0.156 Years Before The Mast

As someone who has spent more than 99% of his life inside structures that do not sway back and forth rhythmically, where I was able to go outside and walk 100 meters in more than one direction and chances were I would be able to see at least one unfamiliar face daily, being at sea for 8 weeks has been an interesting experience. For example:

  • Even though most of the living and working spaces on the JOIDES Resolution are found on five decks that take up less than half the length of a ship that is 21 meters (69 feet) wide and 143 meters (469 feet) long, it is somehow possible to go a couple weeks without seeing people who you know must be onboard somewhere because you saw them at least once after the ship left shore.
  • You might think that being out at sea looking on the vastness of the ocean without any land in sight would make you feel small, but since the curvature of the earth only allows you to see a fairly short distance in any direction and all you see is water, it actually makes you feel like you are the biggest thing on the planet and possibly the only thing on the planet. Then you go back inside the boat, look at where you are on a map, and remember that the Pacific Ocean is a little larger than it looked outside.
  • Because there is only so much variety a boat can offer, after awhile you start craving novelty (well, I am anyways). So when I saw a plane last week for the first time on the expedition, it was the most excited I have been to see a plane since I was 8 years old. Then when I shared with everyone at lunchtime that I saw a plane, they were also excited because they were able to live vicariously through me because I had seen a plane.
  • I think the key to walking on a rocking boat is to keep your arms and legs loose-limbed and relaxed while walking. This does not make you less likely to fall over; you are just less likely to hurt yourself when you are inevitably thrown into a wall.
  • At the same time, keeping my torso upright regularly on a rocking boat while both standing and sitting is giving my abs a daily 16-hour workout and also making me very aware of muscles in my hips I previously did not know existed.
  • Being surprised by a wave is particularly fun while walking upstairs, because if you happen to have a foot in the air at that moment, you may suddenly be doing a dance routine from a Broadway musical.
  • Isolating 120 people on a boat for 8 weeks straight sounds like the premise to a reality TV show (I would say a “bad” reality TV show, but that might be redundant). Unlike reality TV, everyone on this boat continues to be incredibly nice to each other even after six weeks. In fact, my only conflict on the boat was with a soft-serve ice cream machine that one day, instead of pouring ice cream in the cone I was holding underneath it, decided to spray ice cream-saturated water all over the front of my shorts, which I could not replace with shorts that were not soaked with water, because my roommate on the opposite shift was sleeping in our room. So if you ever see this self serve soft ice cream machine in your travels, you have my permission to taunt it:

 

PS. Since the best title for this blog post I could come up with was an obscure allusion to a 19th century book, this is what I am referring to.

 

Comments

Preparing for Life at sea

We will seek out the ice cream machine and taunt it in your honor, Kevin.
We were wondering though, how you all prepare for the physical demands of this long voyage at sea. Do you do balance / flexibility exercises? Is there some kind of equivalent to astronaut training for you and the crew? Or do you just need great sea legs and coordination so you can break into that broadway inspired step whenever necessary?

Best

Julie and Luke

Hi Julie and Luke, So the

Hi Julie and Luke,
So the only pre-boarding preparation for being in constant motion that we are encouraged to do is that anyone who has never been at sea before or who knows themselves to be prone to seasickness, is encouraged to start taking seasickness pills before they board ship (though that starts the day of boarding, not weeks in advance) and then continue taking them at least through most of the first week. It takes everyone a fairly short to acclimate to the constant movement, which is actually how the occasional dance routines and wall clutchings occur. You get so used to the wave motion sticking to a certain rhythm and direction, that the occasional, nonconformist waves take you by surprise.
Thanks for asking!

Great blog! -- keep 'em

Great blog! -- keep 'em coming!