crap for snapping photos of the astronomical light show of the year. I have managed to figure a way to take a photo of Amelia reflected in a glass barrier wall on the motorway between Bendinat and Andratx, however. No, I have no idea why I even wanted to do this, but I was able to do it the other day.
Besides using the camera in a less-than safe way whilst driving down the motorway, I also have been just taking 'normal' photos when the occasion warrants it. Of note was yesterday afternoon when I welcomed a group of visitors to Amélie. I have always tried to have a ‘come when you want to come’ policy on the boat, eschewing the need to formally invite visitors at certain times. Although in fairness, as you can’t exactly walk up to the boat at some marina, my policy does, by default, require some advance warning of a visit. But yesterday was different. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even realise that they had come over until I looked up from the project I was working on. There they were…the Patos family. Well, I do suppose it is more appropriate to say a family of patos (ducks). They paddled around for a bit, and then buggered off to visit someone else I guess because by the time I decided that it might be polite to feed them, they were on their way.
Earlier in the day I had a little not-fun water encounter. I have, as I think I have written about, been doing quite a bit of swimming of late. This is all part of my two-fold programme of trying to beat my not-exactly-abs-of-steel into shape, and to just enjoy swimming in a pool with no sides to it. I used to just plop into the sea and paddle around a bit, but lately have been doing my version of power swims. With a chart programme, I have identified various distances from Amélie and then I can tell how far I have been swimming. All this seemed fine until the other day when I decided to swim over to a friend’s boat. I had been doing about 200 metres out and back a couple of times each day, but that day, I found that my friend’s boat was actually a little over 550 metres return. So later that day, instead of doing another big distance adventure, I decided to just scrape some of the feathery-looking week-like things off my propeller shafts. This did seem like an easy task, and after taking a wire brush with me, dove under the boat a few times. I was almost done when I noticed that I felt like I had been stung by a few hundred bees. I found out from a friend that some of those underwater weed-like-doo-wah-thingies do like the warm water of this time of the year, but do not like being attacked with a wire brush. Lesson learnt. Once the itching stopped a few hours later, I vowed stick to my swimming regimen, and will get rid of the little bastard underwater growth things by using the Donald Campbell removal method.
And if that weren’t excitement enough, last evening I watched the most spectacular sunset. Sunset’s here do sort of become a bit monotonous, with virtually every evening being so high on the Richter-scale of sunset beauty that my expectations are exceedingly high. But last evening, the scale was shattered as the sun decided to slowly sink into the glass-like surface of the water, falling directly behind one of the lights of the harbour entrance.
This morning I decided that I needed to come home for a couple of days. Actually, the ‘come home’ is correct, but the ‘couple of days’ is sort of just an idea. I think the reality is that I came home to make sure the house is still there; sort through any post that had been delivered whilst I was away; do a bit of cleaning and watering; and meet some friends tomorrow. After that, who knows (but I would not wager against my immediate return to Amélie if I were you).
what I missed, but one day hope to see in person
what I had when I was young
what I wished I had when I was young
Amelia speeding along, reflected in a motorway wall
some of the pato family that came to visit
waiting for Charleston Heston's voice
a sunset to die for
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, James B. Rieley