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Walvis Ridge MV1203 Expedition

Daily Report 5 -- Friday, 16 March 2012 -- In Pursuit of Sleep


Everyone has particular requirements when it comes to getting a good night’s rest. Some might need complete silence and some like background sounds, like flowing water. I myself have a set of requirements that need to be met before any sleep can take place. I actually never knew about these requirements till I traveled to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The sway of the boat, the constant and intermittent noises that persist through the night and the sporadic room temperature fluctuations proved a difficult challenge to overcome. Through my pursuit of a good night’s rest I was finally able to sleep well, but not before I had learned a few tricks to make sleep come more easily. This is my story of the hardship and struggle I endured to find my perfect sleeping arrangement.

After boarding the ship the first thing to do was check out our living accommodations. We had  been told that everyone would have their own state room, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case for me. Two people would need to share a room and unfortunately I was one of those people. So I grabbed my roommate as we went in search of our accommodations for the next two months.

As we entered our room we gazed over the space we’d be sleeping in for two months. There were two bunk beds with a foldable upper bunk. All along the walls were dark yellow metal cabinets that looked more like gym lockers and toolbox storage that has been converted into living quarters. Carpet of a deep purple color was laid down too. What struck me as odd was a ventilation shaft wrapped in insulation that extended into our room. The vent made a lot of noise compared to the other state rooms too. Either way, I could deal with that; the ventilation noise would take some getting used to though. I was just a little let down after seeing the other nicer state rooms. I was determined to make the best of things though and this wasn’t the kind of thing to spoil the cruise for me. Then I lay down on my bed. Immediately I sank what felt like a foot into my mattress. It turned out that I had different springs on my bunk bed that were so flimsy that I could easily press down on them with little effort. I prefer to sleep on my stomach so having my back arch that much while I slept would not be possible. So I took off the mattress and put it on the floor. That should be enough support right? Nope. I still sank all the way down to the floor through my mattress.  Ok, so let’s try a different thinner mattress. Finally! This was the support I needed. I had my bedding all set up, now try and sleep.

The first night was fine. Not the best night but still good enough to be plenty awake the next day. The problems didn’t come till we moved out to sea. As we got farther away from land the waves got very rough, or at least what I thought was rough at the time. The first night out to sea was accompanied by cold sweats, extreme nausea, and trying to keep my dinner down. Thankfully my medicine kicked in after a while and I calmed down and got what sleep I could. This wasn’t the way I had hoped the first day would go, but I knew it would get easier as time went on.

After the first few days I felt much better. I was eating normally and was mostly off my medicine. Now I couldn’t blame my lack of sleep on sickness. The first force I encountered was the ocean swells. Depending on the way the waves hit the ship it could feel calm or the waves might roll us from side to side, making stability on my mattress very difficult. Some people say the rocking sends them right off to sleep; well that wasn’t the case for me.  If I had to be continuously countering the wave action or if I got tossed off my mattress then there would be little sleep to be had. I didn’t have a solution to this problem until I overheard the captain and the chief scientist talking about something called a ‘taco’ and how it helped against rolls. I didn’t really hear everything but from what I understood they propped up one side of their mattress in order to hold themselves against the wall. This way they wouldn’t move one way due to the wall and the other way would be difficult to roll up due to the incline. So that night I got some blankets and propped up one side of my mattress. However I didn’t realize that I would fall through the crack between the wall and my mattress. So, my solution to the problem was more blankets! I made a makeshift extension to my mattress. Basically I just stuffed some blankets into the crack I had fallen into.  This way I could be somewhat level while sleeping but still be wedged into the wall so I wouldn’t roll around too much. I also got yet a different mattress that was thicker but still somewhat firm. This one still offered support but didn’t sink as the other one did. I finally had a good sleeping arrangement but there were still difficulties to overcome.

The next problem preventing a good night’s sleep was the room temperature. I like to have at least one blanket over me when I sleep. However our state room was about 78ºF or hotter (26ºC). This temperature was not ideal for sleeping. I later learned that the ship’s cooling system is very finicky. Room temperature can change for no reason at all. I heard that some rooms were freezing. One person said their room was around 55ºF (13ºC), while ours was a balmy 80ºF (27ºC). It wasn’t as much of a problem as rolling, and nowhere near as much of a problem as the noise from the winch room though.

Of all the forces that prevented me from sleeping, the winch was the worst. Before we headed out to sea I was looking at the schematic for the ship and I noticed that my room was adjacent to the winch room. I was worried about the noise even before we started so I acquired some ear plugs. I did ask one of the crew about the noise that the winch made. He said it was like a hum so I thought it wouldn’t be too bad. Sadly I was mistaken. This was no hum. It was more of a loud, constant droning for anywhere between 6-8 hours at a time. I attempted to sleep with it for one night. Even with ear plugs the sound still cut through enough to prevent any sleep. I didn’t know what to do. There was no way I would get any sleep with this amount of noise. The only thing I could think of was sleeping in a different room. But it’s not like there are extra rooms to accommodate situations like this. So I asked one of my friends if I could sleep in his room. Being a kind and understanding person he said yes. I could finally escape the drone of the winch room, hurray!

I was able to set up my bedding arrangements in the corner of his room.  The room was kind of hot but I didn’t mind. As long as it was quiet I didn’t care. Eventually it did get cooler which was awesome. I never knew that silence while sleeping was so important to me, but then again, I had never had a winch opposite my bedroom before. I now know that I need silence, low amounts of rocking motion and cool temperatures. A good night of sleep didn’t come till maybe two weeks into the cruise. I still wake up sometimes during the night but I have everything I can ask for to get a decent night’s sleep.  It took a while but after a lot of trial and error and the generosity of a good friend (Thank You!) I finally have a nice place where sleep comes easily.

Trevor Smith