Life Aboard

The Telltale: The Do’s and Don’ts of Waking Up Your Shipmates

Welcome back to The Telltale!

We’re sharing stories directly from the students aboard our sailing vessels, S/Y Argo & S/Y Ocean Star, to give you a better idea of what life is REALLY like during a program with Sea|mester. This week’s entry comes to us from Argonaut, Elise Huebner, as she reflects on how to appropriately wake your shipmates and how to avoid getting buckets of saltwater dumped on your head. Enjoy!

Being on night watch while sailing is probably one of the most unique and peaceful things that the crew of Argo will experience in our lives. Although we may see night watches as a chore sometimes (being woken up at 4:00 am is not always ideal) they have so much to offer. On a clear night, the stars are indescribable – and a full moon can illuminate the ocean as if it were daytime. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the bioluminescent creatures display an unreal light show underwater. Night watches give everyone on board a chance to have some crazy, outlandish, and sometimes very deep conversations with those on their watch team. The art of conversation is an important skill to polish up on.

However, when the last twenty minutes of watch rolls around, another important skill comes into play – the art of wakeups. It is the responsibility of the previous watch group to make sure everyone scheduled to be on watch next has been awoken. What seems like a simple task actually requires a good amount of skill and tact, so here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider when doing so:

1 – Don’t: Wake up the whole boat.

This seems like a simple rule, but the execution is easier said than done. When the boat is cruising along, the heavy water-tight doors easily become crazy, swinging hazards that are capable of smashing into walls, or if you’re especially lucky, your toes and extremities. If the entire cabin isn’t awoken up by the loud bang of a slamming hatch, then the slew of colorful language coming out of your mouth will surely do the trick.

PFD’s – or personal flotation devices – that are worn topside also serve as the perfect noise maker. Although they are ideal for saving your life in a sticky situation, PFD’s are equipped with noisy metal clips and conveniently placed straps that catch everything in the boat (see the aforementioned water-tight doors).

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2 – Don’t: Scare the living daylights out of the person you are waking up.

Chances are good that the person you’re waking up is deep in their sleep cycle and pretty out-of-it when you enter their bunk. Keeping the first rule in mind, you may be tempted to put your face six inches away from theirs and scream their name. RESIST THIS URGE. This is a horrifying way to wake up. Be as calm and as quiet as possible and don’t poke their ribs while you’re at it – rib poking is extremely irritating and one of the worst ways to be awoken.

3 – Do: laugh at them in their delirious half-awake state.

Many of my shipmates, myself included, are heavy sleepers. It may seem that you would have lots of free time while underway, but it’s simply not the case. As such, sleep is often welcomed and deep. Waking from a deep slumber typically results in a lot of confused looks and confused rifling through the bunks for water bottles, jackets, or any number of other items needed during Watch.

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4 – Do: follow the golden rule – “Do unto others are you would have them do unto you.”

Yes, it is extremely tempting to play pranks on someone while they’re waking up, but retribution is swift in this instance and things can escalate quickly. The only time a cruel wake up is acceptable is if you fall asleep during your Watch shift. If this happens, expect a bucket of salt water on your head. The art of waking up is a new skill which we are all learning to master and with each new watch group assignment comes a new round of hilarious half-sleep quirks. As for me, I’ll be snoozing away until tonight at 4:00 am when someone forgets to catch the door to our cabin.