I was sitting peacefully on my couch this morning flanked by sleepy dogs and enjoying the musical stylings of Ben Webster as they sublimely graced the airwaves of my home. A perfect cup of coffee was within arm’s reach as I settled in to do my morning writing. I said a little prayer thanking every deity and angel I could think of for the blessing of this moment, this space and this peace. That’s when it happened….THE DREADED ALARM!! It was loud and it was shocking and quickly shook me out of my blissful haze. In that moment on my couch, I was viscerally teleported to any one of my 17 nights in the middle of the Pacific aboard Haunani. It was a surreal auditory memory that in all seriousness still had my heart beating out of my chest several minutes later. The alarm is called “crystals”, and as peaceful as that sounds, trust me, it is not! Crystals has become my official sailing through the night wake up alarm. I originally chose it for its shocking quality and surefire guarantee to roust me from a deep sleep (granted, it would probably not work for everyone but I am a very sensitive and light sleeper). On land I steer clear of the use of it, because the sound of it sends me immediately into high alert, and in my daily life, that is of course, totally unnecessary. High alert so that I can remember to give my dog his heart medications would surely end up giving ME the heart attack! Anyway, I have no idea how that particular alarm ended up as my daily dog med alarm today, but it did, and once I settled down from the shock of it, I started reminiscing about what my nights were like out there trying to sleep as we plummeted through the inky blackness.
My usual bedtime, or more accurately, the beginning of a series of naps, was usually around 8pm. One last check to make sure Haunani could hold her own, then I would set my alarm for an hour or a little more, and try to sleep until my alarm would wake me. My first thought when the dreaded crystals would mockingly commence its shrill tune was often, “where am I?”, then “ok OK OK ……..JEEEEEEZUS!!!!!” (sorry if this offends anyone, but I do say this a fair amount despite my mad love for the sage prophet). Anyway, you get the idea. Its wet, its rocky, I’m tired beyond any kind of tired I have ever experienced, its dark, its surreal, eyes don’t work right, displays are blurry, nothing is where I put it, my written log has fallen into a puddle of water (aka: my cabin sole), and that’s blurry too (“where are my EFFING glasses NOW”??). I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the idea. Waking up this way is jarring to say the least, but I must say that the heart pounding serves a purpose. It provides just enough juice to do the rounds….chart plotter, am I going the right way? Yes, thank GOD! Check. Any ships in view via AIS? No. Check. Wind: how much, from where, and does that work with how I left my sails? Yep. Check. Companionway horizon scan: any lights, or anything at ALL? No? Check. Sails: are they still trimmed well and doing their thing without under, or mostly in our case, over powering the boat? Yes. Check. Deck and rigging: is all well up there? Anything out of the ordinary? Nope. Phew! Check! Battery monitor. Are my batteries holding enough of a charge in the night? Thanks to my amazing hydro-generator and even though I lost a bank early on, yes! Check. Bilge. Is the disconcerting sloshing of water low enough not to slosh out or do I need to haul my ass on deck to manually pump it out? (Had lots of water coming in and the automatic pump went out early on). Nope, thank GOD! Check. Last but not least, the log. By the red glow of my headlamp I would diligently and exhaustedly scratch the following: lat/long, heading, speed, wind information (true wind speed and angle), barometer reading, and finally, my favorite box: miles to go. Unless something was amiss and needed tending, that was it, then, permission granted to (often literally) fall back into my bunk for another hour or so of precious sleep. Then, repeat......like 8 MORE TIMES!
I dreaded the sleep deprivation thing for months and months leading up to my trip. I had heard and read harrowing tales of everything from being rendered weak and useless to having hallucinations as a result. It terrified me because I am possessively attached to my eight hours! I often joke that if you want to get any secrets out of me, mess with my sleep. People close to me know that despite my gentle disposition, sleep deprivation can unearth a beast that is rivaled only by my L.O.P. (Loss Of Personality), a serious disorder (mostly affecting those around me) that comes from being hungry. Despite my trepidation about it, I must admit, that I was very pleasantly surprised by the ease with which I managed my sleeping schedule and the resulting exhaustion. (A caveat here: except for the last three nights, I was able to take my “naps” all night long every night, so I am well aware that I had that part easy!). As much as I did not like waking up all night, I got oddly used to the schedule, and learned to capitalize on those precious sips of sleep! That being said, I don’t think I need to put myself in that situation again anytime soon. I am cherishing my bed and the luxury of full night sleeps like never before. Now if I could just eradicate that pesky crystals from my phone!