Location: 4 14.51'S 102 45.69'W
“Cumulus. Stratocumulus? Cumulus.”
“Maybe it’s fractostratus.”
“Sheep riding a motorcycle.”
Four pairs of eyes turned to look at me.
“That’s not a kind of cloud,” Jack said, hiding his smirk behind the rim of his well-loved coffee mug.
Christian jumped up, pointing at the mystery cloud. “I totally see it!” He turned back to shake his head at me. “But please, Tina — that’s a moped, not a motorcycle.”
For the past two days, Argo has been shrouded in blistering heat, day and night. The humidity is so oppressive that sleeping even under the benevolent breeze of a bunk fan proves difficult. Night watches bring some reprieve, but they’re balanced by the daytime heat that has us sweating nonstop — even while sitting motionless in the shade. The clouds have been the worst kind of tease, appearing big and billowing on the horizon, sometimes four to six different kinds of clouds all stacked atop one another in different shapes, sizes, and shades of grey, but this textured backdrop never seems to make it overhead to block out the sun’s rays. For all that we’ve grumbled at them, however, they’ve turned Argo into a living classroom for the past few days. Between the OCE research group studying clouds & weather patterns and the PSCT class currently in the midst of the meteorology unit (our exam’s on Wednesday — wish us luck!), we’ve spent as much time looking up at the sky as we have down at our books. In the same way that the trip through the Panama canal was a live-action COLREGS lesson, this crossing has been a front-and-center meteorology class. In spite of the heat and the low & slow wind, it makes me grateful to be exactly where I am.
“Wait, so, is that one a stratus cloud?”
“No, that’s cirrus. Mare’s tail.”
“What about that one?”
“That’s a cumulus cloud.”
Ben gives us a benevolent, patient half-smile. “Here. Let’s look at the pictures again.”
After a night of watches, we came together at noon for a pasta lunch with freshly made garlic bread. The day passed quickly between OCE and SLS class, saltwater deck showers, and a final few frenetic hours of studying and working on assignments. A calendar went up yesterday that shows us all of the assignments that are due between now and the end of the semester, and it’s crazy to see how quickly everything is going to wrap up and come to an end. It makes me grateful for every sweaty moment in the galley, every cup of coffee enjoyed under the stars, every evening spent chatting with the cockpit watch while Argo continues westward towards French Polynesia.
The evening ended as it always does: with a delicious chicken dinner prepared by Audrey and her sous chefs, with squeeze and cleanup–
And today, with a rainstorm. We finally caught up with the (cumulonimbus) clouds.
As I stood in the cockpit getting pelted by rain, I looked up at Sahil, who was holding us steady into the wind so we could make a sail change (and finish doing dishes in relative comfort). “How are you doing?” I asked.
“This is the best kind of fun,” he said, soaked to the bone, raindrops dripping off the brim of his baseball cap.
“Yeah,” I agreed, half grinning, half-squinting into the driving nighttime rain, “Sure is.