When we moved back to Blighty in 2011, the girls couldn’t sleep. After getting through the baby years and to the point that every parent reaches, when they can finally say, “oh, mine sleep right through!” Accompanied by a nonchalant, boastful grin (like they had never experienced the sleepless nights whilst your beloved baby squeals shrill sounds into your ears periodically throughout the night). We seemed to be back to square one. Were they too cold, did they find it hard to sleep under covers? We tried heaters so they could sleep in underwear, maybe it was the restricted feeling of having to wear a full onesie, nothing worked. Then I figured it out. I placed a radio in their room and played static… eureka, straight to sleep… “ours sleep straight through!”. You see, in Antigua they had always slept with a fan on them, to keep them cool and to stop the Mosquitos landing on them. Their room in the UK was so quiet in comparison to the loud hum of the fans, the tree frogs, crickets and wind blowing through the open shutters. The static simulated this noise and in turn helped them sleep. Which brings me onto now; How am I possibly going to simulate this?!?
It’s currently 0320 and I am 20 mins into the graveyard shift. Dalliance is taking the conditions well, she’s surfing down the 3 meter waves behind her whilst being blown up the next by 27kts of wind. Water is streaming out the back creating a speed boat type wash, the occasional quartering sea whacks the starboard quarter which skews her course, the autopilot responds with a long, loud whine and brings her back down onto the next wave. She accelerates down hill and the accompanying hum causes the whole boat to vibrate loudly (like the sound you get when the car window is at just the right height to create that deep wah wah sound that drives everyone mad). Water rushes though the hulls with the occasional thwack that sends shudders through the whole boat and shakes the rig with lasting resonance. A rumbling, breaking wave crashes behind us, I duck for cover as it throws a few gallons of water into the cockpit, crashing down and then rushing and sloshing down the scuppers. The scuppers take a hit from the wave between the hull and the flaps make sharper high pitch clacks and bangs, we need to charge, so the engine is started and the deep diesel rumble replaces some of the lower rushing water noise, but doesn’t stand a chance against the rest! Lying in bed, the recovery position is best. This stabilises the body to reduce side to side, fore and aft movement at much as possible. Feet forward towards the front of the boat, to ensure that if we momentarily stop into the wave in front, our legs take the impact at the bottom end of the berth, the occasional wave rising between the hulls gives you a kick in the ribs just to make sure you don’t get too comfortable.
I just checked on the girls sleeping, they look like angels throughout all of this. Peaceful looks of calm and relaxation wash over their entire beings. My girls sleep right through!
Life is a little different for Liz and I. Three hour watches barely supply two hours sleep at a time. Our ears are trained to accept all of the above and monitor for the different noises, the ones that say… you are going to need to cut your sleep short buddy and go and help the person on deck to reduce sail or that halyard doesn’t sound right, the Genoa sheet sounds like its chafing on the shrouds since we bore away and needs an outside lead rigging, you didn’t put the toolkit away in exactly the same position and the spanners are clinking from side to side with every rock of the boat, the boom gooseneck doesn’t sound right, the reefing line sounds like it’s struggling, this new wave direction has caused the bilge pump handle to clink against the cabin wall every 17 minutes or so (just long enough to interrupt your possible sleep with “right, what is that clinking?, I’ll listen hard for it to happen again to work out what it is and go sort it!”). These noises all wake us, demand action and quite often can’t be heard from the person on watch over the din of the water and wind noise. So, after an hour of subconsciously analysing these noises in bed, we get (unless required before) one hour, 45 minutes sleep before being woken for our next watch. Exchanges between us on watch change are factual and concise, neither of us want to delay the chance of settling into the recovery position for a chance of another hour 45 sleep!
“Did you sleep well?”.
“Yeah, not bad actually!”.
“Good. We have been seeing 18-23 Kt’s with the occasional gusts to 28. Course is 275, bearing away to 255 in the squalls, 2 reefs in the main, 3/4 jib, watch the pilot when the sets get big, we will need to gybe on the next watch change, I’ll put a log on, have a good watch.”
“Ok, night love”.
Every so often, we might have a quick “Lifejacket hug”. This is an uncomfortably short, limp embrace where you may as well be hugging a manikin stying damp and salty offshore survival gear.
We make our way through the saloon and wedge ourselves against the door whilst getting undressed without being thrown across the cabin, take a toilet stop to relieve ourselves of the pint of coffee consumed in the first hour of each watch, whilst bracing the cabin walls and put ourselves into the recovery position for a few hours of being thrown around horizontally until our next turn.
On the hardest of watches, I don’t think about my bed, I think of you and yours, at perfect temperature with dry warm Duvets, stable and quiet. Next time you get into that perfectly turned out bed of yours, think of us.
Oh and by the way, if anyone happens to have one of those A-Team van looking 3D simulators, which turn up to events, I may need to borrow this when we get home, so that my girls can “sleep right through”.
Ok, going off watch for a couple hours kip! Ryan, Out.