Friendly landlubbers often ask us, by way of
putting life into a conversation that is beginning to flag, “Do you sleep on
your boat?” There are several
correct answers to that but the current one might go “All too easily, while
supposed to be on watch at night”.
We find it ridiculously easy to nod off in the cockpit. This is not quite as dangerous as doing
it at the wheel on the M4 but it is a bit worrying and is uncomfortable
physically as well. It fills us
with guilt and is frustrating in that we cannot crack the problem. We have tried all sorts of tricks;
martial music no longer works but talking books are more effective. One solo sailor friend used to go to
sleep in the cockpit with a kitchen timer strapped to his forehead and set to
The subject is the more pressing because we saw
two ships on Saturday, the first for fourteen days. The previous ship that passed us was the
Hierro to La Gomera ferry on the evening of 30th December. We have not seen much else; four species
of birds and lots of flying fish.
No floating containers, no disgusting rubbish, NO WHALES. Just sea and sky.
Back to the business of sleep. Conditions were difficult last night;
the boat was shaking, rattling, and rolling and I was hot and sticky. Added to which there was a conversation
going on in the cockpit. Had a
radio been left on?
Impossible. I could hear a
deep man’s voice and if I sat up I could almost make out the words, but not
quite. I could certainly hear
ribald laughter from time to time.
It was truly uncanny. Then I
recognized the voice – Tom Conti.
Here I was, struggling to get a little well-earned rest, while an actor
with a sexy voice was making merry with the mate in the cockpit! Up betimes in the morning and brushing
aside the mate’s feeble protests, I soon tracked the blighter down in the guise
of a creaking and groaning genoa lead and car. Fixed to the deck the noise was
reverberating throughout the ship.
I settled his hash with a double dose of silicon spray and I think I made
it pretty clear that he would not be welcome as a visitor tonight!
We have been asked about watch-keeping. We do three hour watches from 2100
through to 1500 and then three two hour watches during the afternoons. By this means we alternate the least
favoured periods although we both agree that it is really “six of one and half a
dozen of the other”. The system
does not represent our final say on the matter – we have toyed with the idea of
going to the traditional four hour system.
However, neither of us is all that keen on the idea of four hour
stretches on deck although we recognise the potential benefits of longer periods
of sleep. Some cruising couples
dispense with formal watches during daylight hours as both are up and
about. We like to know where we are
at all times, including who is responsible for filling in the log on the
hour. This is now the cause of more
guilt. For the first time ever we
are both finding it difficult to remember to do it on time. How do we inject a little discipline
into this ship?