The rolling of the boat doesn’t wake me anymore. I wonder if when I return to the real world it’ll be like removing a baby from its cradle and I won’t be able to sleep. Even when I hear my book and head lamp tossed from my raised bed to the floor I only consider for a vague moment a swell big enough launch me off the 5 foot high bed, but then I drift back to sleep. When I’m finally startled awake it’s not by the lurch, but by my alarm. It’s 2:27 a.m.
Three minutes is the amount of time I give myself to clamber off my high bed and stumble up the steps into the cockpit to relieve the current watchman on duty. Lauren tells me there is nothing out of the ordinary to be aware of and slips off to bed. The half moon is just high enough to cast a shine over our path and I scan the horizon for any sign of obstacles. Then I duck back inside to review the screens. The boat’s auto pilot has us on a set course to our waypoints which are lined up ahead for the several hundred miles — until our next destination in northern Costa Rica. For the next two hours it’s my job to make sure our course stays parallel to the magenta line, that auto pilot doesn’t shift into standby (sending us spinning of course the way it randomly does sometimes) and scan for objects on the horizon and radar. And if anything gets in the way, turn. Beyond that, if a problem arises I’m here to wake up Bob.
In the mean time, I have two glorious hours to myself — something you come to treasure when you live on a sailboat, even if those hours are between 2:30 and 4:30 in the morning.
Our shifts all alternate so each night we have a different 2 hour increment to keep watch sometime between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Each timeframe comes with it’s own pros and cons, while many people prefer the first shift because it means you get a full “normal” night of sleep, I look forward to the 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. shift, getting to bed early and then starting my day at 4:30 and getting to watch the moon set and the sun rise from the depths of the ocean to replace it.