The night watchman - part 2
Thu 6 Dec 2018 06:26
The whole changing spectacle is always watched (with what I can only assume is extreme wonderment as to stupidness of what is going on before them) by the person I am taking over from who can see straight into the main cabin where this circus is being played out. Fortunately they are usually half asleep at this point and so rather than some piercing comment about the dance routine they’ve just witnessed, all they can usually muster is a ‘how did you sleep?’ (a classic gag).
You are then briefed in on any updates. In the first few days this was terribly exciting, ships left right and centre, wind changes and on the sly racing updates. Briefings now are limited to, same course, same wind, no ships. We then settle into the first part of the watch. As we’re both half asleep the conversation, as you can imagine, is riveting.
The sound of the water rushing by (or in my case, a chocolate bar being consumed) is broken only by a poignant comment on the shape of the waves, a fascinating discussion on cloud formations or a heated debate on different types of rope.
It doesn’t take long for my watch mate to get bored of me and so I am left to take the wheel and am finally in charge of our fourteen tonne home. At night this feels like the equivalent to driving a lorry down a dirt track with hair pin corners every 40 metres. Piece of cake. Add in the fact that your headlights are broken so you can’t actually see the road and have to rely on your ‘sat nav’ to navigate through and I admit there is a certain element of difficulty. Oh yes, and the road decides to lean 45 degrees sideways every minute or so just for added fun. Don’t forget the other lorries that have absolutely no business being on a collision with you but for some reason, that I can only presume is some sort of boating karma for all my complaining, we inexplicably suddenly find lights bearing down on us requiring a quick change of course to ensure that the rapid response rescue crew from the Caribbean (arriving between ten and fourteen days) aren’t required. The only saving grace is that our road is 3000 miles wide and usually the biggest worry is rolling my crew mates out of bed early (weirdly not appreciated).
The final challenge is staying awake for the 2/3 hour shift. I’ve tried to employ various tactics to tackle this over the past week. Coffee tactic, resulting in only be able to sleep for one hour; water tactic, bladder needs more training; TV tactic, a few 180 turns later and I abandoned that one; tea tactic (see coffee and water tactics); chocolate bar tactic (stuffing my face with four chocolate bars), limited sleep after a four hour sugar high; music tactic, dancing not conducive to steering. Needless to say, I haven’t quite cracked it yet.
All jokes aside the pain can really be worth it when you get on the sunrise shift. It is an amazing feeling to watch darkness turn to light as the new day begins. Amazing until you realise you are stuck on the wheel and you’ve left the sun cream in the cabin; the resulting orange face does make for a great Donald Trump impression later on in the day though.