The last part of my mini-series on a day in the life of an ocean rower. Today – nights. Or more specifically, sleeping, or what passes for it on the ocean.

Back in 2000-2001 I lived for 18 months in New York’s Greenwich Village (West 11th and Bleecker, if you want to know), regularly commuting between there and London. Something about all the transatlantic travel disrupted my body clock, and I became quite the insomniac. Although more recently my ability to sleep has improved, the insomniac years have stood me in good stead for ocean rowing.

In New York, rather than toss and turn and fret about not sleeping, I would either go out to a local 24-hour diner and observe the exotic side of New York life (not an option here, more’s the pity!) or I would stay in bed and relish the feeling of resting, rather than focusing solely on sleep and my lack thereof.

I try to do the same on the ocean – to regard my time in the bunk as time of rest, rather than time of sleep. It’s good just to have the break from rowing, and to get the weight off my backside. Because sleeping here is not easy. No matter how snug my waterproof, fleece-lined sleeping bag, sleep on a constantly pitching boat is at best intermittent, and at worst non-existent.

When the waves are at their roughest, it is like trying to sleep in a fairground dodgem car – every few minutes another dodgem will slam into me with bone-jarring force, bouncing me off my bunk and into the air. And even on the calmest of nights it is noisy in the cabin, with the water sloshing around the rudder just inches away from my head.

I have noticed over the last few nights that I have started to develop immunity to the slamming waves. Even though I am a light sleeper, I have occasionally woken up during the night to find that although it is quite rough, I’ve been asleep for a couple of hours at a stretch.

Just another one of those things that I have adapted to. But already I’m looking forward to adapting back again, and to feel cool, crisp cotton sheets against my skin on a bed that doesn’t move.

Other stuff:

A huge thank you to Rich Crow and the guys at Spectra Watermakers, who really, really did their best to help me get the watermaker up and
running again. Unfortunately when I opened up the feed pump, it was pretty obvious that it had pumped its last. A crucial component , that cannot be replaced or improvised, had corroded away beyond repair. We have now done all that can be done for the patient. Resuscitation has failed, the last rites have been read, and the watermaker will now truly rest in peace.

In hindsight, I should have opened it up immediately after the swamping and flushed it out with fresh water and WD-40 to prevent corrosion. But not much point in dwelling on that now.

Reserve water supplies and hand-pumping, here I come.

[photo: the corpse in extreme close-up – that frayed end near the middle of the photo is supposed to be connected to a wire. No connection, no water.]

Thank you for all the suggestions about attaching the waterpump to rowing seat, oars, etc. Great in theory, not so easy in practice. Believe me, I think about little else while I am rowing, having rather a vested interest in this – plus I know my boat better than anybody else with the possible exception of Rich Crow.

The configuration of the hand pump and the configuration of my boat make it very hard to attach the hand pump firmly enough in order to exert the required amount of pressure from the seat, and the oars do not move in a sufficiently consistent plane (because of the rough water) to work the pump without breaking it. Plus I would have to disassemble the setup every time I stop for a break from rowing.

I will continue to ponder on it, and although I know you’re all dying to help, it would be really hard for you to hit on a solution without knowing either my boat or what tools I have on board.

I really do appreciate all your concern – it’s nice to know you care – but may I suggest that you devote your mental energies instead to thinking how you can economise on your own energy consumption and do your bit to help save the planet!

Many thanks to all who continue to send messages of support and encouragement.

Special hellos to Mariya (oh, roll on Hawaii!!) and Richard Shillito – yup, as they say, a bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office!

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