I want to describe ”watch”. A totally unatural but necessary evil that advances the plot of sailing. It entails so many triumphal moments that I feel compelled to illuminate it in mind-numbing detail in order for all of us to understand this discipline; watch.
I asked about it on the first day, silly me, and the First Mate, Emily did say it was a good question. One that was not answered, I might add. Poor Emily she probably wanted to abandon ship. One should know what one is getting into. So now from experience, let me say it is not natural, this thing called watch.
We are 14 on the Sea Dragon consisting of three watch teams continually rotating through three four hour watches, interspersed with two 2-hour watches over and over again until, sleep deprived, you feel that your face has fallen off. We 14 crewmates aboard the Sea Dragon have assigned bunks that if we were to figure square footage it is in the negative territory. Really each of us has 24 cubic feet of living/sleeping space. Christine’s middle bunk is smaller, she only has a foot between her face and Jess’s bottom. I have the bottom bunk. I’m sure age was factored in and I’m glad. Holly the second mate has the top bunk and has yet to put her foot in my face as she climbs in and out of bed at all hours of the day and night. I, when trying to get into bed as quietly as possible, have hit the bottom of her bunk, essentially kicking her in the butt. She is a good, patient girl. This information is relevant, stay with me.
It is now a million o’clock and I am in bed sound asleep. Someone from the on-deck watch is tapping me softly saying my name. I respond that I’m up. I’m not. I grope for my watch clothes and gear; pants, top, fleece, life jacket, glasses, lip balm, hair comb, head lamp, water bottle, hat while standing on a piece of real estate the size of a small linen closet pitching about like a drunk. I don’t want to wake up Holly, Simone, Fiona,and Amanda because if I fall any which way I will share some part of their bed.
Dressed, I step over the bulkhead crashing side to side past my sleeping crewmates Sarah, Tegan and our Captain, Imogen, wondering if I have everything so I don’t have to crash my way back, simultaneously praying it isn’t raining.
Dazed and confused I climb the companionway and step into the cockpit. It is almost magic. I can’t wait for for the departing watch to leave. I find myself with my watch mates transported to a place which for me there are no words for. Stars, ocean, wind, boat they are part of it but there is also just being alive and grateful that I ended up in this exact spot at this exact moment with these exact people for all the right reasons is beautiful.
Here I am with my watchmates helming a 72-foot, 50-ton, ocean racing yacht in the middle of the South Atlantic in the dark. It’s just absurd. It’s watch.
- by Heather Peters