Monday, March 18, 2013

No zzz's at sea

I roll the name over and over on my tongue until it sounds absurd,
“Guadeloupe, Guadeloupe, Guadeloupe”
as the dark knobbly form of the island blurs in the distance.  Smoke billows from the volcanic peak of the grey, dusty remains of Monserrat off to our left. In the distance ahead, the promise of new adventures in Antigua. In between, just hours of blue ocean.
Today was supposed to be a short sail, just ‘around the corner’ from Deshaies where we’ve been ‘stranded’ for more days than planned, due to high winds and huge swells. But as sailors plans are apt to change with the wind, we discovered an hour out, that conditions were not going to allow us to safely enter the shallow channel, peppered with pesky coral heads. The waves were just too big still, so an instant decision was made, to soldier on to Antigua. A 2 hour journey just became a 9 hour journey.
After sails were set and the swell and wind settled a bit, there wasn’t much to do, and both the captain and I, after a night of little sleep, decided to take turns ‘napping’ en route.
I retired first. Headed down to our bed, and cozied into the undulating berth. But it raised and fell, there were squeaks and creaks and groans and bangs. The normal sounds of sailing. Only as I tried to free up my brain and relax into at least a semblance of sleep, my nerves and overactive imagination got the better of me. I lay there, imagining all the worst scenarios.
‘What if my captain gets knocked overboard and I come up later to a ghost boat?’
‘What was THAT noise? Not normal! Did something snap, crack?’
and on and on and on… and sleep eluded me completely. I made my way back up the galley steps looking defeated. Everything was of course fine. JW jumped at the opportunity to take his turn.
The captain in a hazy blue slumber en route...
 And there I found myself, wave watching, counting the peaks on the surrounding islands, singing aloud to my tunes, recalling names over and over in my head til they sounded silly. The wind was low, the waves moderate. No emergencies, perfect conditions for a nap.
My lack of ‘long passage’ experience will now become evident if it hasn’t before. I have just never been able to sleep while sailing. I wonder what will happen to me on a journey longer than 24 hours, when our night watches are doled out in 4 hour intervals and I lie there overthinking, anticipating when my time will be up and just how tired I’ll be and on and on…
Cruising friends say they love the long passages, weeks at a time at sea. They say you develop a routine, make meals, take turns on watches. Still can’t quite get my green little mind around it. Firstly, unless the sea is VERY smooth, you have to hold on just to walk from one area of the boat to the other. Cooking?! I suppose you get hungry enough and sick of quick snacks scoffed down while holding a railing or table edge with one hand… After all, there is a gimbled stove/oven (that swivels and compensates for the motion of the sea) on board for a reason!
But it’s the sleeping that worries me most. I’m liable to be a zombie a few days in.
I haven’t even begun to ask myself whether I’d go stir crazy out at sea for days and weeks.
My first two or three ‘dayer’ is coming up in a month or so. I’m looking forward to the new experience. Maybe before then I’ll learn a meditation technique or get used to chamomile tea or warm milk… whatever works.
We’ve arrived in Antigua! Yawn…


  1. Which "just around the corner" destination were you planning on?

  2. Oooooh Antigua! Can't wait for pictures!

  3. What happened that you stopped posting? Hope everything is fine.