Ocean Passages

Seeing Dawn Break at Sea

Dawn at Sea
Dawn on a sailing ship out of sight of land is a very special experience.
On land you may glimpse the dawn through your window as you get up in the morning. You are normally to busy getting ready for the day to see it all, and that’s not all you are missing.

On a cruise ship you may view the whole sunrise from your cabin window or porthole, or even on your balcony, you will see it all, but you will not have participated in it, there is more to it than that.

Dawn is always colder than the rest of the day, it can be downright freezing or just cool in the tropics.

How to get the Full Dawn Experience.
As part of the voyage you need to be on duty for the watch that includes sunrise, not surprisingly this is called the ‘morning watch’ which is traditionally from 4 to 8 am.
If the sunrise is not in the morning watch you are probably either very far north or south and the sunrise could herald either a very long day or alternatively a very short day. In both cases you will need to keep warm!

4am on Watch
You have been encouraged to leave your comfy bunk at some unearthly hour of the night, 3:30 or at push 3:45 to get on duty on time. Someone will have woken you politely but firmly and if they do it well they will have told what the weather conditions are so you can dress in the right clothes.

On deck
The best bet is to be outside on lookout duty or assisting the helmsman, not hiding away in a wheel or deck house.
You have been there some time, you’ve probably had a hot drink and possibly a left over snack from the galley but it’s a long quiet stretch.

The sky begins very slowly to lighten in the east, the stars will fade and the clouds begin to have shape.

Pop up
Gradually it gets lighter and lighter the colours go from deep blue to pale blue into red, and orange across all the eastern sky. Then a bright yellow spot indicates where the sun will pop up over the horizon. It could be just a big round glowing ball or perhaps it is criss-crossed with the tendrils if distant cloud. The day has begun.

Hunger and righteousness
Now you can look forward to breakfast. The cook has probably already made a brief appearance on deck in far too little clothing just to show off before disappearing back into the galley.

One of your watch will have the lovely duty of going to wake the next watch, just make sure you wake the right people!
After four hours on duty you will feel a job well done, an experience you will remember for ever and maybe a little self-righteousness as you sit down to breakfast. Tuck in and enjoy your day.

Longer Voyages with Watch Keeping for the Morning Watch


The Battle of the Dawn

The Battle of the Dawn
The sky is speckled in stars,
They are threatened in the east,
The battle between dark and light has entered a new phase.
First the faint stars fade as a pale light grows
Now the star sky has a big hole in it, and the stars keep losing,
The light spreads and colours itself,
First a blushing red
Orange glows stronger
Yellow pulsates across the sky
No darkness now
The sun ups and wins.

Adam Purser
March 31st 2021

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