SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
July 28, 2017
Lessons from Night Watch
2° 40.415’ S x 174° 02.498’ W
Ship’s Heading & Speed
333° at 5 knots
Sailing to Winslow Reef
Squalls on and off all night, but finally clear skies
After a particularly damp and dreary night watch, I thought I’d spend a few minutes sharing my newly acquired nuggets of wisdom on…
Life Lessons Learned on Night Watch: Tips and Tricks for Surviving 7pm to 1am
- Memorize the lines before dark – Knowing which ropes to haul or ease is imperative for smooth sailing. If you don’t know which line is which when you can see them, imagine how much harder it is when you can’t. Memorize your lines before the sun goes down.
- Reapply deodorant – Don’t let the darkness fool you: things like setting sails and hourly engine checks will have you sweating just as profusely as you would at high noon. Do your shipmates a favor and be sure to reapply deodorant before watch.
- Read night orders twice – Night orders are the foundation for each night watch. Subtle changes in plans, scheduling, times, or directives can all be found in this special composition book. You may not get everything the first time: read everything twice.
- Have a red head lamp – Being able to see the deck and lines in the dark is key. Observe any science labbie stumbling blindly from their brightly lit cave, and you’ll immediately see how precious your night vision is. Protect it by using only red lights.
- Drink water – Without the fierce equatorial sun beating down on you, night watch is much cooler. Despite this respite from the heat, you have to keep drinking water; the wind will whisk your body’s water away, and you can quickly become dehydrated.
- Use the stars at the helm – If you’re like me, you can be steering only slightly off course, look away for a single precious moment, and then find yourself (and therefore, the entire SSV Robert C. Seamans) wildly off course. Do not fret; just get back to the ordered course, then utilize the stars and the beams to stay there.
- Feeling nauseous? Avoid lookout – If you are feeling a little green around the gills, do not volunteer for lookout. For the same reasons a nauseous person should avoid a roller coaster, the bowsprit is not the place for you. The front of the boat feels the most intense bobbing up and down, which is not good for an upset stomach.
- Don’t miss snack – Six hours may not seem long, but when you are constantly running around and on your feet, sustenance is needed. Your fellow shipmates get to be the Assistant Steward that chooses midnight snack, so catch two fish with one hook: stay fueled for a long watch while bonding with your mates by trying their favorite foods.
- Bioluminescence – With a complete lack of light pollution, the nights here are dark. Very dark. This allows you to see things you may have never experienced before, such as the massive clouds of bioluminescence from glowing plankton. My personal favorite places to witness this phenomenon are at the very front of the ship, the very back of the ship, and in the night Neuston net tow.
- Beware of night showers – If one of your shipmates has done you the favor of utilizing the on-deck shower, beware. The soap, shampoo, or conditioner can sit on the deck creating a slick patch of wood as silent and deadly as black ice. Take it from me: it’s just as embarrassing to wipe out during the night as it is during the day.
- Sing on the bowsprit – This may seem silly, but ask anyone on board. It doesn’t matter if you are a classically trained opera vocalist or if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket; there is something about being perched on the bowsprit that leads itself to singing. Just try it.
- Appreciate the Milky Way and the Moon – You can’t imagine the stars. Nothing is like this. Nothing beats this. Make sure you take the time to look up and drink it in.
And last and MOST important:
- Standing watch, not sitting watch – DO. NOT. SIT.