I once watched the ocean for six straight hours, not taking my eyes off for more than a minute or so to tend to other things. Here was the circumstance:
I had finished last watch — 3 to 6 a.m. on a sailing trip from Fort Lauderdale to New England on a 50-foot Hylas sloop. There were four of us making the trip; after about three days into it, we were somewhere out between Bermuda and Virginia Beach, a couple of hundred miles out. My watch was pretty uneventful: wind about 25 knots from the northeast, us on a fast beam reach in which our boat mounted the crests of Atlantic rollers then surfed down the front of wave walls with big plumes of white foam catching silver in the moonlight.
The sunrise showed us a cloudless sky and empty horizon in all directions as we galloped along making our way north as fast as the boat could sail. I went down and made myself coffee and an English muffin, then returned to the cockpit where I just watched, as I said, for the next six hours.
Those hours rewarded me through the morning with the sudden heart-stopping crash of a breaching humpback about 30 feet from the deck, then another, and some time later, a pod of dolphins leaping, playing along with us at the bow. But then, I wondered, what am I really watching and hearing, taking in with all senses?