Sleep deprivation

Wednesday May 04
The pattern of seas calming during the night has been consistent, so I’ll place my bet that it will happen again. (I am making better bets than the weather man). At six am I awaken to a lonely cove with only one other yacht, my buddy-boat friends on Unleashed. I up-anchor with just enough light to see my way clear of the entrance.

For the second consecutive day there has been no visible sunrise — just low gray overcast. No sunset and no sunrise rituals.   It’s been over six months since I’ve seen a sunless sky (eat your heart out Seattle) and it gives me an eerie feeling that something is wrong on the planet. Perhaps a nuclear winter is upon us and I haven’t gotten the news.   I haven’t seen the news since Prince died of a drug overdose about a week ago.

It has been a glorious night of sorts — not the penultimate romantic sail in moonlight but glorious nonetheless. RD and I have motored through the night in light winds and one foot seas — the calmest we’ve encountered in a week, and we are making the best of it by motoring directly from Punta Baja to Ensenada, about 130 nautical miles (about 30 hours).

Sleep deprivation is a killer.  RD doesn’t seem to suffer from sleep deprivation, but I do.  Why humans are programmed to sleep the way we do is the unsolvable mystery. I must stay awake on my watch and I must get some sleep are the tensions I will feel all night. Sleep is natural; staying awake is an act of will. I have stayed awake sailing for over 50 hours each on two different occasions on this trip, so 30 should be a walk in the park.

I have become friends with my deprivation symptoms. Time moves neither slow nor fast; you might say it becomes timeless.  First you just want to go to sleep. Later when your sitting your head does the tip and jerk… a handy way to keep awake. Then you enter a catatonic state in which I’m not sure if you are more awake than asleep, or vice versa. The ability to think clearly gradually degrades. Navigation and math become major puzzles. I measure my ability to do simple math in my head. When I can’t do it I get up and walk around, or shout at myself to loose some cobwebs.   Further down the road the multitude of sailing sounds  become flashes of a human voice talking to you. And hallucinations are not unknown.

Of course through all this mental mix-up you MUST keep you and your crew safe. If you make a mistake, “what was I thinking?” won’t sufficeas an explanaation! It’s an unpleasant part of the human design that sailors and warriors have been facing for hundreds of years and automobile drivers for a hundred. And I faced last night. But I did have a choice to stop at Colonet and get a good night’s sleep. But that would get me to Ensenada a day later, and with the possibility that I would be pinned in there. The choice is as simple as “go when the going gets good” — and keep going until it’s not, or until you are a danger to yourself and ship.


It is morning and I am past my mental numbness. Coffee and a regular breakfast and excitement about an Ensenada arrival by noon coax me to awakeness to a new day.


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