Boat Life Part 4: Sleep
Such a wonderful thing, and on a boat somehow feels all the more satisfying than on land. Maybe it’s the fact that you are always ready for it, often tired from a day’s activity of sailing, pushing off ice, manhandling jerrycans, dinghies or anchors, or doing jobs around the boat. Or maybe it’s the gentle lilt of the boat under sail or the sound of waves gently lapping along the sides whilst at anchor. It is however not always so easy, especially if the boat’s being tossed about by the waves, if you’re having to regularly check on the anchor or encroaching ice, or if you’re sharing a cabin with one of the resident foghorn snorers. And don’t come to the Arctic in summer if you can’t sleep with 24hr daylight!
Then there is the cold, and up here you can see why animals choose to hibernate. We all know the satisfaction of sleep when it’s cold outside, and in our case it’s often inside as well. But nothing beats finishing your watch at the helm, climbing down into the boat, stripping off your layers of gear, gulping down a hot brew and climbing into your winter sleeping bag. Within a few minutes you’re toasty warm and soon drifting off into a cosy slumber.
In centuries gone-by the men of Arctic expeditions would need to huddle together and share a ‘sleeping bag’ which might consist merely of a heavy sheet material bag that could be frozen solid ‘as hard as a sheet of ice’. How grateful we are, on so many levels, that times have moved on! The modern (and individual) sleeping bag is a wonderful development and certainly the most precious item of kit of each team member. They are a dream at keeping in the warmth, and allow us to go camping and sleep out on deck when the weather allows.
We all have our own bunks, which is not always a given on sail boats. With some boats or with larger crews you might need to ‘hot-bunk’ the beds, whereby you sleep in a bunk while someone else is on watch and vice versa. Given the respective smells of our team, we’re all really happy we don’t have to do that. Regardless, the space is limited and the bunks are a bit of a tight squeeze. Some of us have to pull some crazy yoga moves to get in and out of them. But at least they are snug and don’t allow you to fly around too much in rougher weather.
With 24hr of daylight and a feast of amazing landscapes, wildlife and possible activities, sleep can often be sidelined for play. We almost nonchalantly start glacier hikes or go out fishing at midnight. The down side is that this can end with periods of staying up for 24-36 hours without really realising it. Even if you are in your bunk, it is hard to resist getting up when you hear “whale” being yelled from on deck, or “check out this crazy glacier”.
But we all like our sleep and you never know when the next sleep disruption might come so it is prudent for us to make sure we get it in when we can. This trip is also considered our holiday/time off from our busy day jobs, so some deeper recuperation time is needed as well. Which reminds me, as I write this, that I too am eating into my precious sleep time so I say goodnight….