We’ve been at sea for 4 days now and I am finally starting to feel adjusted to all of the newness. New routines, new roles, new food, and new companions. When we first set off from Recife and started the watch system, Emily the First Mate, said “Welcome to 24 hour living”. I expect she didn’t think twice about what was meant, or how profound it could be, but it has stuck with me as the days have passed.
What is 24 hour living and why is this something that is out of the ordinary for us as a society? Perhaps as a farmer I am more attuned to 24 hour living than most. In the last year I’ve had nights where I’ve been up every couple hours with a calf that was struggling to nurse, to check on day-old chicks to ensure their heat, water and food were adequate, been out at midnight to put posts up in a hoop house during an unexpected snow, and of course a few parties that have led to the wee hours of the morning. But, like most people, I still generally plan to get most of my sleep during the dark and to be awake for most of the day.
Sea Dragon is our home for the next couple weeks. But she is more than just a place to sleep, eat and perform science. She is our life support system. And in return for our safety, we need to care for her 24 hours a day. We do this by being split into watch teams (I am with Shannon and Diana) that keep an eye out for boats or other vessels that we might cross paths with, a crew prepared to make adjustments to the sails and by always having someone at the helm to keep us on course. We also take turns in pairs to cook and clean for the rest of the crew.
This switch to 24 hour living has impacted each of us differently, and for different lengths of time. Today is the first day I feel fully adjusted to it, which may be in part because Lisa and I were on cooking and cleaning yesterday, which ends with a full nights sleep. Based on the recommendations of the eXXpedition Ascension crew that we spent time with in Recife and in listening to my own body, I’ve spent the majority of my free time up until now sleeping whenever I wasn’t on watch or eating. I think that many of the others have as well, which has meant that even though we are 14 people living on a 72’ sail boat, it hasn’t felt particularly cramped or like we’re in each other’s space.
Groups of 4 or 5 of us are up together throughout the night and day on 4 hour watch shifts. The rest of the day goes something along the lines of: 7:30am folks fetch their own breakfasts, continue sleeping or go to bed. Lunch at noon is our first whole crew event, prepared by the pair (today – Sarah and Tania) that is on cooking and cleaning watch for the day. Then a quick check-in led by our Skipper, Imogen, to make sure that just like the ropes, we aren’t chaffing or fraying in our communal living.
Today we had our first science briefing from Diana with input from Barbara and the assignment of roles in preparation for doing our first day of science tomorrow. Everyone seems excited for this additional component of routine and getting to start what we set out to do. There are so many different research projects that we are gathering data for, that it will take up the rest of the daylight hours each afternoon.
Outside of lunch, research, dinner, the reading of the blog from Ana’s computer and the group discussions, we’ll all be on slightly different schedules depending on which watches we have and when. I like this 24 hour living. It makes me feel more connected to the world. Being awake to watch the moon rise, to see the dolphins playing by the boat in the afternoon, to see the stars rotate in their orientation to us, to see the sun rise or set, all feels more real and connected than turning on a light when it is dark or just going to bed. I’ve been sleeping a lot during the daylight hours, which is hot, but also keeps me out of the sun when it is at its hottest and most potentially damaging to my pale skin.
Yesterday, after dinner, we started our group discussions, led by Rachel around the topic of disconnect, and tonight Erika will lead us in a discussion about the choices we make related to the products we use and whether there are alternatives that are more sustainable or if we can do without them altogether.
We also fit into our scattered free time, doing laundry, salt water showers followed by a quick desalinated rinse, blogging, conversations that run the gamut from deep and existential to playful and silly, reading and many other things! As I said, I think that today is the first day that everyone has really hit their stride in this 24 hour living, adjusting to getting our sleep in bits and pieces. As I write this, most of the crew is up on deck. Soft music is playing in the background, laughter rings out over the water, Stella is taking photos with her 35mm film camera, Holly is answering questions from the helm and Emily has just refuelled us with fresh tea.
From where I sit, this 24 hour living is pretty darn ok.
- Katrina McQuail