Not sleeping is the enemy
S/V Learnativity, voyage to Fiji
Sunday, May 17th, 7:00am
Position 12.41S 179.04E Wind 15-20SSE, course 210, boat speed 5-6 knots Distance to Bligh Water entrance 240 Bearing 195
You can follow our progress on this tracking map: http://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Learnativity
The sun is just up and I am sitting up in the captain’s chair watching the sea through the salt-caked glass of the boat’s cockpit windshield. Wayne and the dogs are down below sleeping. We are doing lots of hobby-horsing in the confused seas and wind chop, and that is slowing our speed down and making for a less-comfortable ride, but I’m pretty sure he is able to sleep through it. And, I am feeling good for the first time in about 24 hours.
After our three-day stop in Funafuti atoll, our sailing conditions have been variable, but the only constant has been when there is wind, it is on the nose. Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day with lighter winds. We tacked and sailed almost due east all day and gained back much of the easting we had lost. But the night before we had lost the wind and the flogging sails, shaking out reefs, then the starting of the engine, then the uncomfortable restless doggies in the berth had added up to no sleep for me. On my night watch from 2-7, I had a headache, and by the time I hit the bunk around 10:00 am to try to catch up on sleep, I felt hot and cranky and the overhead sun was cooking me through the hatch. Again, I did not sleep.
Exhaustion is the sailor’s enemy. The chance of your doing something stupid and injuring yourself or damaging the boat increases greatly. Fortunately, I am a good sleeper about 90% of the time, but those few times when I don’t sleep well can wreak havoc with usual sense of well being. It can become a vicious cycle where I become too exhausted to sleep. So last night when I went to the bunk around 8:30 for my off watch, I tossed and turned. Then a squall hit and the boat was over-canvassed. We were heeled over so far, though I was trying to sleep crosswise in the aft cabin bunk and my feet were braced against the cabinetry, I was still sliding down the bunk and ending up in a fetal position with two panicked dogs scratching me for help. I got up to see if I could help, but Wayne had it under control. When it became clear the higher winds would last beyond the squall, he started the engine, both to reef the mainsail and to avoid a tuna boat that had appeared. In the 8 years Wayne has been cruising on this boat, he has updated the electronics significantly, and it has a great touch screen chart plotter with digital radar and an AIS transceiver. Running all these instruments at night uses lots of juice. He can set a safe zone alarm around the boat and if anything from land to ships to squalls appears in that zone, an alarm goes off. The radar is set to do 10 sweeps every 15 minutes and the AIS is always on. This is how he sailed as a singlehander spending nights in the captain’s chair napping.
Once that tuna boat was inside our perimeter, the alarm kept beeping.
As things settled down, I did fall asleep, but then I was awakened by a slamming cabinet door, then the plywood-backed cushions jumped off the little seat, then Wayne’s tool bag full of wrenches fell off its shelf. At that point it was quarter to two, so I struggled out of the bunk, braided my hair, and made my way topsides.
“Reporting for duty, sir,” I said as I gave the captain a mock salute. He wrapped his arms around me and said, “No, you go back to sleep.”
“But, it’s my watch, and you need your sleep, too. One of us should be well-rested.”
“No,” he said. “I’m used to this. I sailed by myself for years. I can nap a bit on watch.”
I let him talk me into it. For the next three hours, I slept the wonderful deep sleep of oblivion, and I awoke to a beautiful dawn and a husband I adore.