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.