January 6, 2012
We’re sailing now. It’s the afternoon of day two. I awoke a little while ago from a glorious nap in the sun on the foredeck, a spot that the second mate tipped me off to as a prime “allowable” nap spot. Now, I know not everyone out there is a napper, but the boat nap is a very special kind of nap, and I think it deserves a little explanation.
On most boats, and any commercial boat, it’s necessary that someone is always awake and checking in on things. To accomplish this, our crew is split into three watches. Different boats run their watch schedules in different ways, and we happen to split our shifts into four hours apiece, except for two two-hour “dog watches” in the evenings. The dog watches mix up the schedule a bit so nobody is stuck taking the same shift day in, day out.
What this translates into, in terms of daily schedule, is some mixture of two or four hours on, split up by four, six or eight hours off. That’s 24/7, daytime and night. When I say that a sailor’s life is for me with a dreamy look in my eyes, this is usually what I’m thinking about.
You see, where many people might look at this schedule and just see that they have to be up from midnight to four AM every three days, I see something else. I see naps written into my daily routine, not as a luxury, but as a necessity. This, to put it simply, is awesome.
So, there I was, a little sluggish from a restless first night’s sleep on board, looking for a good nap spot, and I found it. Right up in the bow it was, rabbited between the bulwarks and the anchor windlass, with the hawse pipe that tunnels from the deck to the waves below just two feet from my ears, piping a peaceful serenade to me as I dozed. When I lay down, the wind was blowing a pleasant and boisterous 15-20 knots, making the bow a perfect windbreak while the motion of the boat rocked me gently, and the sun warmed me from above. Armed with my travel pillow, and a beanie pulled over my eyes, I was soon deliciously asleep.
When I awoke, the wind had died, and the sun was getting too warm to lay in. Just then, lunch was called, and here I am now, telling you about it. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, because you pay for days like these with cold, wet, rugged work when you least desire it. It’s not all sun and naps. But luckily, some of it is.