Location: 100 nm east of Townsville
If your children tell you they never think about time out here, they’re lying (I use the word children’ since I assume that 95% of the readers right now are parents of the students on board – the remaining 5% are probably the parents of the staff, hi Mom). They think about it all the time, right down to the second. We live a pretty simple life when on passage. Eat, sleep, don’t sink the boat. But those things all happen with militaristic punctuality. We change watches every 3 hours, on the hour. Show up for watch at 3:02 pm, and you’re late. Dinner is scheduled for 6 pm every day.
How many dinners have we missed due to wind, rain, or a 25-degree tilt in the boat? Zero. If there is a community out there that analyzes the ticking of a clock with more scrutiny than we do, I cannot think of it (maybe the people in charge of timing the ball drop on New Year’s, if that job exists, which I like to think it does). Now that’s not to say that there isn’t a sense of timelessness’ on passage. Days weave together seamlessly and it’s hard to tell where one day begins and another ends. This is because, in normal life, we define days by our sleep. At night, when the land is dark and the day is over, we go to bed, and when the sun rises and a new day begins, we awake. That doesn’t work out here. Last night I went to bed when it was dark (9 pm), woke up when it was dark (3 am), went back to bed when it was dark (6 am), and then finally woke up when it was light (7:30 am) – I might add that as I write this blog (8:15 am) I’m contemplating another rest in my bunk before my watch begins at noon. So out here, we don’t abide by the diurnal sleep schedule most humans are used to. Instead, we subscribe to an extended napping program. And if a napper uses the sleeping and waking’ method to measure time, then they’ll tell you two days have passed in less than 12 hours. Ask any shipmate on board what day of the week it is, and none will give you an immediate and confident answer. But ask them what time it is, and the response is hardwired into their existence. In fact, there is one student on our watch team (Tyler James Hartley-Shepherd) who can regularly guess the time within 5 minutes without consulting his watch. This is the irony of time for the crew of Argo. I have known no other place outside of sailing the tropical Pacific where time has taken on such a bipolar existence. And like most things out here, uniqueness is most welcome.