The night watchman - part 1

Wed 5 Dec 2018 06:19
As I’ve been complaining for the past week about my lack of sleep I thought I would explain a little how our night watches work to try and justify (to myself anyway) why I’ve been such a whiner.

As the sun went down on our first evening and I was looking forward to settling in to a protected harbour for the night it was a shock to be told by Skip that I was on the 10pm to 1am watch. I know the Spaniards eat late but this seemed a little extreme. Oh well, I told myself, still time for some tapas and red wine after before a nice long snooze. It was only when I was then told that I was also on the 6am to 9am watch that I became very concerned about the sleepless and tapasless journey ahead ... and so a very depressing number of alarms were set, 9:53 pm, 5:53 am and 1:53 pm. Apparently someone should have paid more attention to what was in store when six months ago I jovially said ‘an Atlantic crossing sounds fun, why not?’ One week in I’ve definitely got a few answers to that question, all of which contain some colourful language.

After a week of these night watches I have definitely got in a certain routine, or at least I broadly go through the same actions when that dreaded alarm sounds.

When the alarm goes off my first reaction is dreaming of my nice big bed at home which doesn’t rotate 45 degrees every five minutes. My second reaction is wishing I was in my nice big bed at home which doesn’t rotate 45 degrees every five minutes. My third reaction is, you get the idea; no wonder I need seven minutes to get ready.

Once I’ve managed to get my head around the fact that yes I do actually need to get up the next challenge is exiting my ‘bunk’. At this point I should probably illustrate a little what getting myself out of my bunk entails. My bunk is a six foot by two foot man sized cot. A plastic sheet on one side (to help when those 45 degree rolls turn into 90 degree rolls) and the cabin wall on the other. I jam cushions around me to make a narrow gap so that I don’t roll around as much when I’m trying to sleep. The exit procedure, over the scattered cushions and my sheet guard, requires a certain amount of athletic ability and every night I respond in kind; if the athlete I am referring to is blind, drunk and with particularly poor balance. After a couple of false starts as my body does it’s best to resist, I leap over, almost crashing into the table next to me and rolling into Skip who sometimes resides in the bunk next door.

Once I’ve finally managed to pull myself out of bed the next challenge is getting changed in a cabin that is pitch black save for a couple of low glare red night lights. First the t-shirt, perhaps the hardest item of all as for a few seconds my limited balance is completely gone. This usually results in a quick dance across the cabin and muffled crash into a door.

Thankfully, my sleep deprived crew mates are none the wiser and so I move on to the waterproof trousers, a real fashion item, closely resembling the classic fisherman’s trousers (or for those of you who don’t regularly go catching flying fish, plasticky dungarees). I am briefly limited to one usable leg as I pull these on (with the rather fetching straps going around my shoulders). As I hop around the cabin I focus on their importance to keep the wind chill out, never mind that these trousers provide the storage compartments for all the chocolate bars that I am going to stuff my face with over the next few hours (six pack should be starting to show any day now). Finally, on go the jacket, life jacket (see we are safe and sensible), harness and shoes and I’m ready.

I am writing this just after dinner and my editor enforces a strict 6 am deadline. I am therefore faced with the choice of continuing this riveting piece of prose in order to finish it in full, in time for submission, or hurdling into my cosy coffin. Obviously I’ve got my priorities straight ... coffin it is, I’ll see you tomorrow.