Holt Farley

 

A Day At Sea

I’ve done lots of day sailing and chartering, but this was my first ocean passage.  At sea, the days develop a rhythm around daily “watches”.  Each crew member is assigned daily watches; periods they are responsible for the boat, making course corrections, watching for other boats, adjusting or calling for sail changes, and generally being alert to potential problems.  Our watch schedule on SHIBUMI was:

Watch Period

Crew

0000-0200

Mike

0200-0400

Holt

0400-0600

Chris

0600-0900

Mike

0900-1200

Holt

1200-1500

Chris

1500-1800

Mike

1800-2100

Holt

2100-2400

Jackie

Here’s a look at my typical day during our passage:

0200-0400

Mike wakes me 10 minutes before my 0200 watch starts.  This is my favorite watch – it’s either a serenely beautiful star lit sky or a scary pitch black overcast void.  Not much in between! 

On clear nights, you are immersed in more stars than you’ve ever seen before.  The moon illuminates a sea alive with sparkling foam from the waves marching along with us.  It’s an enchanting world.

On overcast nights, however, you feel like you are careening through a black hole.  The black sky merges with a black sea, and you can discern no horizon.  The only light is from SHIBUMI’s own navigation lights, which dimly show only a very short distance around the boat.  Since we were predominantly running down wind on this trip, the waves are moving at much the same speed as SHIBUMI.  In the dim light, you see large waves breaking under the boat in a caldron of foam.  You hurtle through a void, with only the eerie wwhhooosshh of the waves boiling below.  This is a very surreal world!

I’m the only person awake on this watch which makes me keenly aware how much everyone else depends on me for their safety and comfort.  You are constantly trying to make good decisions on course and speed, dealing with weather conditions, and if you need to wake a crewmate for assistance.   You don’t take anything for granted!

These night watches are unlike any prior experience in my life.  I’ll never forget these times.

View from Shibumi on Overcast Night

(OK, maybe it’s not quite this dark…)

0400-0700

I’m sleeping!

0700-0900

At dawn Mike or Chris brew a fresh pot of coffee, so my first task is to pour a mug and wake up!  Everyone is awake, so the day starts slowly with a simple breakfast of cereal and good conversation. 

We often change sails to a larger set for the day.  Mike and I help Chris on deck.  Chris has been a great captain and teacher on this trip.  His skill and judgment inspire confidence.  There are many more considerations when passage-making versus our usual day-sailing.  But Chris clearly explains the “why’s” of everything we do.  He even manages to remain patient after endless interruptions to his sleep!

0900-1200

My morning watch is generally pretty lively.  The entire crew is awake, so there’s always someone to talk with.  We often have good winds during this period, too, so this is a fun watch.

This is a time to check for potential problems on board, and to perform regular maintenance.  There’s always something to be done!

Our largest meal of the day is at noon.  Jackie, our Goddess of the Galley, spends a good deal of the morning preparing food.  We have amazing meals, even in the worst of conditions.  Roast leg of lamb, fresh fish dishes, pastas, wonderful sauces, paella, roast turkey and dressing, bread pudding; it’s better than real life!  These meals are highlights of the day. 

Overshadowed only by the fishing

1200-1500

We eat Jackie’s fabulous meal a bit after noon.  This is sometimes very quiet as we’re all completely focused on the food!  I clean dishes after we eat.  With the boat rolling from side to side, it you need to be a juggler to keep from losing control of whatever you’re washing.  How Jackie manages to cook in these conditions is beyond me.

The meal and general fatigue has me heading for my bunk to write in my journal and get a short nap.  It seems like you are always trying to get a bit more sleep.  Mike and I share a cabin, and he’s usually already sacked out.  Mike’s been great on this trip.  He’s easy-going, great fun to talk with, and has a drool sense of humor that always has me laughing. 

 

1500-1800

This is Mike’s watch.  Late afternoon finds me napping and, if nice weather, out on the deck mesmerized by the sea.  Sitting on the bow is especially good:  you are close to the headsails, the bow is slicing through the water, rising and falling with the waves.  The bow wake breaks in beautiful colors of blue, aqua, green, and white.  The ocean is always changing.  Very nice.

This is a good time for a shower.  SHIBUMI has wonderful creature comforts.  A water maker keeps us supplied with a seemingly endless supply of fresh water.  A daily shower is a beautiful thing!  There’s even a washer/dryer for clean clothes.  Passage-making on SHIBUMI is all incredibly civilized!

1800-2100

My evening watch usually includes reducing sail to more manageable sizes for the night.  We try to use a combination of sails (or motor-sailing) that allows the single person on watch to deal with all weather conditions.  This avoids waking the rest of the crew.  We had many rain squalls at night this trip, so this was especially important.

Our evening meals are smaller than lunch, but Jackie always produced tasty treats; pizza, incredible sandwiches, sausage and eggs, chowders, etc.  It was always fun when everyone was together, telling stories and sharing a good time.

Chris often was on the radio getting weather information in early evening.  Chris did a masterful job of course selection, avoiding some seriously unpleasant weather, while keeping us close to good wind. 

I particularly enjoyed talking with Jackie during this shift.  She’s a marvelously caring person, with great life wisdom.  She makes life on board a wonderfully caring place.

2100-2400

At the end of my shift, I usually head to one of the computers for a few minutes to read and write emails.  We’re able to receive and send email using our SSB radio.  Very cool.  It’s so nice to be able to keep in touch with my wife Joy.  This is a long trip and I miss her!

I’m soon off to bed, as I know my 0200 watch will be here before I know it…