Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Perchance to Sleep

Some unfortunate people think that they must have the latest and greatest of toys in order to be happy. Some others insist that having a bank roll that would choke an elephant is the key to happiness. Ask any sailor and you will be given one answer - a solid nights sleep.

A long time ago when I began my life at sea, sleep was a mystical beast. I knew what it was, I knew where it was to be found but I never really got my fill.

My first rack was aboard HMCS Quapple, a 1960 vintage destroyer escort - she was a wonderful ship.
As I was a combat operator, I was assigned to 8 mess - 56 men directly aft of the engine room. Now, you may think the person you sleep beside snores, they have nothing on 56 very tired and grumpy sailors. To get to my rack, I had to climb down the ladder to the mess deck, tread my way forward past stacks of racks and lockers and then to the forward end of the compartment. Once I made my way to where my rack was, I had to climb to the top rack of three and lay down my weary head. The steel wall inches away from my pillow was about 1/2 thick, on the other side were the steam driven turbines that drove the ship forward.
For two weeks I barely slept a wink and then I was given the gift of selective hearing. I no longer heard the engines, the steam, the engineers swearing at everything. Nothing, peace at last. I could sleep through it all.
And then the action alarm would go off.
Every freaking night
I am glad we did those drills, it meant we could retrieve someone in 6 minutes if he fell over the side. Not to bad. But damn it, let me sleep a bit please - I do have watch in 2 hours.
If it wasn't a Man over board (MOB) drill, it was a  fire exercise, or a flood repair, or a missle attack or a......
Now, this wasn't every night, it just seemed that way.

Being at sea is a 24/7 job. Sure, the normal work day was from 8 to 4 but that wasn't the end of it for me.
I was privalaged to stand 1 watch in 3. That means I got to stand at my duty post for 4 hour and then got 8 off. That meant the longest time I could possibly be asleep was 8 hours. Subtract from that, time for me to eat, shower, get to my post and relax a bit and my 8 hours shrank significantly. Then add the ACTION alarm at any time......Can you see a pattern here?

To this sailor and most others you will find, Sleep, give me a chance to rack out and I will be happy.
Throw in a pillow and blankie.... what more is there to have?

Be well

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