Sunday, November 16, 2008


There’s nothing worse than laying in bed for two hours wanting to be anything but awake. This never happens when I’m at home. Only when I have to go on watch in three or four hours will I wake up in the middle of my off time and roll around endlessly searching for the right physical arrangement on my single sized mattress to return to the warm bliss of the horizontal time accelerator. Alas tonight it won’t work. I finally gave up and with an epithet of disgust, turned on the light and finished a book that’s taken way too long to complete.

Half an hour later I’m at it again, rolling around, wondering why boxers are so uncomfortable, ready to punch the wall because I know that if I don’t fall asleep now I’ll only get three hours of rest before standing on the bridge for eight and doing my overtime on top of that. It just seems ludicrous that my body would not be incapable of sleeping seven hours after a full day’s work. Then again, we have changed time zones five times in the last week, maybe that has something to do with it.

Regardless, after giving in a second time I’m back on my feet and heading down to the galley to see if there’s any ice cream left totally abandoning any hope of further sleep and any guilt I might associate with eating ice cream in the middle of the night. Fortunately for me there is a full tray of delicious pizza left out from dinner. Replete with artichoke hearts, quartered garlic cloves, onions, mushrooms and an unidentifiable meat product, I gladly partake in it. Then it’s to the reefer for Harris Teeters brand Bear Claw, equally satisfying to the restless mind. In this short period of self-indulgence I have an opportunity to take in my surroundings in the quiet of late evening. The lights are dimmed, the shades drawn and the deck under the table gently sways as the ship makes good speed across the Atlantic.

At moments like this one I often feel a sensation elicited by the dark night and cold water being just outside the hatch and over the rail. It is a feeling of fondness mixed with awe. I appreciate the ship because it is the only barrier between my meek human existence and the overpowering vastness of the deep ocean. I feel at awe because the ship is so well suited to take care of us, her crew. Her house is watertight, except a little leak over the Captain’s computer, her hull is sound and the engine runs day and night without question.

All this is possible because of the people who attend to her every request and need, and the owners who bankroll our efforts. Additionally our predecessors took good care of the now 15 year old girl and with due diligence we intend to do the same. As I look around I can honestly say I love the functionality of not just this ship but any I've come across. It's a wonder how they are designed to keep their crew dry and warm in the midst of a November gale, how simple it is to exist day to day in the confines of her hull with enough creature comforts to live and for the most part, work happily.

Of course there are times when not everything about the ship is great. Every ship is a machine and every machine can fail. No ship in the world is invincible to waves and wind and no matter how well designed all are defenseless when it comes to human error. Nonetheless I’ve been grateful for every ship I’ve set foot on, even the rust buckets (“Good experience” I always say) and that fondness only seems to build over time. Having a sauna onboard helps too.

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