Time Travellers 17:54.15N 34:17.25W

Thu 26 Nov 2009 20:27
When you fly across the Atlantic you cross several time zones in a few hours. On landing you will hear the voice of the pretty stewardess announcing 'Welcome to New York or Cancun or Jamaica, where the local time is ....'. You set your watch back 4 or 5 hours and hope that your body clock catches up soon.
    When you sail across the Atlantic you cross the same time zones over a period of 3 or 4 weeks. The most obvious indication of this is that sunrise and sunset get later each day. In our case, when we left Tenerife the sun was setting at 6 pm. After 7 days at sea it set at 7 pm. If we did nothing, the sunset would get progressively later with long light evenings. Eventually you would be able to do night watches in daylight, which I think would be a good thing, as it would alleviate the boredom of looking out for vessels that never appear. For the record, in 8 days since leaving the Canaries, we have seen one mast low on the horizon in the dusk, and one light 4 miles to port in the early hours of one morning, both probably yachts doing the same as us. The trade off for the long light evenings is that it wouldn't get light until midday. We would have turned night into day, and day into night.
    Two days ago we agreed that we would alter the ship's time, so all on board set their watches and clocks back one hour. At the same time we agreed to keep the same night watches as before. The night watches are arranged as follows; 10pm to 1am, Ray; 1am to 4am, myself; 4am to 7am Ted. By about 8am all crew are up and breakfast follows soon after.
    On that night, I awoke from a deep sleep to the beeping of my alarm clock, stumbled to the head (Loo), had a quick wash and went through the laborious process of donning protective clothing to suit the conditions outside. So, having put on pants, shorts, and Tee shirt (it's tough in the tropics), I put the kettle on for tea and was greeted by Ray who said 'You're a bit early aren't you, it's only 12.15?'. Checking my alarm clock I found that it was indeed only 12.15 and that my alarm was set for  12 oclock. The action of setting my clock back at 1 pm the previous afternoon also set the alarm hand back from 12.45 to 12 oclock. As I was drinking my tea, I noticed Ted appear in full uniform. He had been woken by the activity in the saloon, and looked at his watch to find the  hands pointing at 12 and 4. Thinking it was 4 oclock, he dressed hurriedly and sallied forth to be met by me asking 'Are you getting up Ted?'. Taking this as a jibe about his tardiness, he mumbled 'You sarky old sod!'. And that is how all three old dodderers appeared on the same night watch together.
    After another brew, a council of war was convened in the cockpit, where it was agreed that changing the clocks was a concept too complicated for our aging brains, so we would do no more of it. We would simply let the sunset get later and later, and adjust our clocks on arrival, accepting the risk that we might become famous as the only long distance sailors ever to suffer jet-lag. The only thing missing from this plan is the pretty stewardess to say 'Welcome to Grenada where the local time is ....'. I guess we'll just have to put up with the craggy features of Peter the Met-man Hawksley instead.
John F 26 Nov 2009