I’m so tired I cannot keep my eyes open. My head hurts and I can tell my brain is not functioning at full power as I try to process the steps I must take to avert a potential collision with something out there in the dark. When my shift is over I roll into bed, my aching body is awakened way too soon for another shift. Another round of pushing through the hard work. Stay strong, stay awake, the baby, er, the morning is almost here. I can’t do it. I’m never having another baby EVER.
I value sleep. I need 8 hours to feel completely rested and I’m crabby if I’m woken before my 8 hours have been fulfilled. So the idea of a night watch in order to sail through the night does not appeal to me. I tried to convince my crew that I would be a devoted galley slave and handle all things related to the kitchen in exchange for a normal night’s sleep. Okay I’ll clean the toilets too. And I promise to make a complete breakfast for the crew first thing in the morning. But no, we are only a crew of 3 or 4 people and everyone needs to take a watch to maximize sleep…that is, periods of about 3 hours at a time. That is not sleep…that’s a nap.
On this night, I’m on the second night shift. I go to bed after the galley is cleaned up from dinner. I lay out my life jacket and headlamp for the imminent watch and then brush my teeth and hit the sack. Normally, I read in bed before my 8 hours of bliss begins, but tonight I know the alarm will ring shortly so I maximize every second by forcing sleep. It’s hot and I’m still adjusting to the creaks and moans of the boat so sleep doesn’t come easily. I eventually must have dozed off because I’m awakened suddenly by a loud broadcast over the radio. Crabbiness initiates as my brief sleep is interrupted before the alarm rings. I’m awakened for my shift at 1:30am. I brush my teeth pretending that is the beginning of my day, put on my life jacket, and stumble begrudgingly to the helm.
I take in the night. A half moon lights the sky and the stars are bright. The engines provide a constant purr while waves slosh and bang against the boat. It is still warm and humid so the night breeze feels good on my face. The glow of the radar and instrument panel reminds me why I’m here–to avoid danger, particularly a collision course with a freighter. And, while I’m tired and wishing for more sleep, I’m enjoying the calm of the night and being outdoors–my favorite place to be. Crabbiness subsides. And then just before 5am, the day begins to break and the sun crowns and the birth of another glorious sunrise is handed to me. Okay, I’ll do it one more time.
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