This story comes from Vanessa Rubin, a student at Brown University who took her Zeo to sea with her as part of a semester abroad. Turns out the night watch is brutal on your sleep.
For a month and a half I sailed in a big loop from Hawaii down to the equator and back on a 134 foot long Brigantine as part of a SEA semester. As a result, I was also cut off from most technology during this time. While I was content to be separated from phone calls and text messages, I did bring my Zeo.
At home, I knew how well I slept (I had ZQ’s consistently over a hundred) but I wondered how well I’d fare at sea.
All Hands on Deck
During the six weeks, I was both a student and a crew member while aboard the Robert C. Seamans (a.k.a. the Bobby C). I’d alternate between studying bioluminescence and throwing nets overboard to pick up plankton samples, and triming the sails, steering, and navigate by both the sun and the stars to get us to our final destination.
The only major problem with this was the ever-rotating sleep/work schedule. The Bobby C does not stop and anchor overnight.
She sails right on through, which means that a typical 48 hours looked like this:
- 11pm-3am: Awake and on deck.
- 3am-7am: Off watch
- 7 am-1pm: Off watch
- 1pm-7pm: Awake and in the laboratory.
- 7pm-11pm: Off watch
- 11pm-3am: Off watch
- 3am-7am: Awake and on deck.
- 7am-1pm: Off watch
- 1pm-7pm: Off watch
- 7pm-11pm: Awake and in the laboratory.
As you can guess, my sleep schedule was always fluctuating, and I never got my preferred nine hours of sleep. In fact, every evening, I was required to stand watch. It rotated between 7pm-11pm, 11pm-3am, and 3am-7am.
So, if I started out on dawn watch (3am-7am), the second night I would be on evening watch (7pm-11pm), and the third night I would be on midwatch (11pm-3am).
The Ups and Downs of Boat Life
I would also get woken up at odd hours and told that I had to be awake and functioning in twenty minutes. Sometimes I would get out of my cot and think I needed to be awake, only to realize that no one had even woken me up.
It also didn’t help that my bunk was small and the temperature during the day sometime neared 100 deg. F, so it was difficult to sleep comfortably.
The record below is a good example of a night on the boat under such a schedule; I slept just under 6 hours, from 7:40pm to 2:30am.
Not surprisingly I also seemed to sleep a lot; every time I got off watch I went to bed. I also napped during the day when I could for an hour or two to help make up for a fragmented night.
All that said, it was always reassuring to look at my Zeo and see that I was sleeping. Knowing that my sleep was being monitored also made me feel more in control, even though I couldn’t sleep a full night every night. In the end, it made it easier to concentrate on more important things, like locating the Minke whales that someone had spotted off of the port side.