Monday October 1, 2018 – Shannon, Ireland

The contrived combination of red wine and steak worked well enough to get me to sleep, but of course I woke early. 12:30am and I never got back to sleep. So will be a long day. I at least was able to finish up this round of budget updates and get it out the door. After the big meeting Tuesday I will need to start tailoring in much more detail for 2019 and 2020.

After dinner last night I came to the room and read a bit from Raban but then switched to a movie on Amazon. I sleep better at times with white noise and in particular a movie. On the plane over, I put my headphones in and an Amazon series that may or may not have been funny or sad; I watched the first 30 minutes or so and then drifted in and out of a restless sleep for the next 4 hours. Fidgeting in the tiny airline seat the whole time. Even in my youth, in high school years, I used to love to fall asleep on the couch with the TV on. While it was not encouraged at our house, beds were after all for sleeping and couches for sitting (except for dad’s frequent naps), the rule was not strictly enforced. By the time I got to high school, I think mom and dad had mostly lost the will and desire for active parenting and had adopted an attitude that if the police or fire department were not summoned then probably it was not worth the effort. So I often fell asleep on the couch while mom and dad were at Braden’s or Shupert’s or Rhoad’s or some other member of the Dirty Dozen. The result is that I now tend to sleep better with a screen on and some dialogue. I think it’s because when I try to sleep my mind is my own worst enemy and somehow the mind lays down when there is some bullshit show or another on.

Anyway, I went to sleep at 9:30pm and was back up at 12:30am. A terrible feeling being up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep, knowing that I need to be sharp and appear interested all day. But I will manage. Jet lag just comes with the territory.

Dinner was good. A guy sat next to me and ordered the fish and chips which also looked good. It reminded me of my favorite fish and chips story. It was when I was training for the ‘round the world’ sailing race on the big 72’ steel yachts with Global Challenge. This would have been 2002 I think. We had sailed out of Southampton on what was meant to be a 6 days and nights at sea training run that included going up and around the famous Fastnet Rock off the southern coast of Ireland. We got around the rock and returned to waters not far off the coast but the weather had turned really bad and one of the crew was hurt when he was thrown from the cockpit and banged in to one of the big winches. Part of our training was supposed to be that we got accustomed to the bad food and constant motion and lack of sleep of multiple nights at sea. But we had to put in at Weymouth to get this guy ashore to go get checked out. We were only tied at the pier for about an hour while we waited on the ambulance. But as these things go, the crew, without the Captain’s knowledge, self-organized a massive raid on a fish and chip shop just outside the gates of the marina. After 4 or 5 days in extremely bad weather, with more than half the crew unable to leave their bunks due to sea-sickness and the rest of us on watch for 18 hours or so each day, nothing tasted better than those greasy fish fillets and limp, grease-soaked chips. When they were brought aboard, of course we made sure to include a double-portion for the Captain, the grease had soaked every square inch of the newspaper it had come wrapped in. But we had eaten very few calories the past 4 days or so because the waves were just too big and relentless to manage much in the galley and those who were not full-on sick, did not have much appetite. But once we got into the shelter of the harbor, we quickly got our appetite back.

Those was among the toughest days of my life. I don’t know that I truly slept at all, but certainly not for more than a few minutes at a time for 4 days. With more than half the crew unable to get out of bed, me and the others who were still functioning were rotating watches and we were all on deck for 16-18 hours a day in the cold North Atlantic. We were on a constant heel of 45 degrees or so and the waves were so high that we were thrown about constantly. Sleep just was not possible. I could not even really get out of my wet clothes when I got off watch due to being tossed all over the cabin. I just crawled into my bunk time after time completely wet, with layers and layers of coats and undergarments, and lay there shivering and trying to sleep at least a little. The heel of the boat was such that I was either jammed completely into the steel side of the bed, or if we tacked, then hard up against the webbing that kept me from rolling off and onto the floor. When on watch, I was mostly on the bow as I was pretty fit then and that work requires more physicality than sailing acumen. We were constantly doing sail changes as conditions changed and the captain would try to eek a bit more movement out of our sail package. I was always clipped onto the boat, but on a typical 4-hour watch with a few sail changes I may be completely under water 5 or 6 times and constantly in spray and wash. It was tough duty but exhilarating too. Anyway, the fish and chips were amazing; we scarfed them down and were back out at sea straight away. We were a pretty somber crew heading back out that night I can tell you.

The picture below is not from our crew, but is from another crew training for the Global Challenge in the North Atlantic–it is exactly reminiscent of how we lived for 6 days. Oddly enough, while it’s obviously uncomfortable, it was not particularly scary. These were very sturdy boats. The dangers were primarily physical; breaking a bone from getting tossed about, hypothermia, dehydration if you were overly seasick, or, god-forbid, getting washed overboard. Okay, that bit is scary.

This is a link to a promotional video that first attracted me to sign up for the race.

The guy who sat next to me, who was having the fish and chips, turned out to be surprisingly interesting. I was giving off my best ‘leave me alone and don’t talk to me’ vibe when he sat next to me at the bar. I was reading on the iPad and clearly into my book. But he started talking anyway. He looked like the sort of Irishman that if I saw him coming down the street towards me on a dark night, I might just cross over. Bald, overweight, but powerfully built. He had a lazy eye and overall stupid look–like a guy that would be cast as the dim-witted enforcer in an Irish gang movie. When he spoke, I had a hard time understanding him as he had a horribly deep accent and he also stuttered. I thought at first he was speaking Gaelic. But he was persistent and I finally learned he was from the north of the country but had lived near Boston Mass for the past 5 years. He had a cousin who lived in Zanesville (where I was born). But what struck me was that even though I had a hard time fully understanding him, he really was clever and bright and it turned out to be a mildly interesting conversation. I don’t mean to pre-judge (but I think we all do to some degree) but I was very pleasantly surprised that this massive, gangsterish, Luca Brasi looking character in a too short t-shirt and droopy jeans turned out to be such a good conversationalist. In fairness, if a guy in a power suit had sat down I would have been just as uninterested in conversation as I simply normally want to be left alone.

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