The weak Link

We have reached the next level of game play here on Galapagos. This is the level where all the sunny skies and lovely sailing are behind you and what’s left is all of the endurance without the fun (except we did have dolphins this morning). When we beat this level we will get sunny skies again. But for now suddenly I remember why people live in houses on land, houses that don’t ordinarily roll wildly underneath you all day and all blessed night; houses that don’t suddenly throw you against the wall as you are innocently walking down the hall; houses that don’t seem like they are out to get you.

When we are in challenging conditions like we have been the last two days, energy levels get micromanaged. Everything becomes an energy drain. Cooking? Too much energy and possibly too dangerous. Give me the protein bar and move slowly away. Going to the bathroom? Make sure it’s worth the effort. Make it count. Brushing teeth, combing hair, putting on fresh clothes- these things do not happen. It’s not that they are not important. It’s that I begin to be too tired to care. Because the other thing that doesn’t happen is good sleep.

In terms of mental health, good sleep has been my soap box for decades. Without it mood declines rapidly. Irritability increases, carb cravings begin, anxiety level goes up, the thoughts turn to darker things. The logical brain takes a time out. Sound sleep is a basic tenant of good mental hygiene.

Watch schedules are really the weak link with only two of us aboard. I do not function without decent sleep for very long. Mike does better, but for how long? People need deep restoring rest in order to make good decisions. During the first week of the passage we had benign weather conditions with lovely easy sailing. We had several days where we did nothing to the sails. The wind was steady from the right direction and the boat practically sailed itself.

Because it didn’t take much energy to keep the boat moving comfortably, sleep was not only less critical, it was easier to come by. Frequent cockpit naps helped fill in the gaps left by not getting at least 7 straight hours of shut eye at night. It wasn’t perfect but it would do. But as this weather system passes over us bringing squalls with variable winds and bigger seas it’s a whole different world out here. The rig and course require constant attention and tweaking.

Mike is experimenting with sleeping in the cockpit, a plan that gives me doubts that he is really sleeping deeply but considering he doesn’t sleep much below either, then what difference does it make? When he is below his little spidey senses about what’s going on with the boat don’t allow him to really let go and rest. I guess if he starts seeing things that I can’t see, especially if he also talks to them, then we will have a different conversation.

My suggestion of heaving to, where you back wind the sails and allow the boat to drift slowly, thereby allowing the crew to rest, has not been met with enthusiasm. It would involve removing our inner forestay so that the sail would not rub against it. While it’s not terribly hard to remove that, it’s made to be removed not permanently mounted, it’s not something you want to be doing on the fore deck in heavy weather. We like having it attached to the fore deck as it gives us an extra feeling of safety in terms of the rig, an extra piece of rigging supporting the mast.

So last night we compromised by putting away the headsail and slowing the boat way down. It wasn’t a perfect solution as we were still making way and occasionally we would be smacked around by a big wave. But it was better than nothing and I slept soundly.

Today is a new day and hopefully there will be pasta for dinner.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

7 thoughts on “The weak Link

  1. Oh, I hope this weather system passes quickly and you are back to sunny skies, smooth sailing, and plentiful and restful sleeps!

  2. We have that same quandary with the stays’l stay. Leave it up, because it adds that layer of redundancy to the rig, or stow it so that heaving to or even tacking (not that you tack much on a passage) is simpler?
    But in our case the larger issue is crew fatigue. We have no self-steering on Sionna, so we’re limited to basically single-overnight passages. That’s why we’re not crossing any big bodies of water like you guys! Three hours of hand-steering is pretty much all a human can stand before they go stark-raving mad. And get really tired.
    Interesting that for you guys too, Michael has greater stamina with interrupted sleep than you? It’s the same for us. Nicki can go only 2-3 hours at a stretch on the helm, and after 24 hours of 3 on/3 off, she’s pretty much toast. I can go 4-5 hours on with no problem, and seem to adjust better to the interrupted sleep routine, too. Huh.
    Hang in there, it’s bound to get better! And then worse again. And then better! It’s all cruising! xo

    • No self steering? Whoa. I hope you add something before you head out again. That is definitely a fatigue recipe. We find that one or two nights of passage is just the worst. Just enough time to get super tired but not enough time to get into a groove. I’m sure I’ll write more about that issue, but our solution is bound to bring the worst of the armchair sailors out screaming.

  3. mmmmmm pasta. I think the sleeping in the cockpit might be better for him…he is up there where the action in and in his mind, will “know” of an issue easier than if below – allowing him to sleep better. The good news is you should be about halfway there by now? YAYAY

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