An unwelcome visitor

JJMoon Diary
Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Mon 15 Jan 2007 09:41

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 ten minutes.  


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?