The days surely blur together now – on and off watch are more important distinctions now, and dates and time are only numbers you put in the log.
A seasoned sailor that I look up to very much once wrote about ocean passages that when the routine of ‘sail, eat, sleep and repeat’ sets in, sailors are faced with the loss of social complexities that make up our lives on land. Without phones, social media, TV, or really any mental energy to use the above, life becomes simpler, and more about the now. Thus, I find myself in a strange place of missing people who are not here – mostly the ones I wish I was sharing this experience with – but missing them with a joyful longing ache, most pronounced when listening to the innermost part of my being, which really only happens on night watches. Mostly, I am happily sailing along; I am being kept busy with the running of the watch and whatever tasks we have set for that watch. Some of you will be thrilled to read that mostly, I am just living in the moment, rather than contemplating the future or missing the past.
‘Being kept busy’ might be the wrong term, though – how can the few simple tasks take up a whole six hour watch? I keep thinking “today, I will bake a cake”, or “today, I’ll get to studying that Yachtmaster chapter on weather” and then find myself running out of time. I blame and credit this entirely to the beauty of my surroundings – looking at the endless blue waves, or getting lost in the infinite starry sky; anybody who has ever been out here knows one’s thoughts come to rest and just you just exist. Rather than being a sad state of non-thought, it is a very pure form of existence; and I believe that to many offshore sailors this is the addictive high they crave as soon as they have come inshore.
Having had my philosophical musings, I guess most of you are as if not to say more interested in the practical side of things here on board Challenger 1. The last two days saw us having light winds during the day and a nice breeze at night, and thus we’ve made steady enough progress not to have any of the Tall Ships crew worried – even though the young people have started talking about having a Christmas tree on board, much to the amusement (or not!) of us watchleaders. Shower days (today!) are a highlight, as are the much awaited words “you may go off watch”. We’ve been getting some excellent food, thanks to people losing their initial reservations in the galley.
Sleeping patterns are still difficult for some, especially when it’s nice and sunny with a bit of breeze on deck during the day, while down below it gets stuffy and very warm. Some people opt to just stay awake during the day – but that usually changes after a couple of very sleepy night watches, as sleep deprivation gets the better of everyone. During those sunny moments on deck, though, there is a lot of laughter to be heard, and at times I have to hide my proud smile at for example the discovery of how the St Lucian’s dance differs from the European way of moving next to each other. This voyage will definitely open new cultures, in many ways, to each of us – and there is so much more horizon in front of us!
Anna Jakob, Watchleader
STV Challenger 1