Peter Wright Headshot
August 13, 2013
I had never heard of the Perseid meteor shower the first time that I ever saw it. I was standing watch on a night in August, steering the single-screw charter boat Miss Jeanne 7 toward Bimini and the Native Tournament that we planned on fishing, which started the next day.
It was sometime between midnight and dawn. We were traveling at trolling speed on a clear night. The moon had already set in the west and more stars than I could have imagined shined with a huge variety of intensities in the immensity of the night sky.
Almost no sport-fishing boats had autopilots in the late 1950s. In my early teens, I had already been taught that steering toward a star, or constellation of stars, was the easiest way to maintain a straight course at night. You checked the compass every few minutes and adjusted course to a new star target as needed. We had a course set that took into consideration that our true geographic course would be set well to the north of our compass course due to the strong northward flow of the Gulf Stream.
Trying to steer by the compass itself instead of a star at night, or a cloud in the day time, was twice as hard and you wound up getting told that “Trying to follow that damn wake you are leaving would break a snake’s back! Steer straight God damn it!”
I had seen “shooting stars” before and knew their correct name — meteorite — but it was a big thrill for me when a light, brighter than any of the stars, flashed through the sky leaving a ghostly trail of faint light behind it. It happened again a few minutes later, then again and again. I tried to keep count but lost track as it was way more than 100, maybe several hundred. It was a real thrill and one I never forgot!
The best of this year’s Perseid meteor shower was supposed to be last night, after midnight. Erin and I saw a giant one shoot through the heavens as we took Lucky for his evening walk. I manned the leash and Erin had the flashlight and plastic bag.
We got up again during the wee hours of this morning when Google told us there might be up to 100 seen in the hour just before dawn. We may have been a little early, or late, but we saw a couple of dozen meteorites, two satellites, several airplanes, two birds in flight and a few dozen egrets and ibises nestled in the mangroves on the far side of Manatee Creek.
We heard the cries of a couple of screech owls, which in the distance sounded more like a frog croaking or something rapping rapidly on a hollow log, and some hoot owls, which of course sounded like owls are supposed to sound.
We went back to bed and to sleep feeling fortunate to live in Port Salerno in Martin County, Florida. In a couple of days, we take off on a road trip to as far north as Cape Cod.
P.S. If you read this on August 13 and can get away from artificial lighting, you can still see the Perseid shower tonight! It is worth losing a little sleep to see it!
Best wishes and Good Fishing — Peter B.