Pitch Black Dark

The Tuamotus Diaries #48, Day 94 – August 30th 2016


We finished watching today’s movie-du-jour on the mark, 20:45. I took the kids to bed, did the dishes, set the breakfast items ready to go next morning and went outside for a final anchor check before going to bed.

Walking through the companionway into the cockpit, and getting ready to step on deck, I was deterred by the utter darkness outside. Pitch black.

Yes, the moon is gone, all right, but we’ve had a spell of very clear skies over the last many days and nights. The stars were so bright that shone through the darkness, shedding a surprising amount of visibility to our surroundings. We made it a point to stay on deck the last hour before bed every night, watching the stars, the milky way, and the scarce shooting stars and satellites.

But not tonight. The wind is blowing too strong for comfort, light showers are falling every now and then, the sky is crowded with thick, low-lying puffy clouds. And it is dark. Pitch-black dark.

Here and there a sneaky star finds its way through the uneven cloud cover. But without the support of its infinite other companions, it stands no chance to the darkness of a night like this. And dark it remains.

Out of the comfort of the cockpit the darkness was such that I could not see my feet or hands. I literally had to feel my way around, walking erratically on deck, even though I know it thoroughly by now. I reached the bow and checked the anchor chain and its attachments by hand – all good – and slowly made my way back to the cockpit.

This is not the first time. When there’s no moon and the clouds hide the stars, it gets really dark around here. At least in Fakarava there’s always a small house here and there whose lights provide a heartwarming point of reference for those of us within this pitch-black darkness. Back in Makemo, we didn’t have such luxuries. The few pitch-black nights we had there were spent all by ourselves, with any sign of mankind or anything else around us. A sensation of total lack of reference. Awkward.

Stepping back into the comfort of the cabin, I wondered whether the darkness outside frightened me. It is unsettling … but this anchorage offers great protection, the boat is indeed barely moving despite the gusty winds. Besides, our anchor is well set. So, I don’t know if I am rationalizing my way out of it or what, but the fact is that I don’t feel frightened. It’s just unsettling and awkward. It’s also very satisfying too, to be out here, in a place like this, where we can be in such deep darkness, enjoy it, and not be afraid of it.

In fact, had it not been sprinkling, I would have stayed on deck for a while. I tried indeed, but getting wet just before bed wasn’t too appealing. So I got back inside, and wrote this post instead.

Good Night.

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