Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Midnight Shift

I'm dreaming that I'm on a bus. The driver is alternating between smashing down on the accelerator, stomping on the brakes, and veering left or right. We are getting slammed all over the bus, out of control. The bus lurches upward and I wake up, Scott Tobiason is shaking me on the shoulder. It is midnight, time for my 12:00 to 03:00 shift. I'm wedged into the bed with pillows all around me and Traveler is lurching violently up, down, left, right.

We've got pitch, roll, heave, yaw, and twist going on. Sounds like a dance. Pitch is the nose and stern of the boat going up and down. Roll is the tilting from side to side. Heave is when the entire vessel jumps upward. Yaw is turning left then turning right. Twist is a combination of these.

I drag myself uphill and get my feet on the floor. I paw around on the floor, find and put on socks, fleece bibs, a nylon shirt, a cotton pullover. Wrap my pony tail in a hair tie and pull on a fleece hat. Standing up, I slip on some nylon pants and reach around the corner for the yogurt cup. I pee in the cup, put on the lid and set it on the companionway stairs. Lurching to the galley, I fill the teapot and set it on the gimbal stove to boil water. At the nav station I check the AIS and see there are no targets visible. Check speed and heading on the GPS.

Finding my light nylon coat, I pull it on and layer a fleece vest on top. Then I put on my insulated water resistant jacket and strap a harness around my shoulders. I know this seems like a lot of clothing but it's cold and windy in the cockpit with the occasional splat of spray coming aboard or the flying fish jumping onto the deck. Scott Tobiason got hit with a flying fish in the shoulder last night while sitting behind the wheel!

I clip into the tether and climb into the cockpit. After dumping my pee I talk to Scott about sail changes, sea state, ships in the night, and the weather. He goes below and crashes. I get my bearings, look at the sails and sheets, look at the windex, check the autopilot, and check the horizon 360 degrees.

I go below, rinse out the pee cup, make tea, grab some cookies, my book, glasses, and the I-Pod. Back up in the cockpit I sit for a while drinking my tea and watching the stars if they are out. I'm centered on the rear seat, a foot braced on either side so I don't slide sideways. As the boat lurches around, I bend at the waist to keep my head level. Soon my muscles are warmed up, at least the once in my middle. I click on the headlamp and read for an hour, checking the horizon and heading once in a while. Getting cold, I pull a blanket over my legs. Later, I'll arrange cushions on the side cockpit seat so I can stretch out. I'll cover up with blankets and get the I-Pod going. By the third hour I'm getting sleepy so I find some screaming guitar music (Pink Floyd, Allman Bros, Robben Ford etc..) that will keep me awake. I set the I-Pod alarm to go off every 15 minutes. So every 15 minutes I pull off the blankets, stand up in the cockpit and check the horizon on all four points of the compass. Check the sails, the windex, compass heading, and GPS speed.

Every hour I go below to check the instruments there and also just to move my muscles a little bit. When Connie does her shift, she has a workout routine she does in the cockpit, stretching and flexing but holding on all the time.

If the wind shifts or dies or builds I might have to adjust the sheets. If we need to put in or shake out a reef we try to do it during a shift change. If all hell is breaking loose, other crew are summoned and we go on deck, always clipped in, while we make the sail changes. But tonight, everything is good and I'm on my own with nothing to worry about except how Horatio Hornblower is going to get out of the fix he's in.

When my shift is up, I tidy up the cockpit, go below and put on the kettle, then wake up Connie for her shift. I go into the master cabin, sit on the bed, and put my hand on her arm. She stirs, stretches, and says, "Hi honey bunny." I go back into the cockpit and wait for her to appear, tea in hand, bundled up from head to foot. We have the short discussion about the boat and I head off below to strip off all those layers. I'm back in the bunk, braced into the corner with pillows all around me and I start thinking about that bus driver.

Scott Connie and Scott

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1 comment:

  1. You are my morning read. I pour my coffee, take a seat. open my computer and look for your post. I am on dry land, which for the time being is not moving save for the worms and pill bugs and larva slithering around just under the surface; there are, of course, the earth quakes the scientists say happen everyday, but I'm not feeling them (hard as I try). I'm not sure I could do what you all are doing, though it sounds so exciting. Is it better than being in the doldrums?

    All is good here. The garden grows, the baby birds are being fed, the hawks circle, the seagulls cry, and I sigh at the beauty of it all. I send love to you all and wish for a good day of sailing. See you tomorrow.