It’s a crescent moon tonight, but all around me the ocean is lit up. Every crashing wave, the stream of bubbles from the rudder, the wake off the bow as Kuna sails through the notorious Bass Strait at a steady 6kts – it’s all glowing, as if someone were holding a fluorescent light above the ocean, turning each speck of white into magnificent hues of electric blue.
Have you ever seen the Avatar movie, where everything in their world has a magical glow and lights up to the touch? This is just like that. The phenomenon that creates this special-effect of nature is called phosphorescence.
If I look closely at the wake I can see sparks shooting up from each wave, like embers to a fire they come and go with the same mesmerising rhythm. Nights like this feel like something out of a dream as I’m literally floating across a glowing ocean. My gaze shifts upwards to the top of the mast, beyond it the Milky Way blankets the night sky – a site often missed living in the city.
I’m completely in awe before I even I spot it…
Three streaks of light are moving in perfect synchronisation towards Kuna – they dance up to the bow, flake away, turn back, and jump out of the water. I’m standing on the cockpit seats now, a leg either side, thankful for my safety harness as I sway side to side with the swell, eagerly watching the show unfold.
It’s pitch black but I can perfectly make out every single fin and their massive shape below the surface of bioluminescent water. I’m seeing their movements clearer now than I ever have during the day! Even if they dart away from the bow they’re still glowing, giving away their every move.
They speed off up to 25m away from Kuna, turn, and then rush back towards me in pairs. Under the boat, out the other side, twirling, playing. They’re at the stern now, glowing as they ride in the waves that are pushing Kuna along.
I’m standing as high as I can, smiling and laughing to no one but myself, overwhelmed with one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. Glowing Dolphins, a bioluminescent Bass Strait, and a starry night while I cruise with the flow of the wind.
As I soak up the magnificence of all these things, committing the sites and feeling to memory, my present reality escapes me. I’m freezing cold and wet from a recent squall. The stiff wind is chilling my core as I strain my eyes to make out the direction of three ships on the horizon, ensuring our path is a safe one while the crew catches some much needed sleep. I check the chart, adjust our heading slightly, and settle back into my post with three hours of watch to go.
But there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.