Thu Nov 15 22:35:02 EST 2012

Port Davey, November 2012

I've just come back from my final trip to Port Davey. On this trip, we were lighter on crew than usual, which meant the run into Port Davey and the run back around the South Coast were done in two watches: four hours on, four hours off. That was how it was done in the old days, but modern regulations mean it's no longer allowed for extended periods of time.

Once we were at anchor inside Port Davey, we were able to split up the watches and everyone was able to get a sensible amount of sleep. In fact, they were some of the most restful and productive nights I've had in a long time. The night watch was two hours of peace and quiet, far away from anyone else with no online distractions. It was easy to sit and read, write or code and just get up to do the scheduled checks. Not only that, but the scenery is much better out there than in the middle of town:

Sunrise, Celery Top Islands

After reading Rachel Aaron's article on going from 2K to 10K words per day, it seems that during these early morning sessions, I've hit all three of her methods, quite by accident. After a couple of evenings of coding, I started doing the next night's planning in-head during the daytime shifts, which meant I knew exactly what I was doing when I came back to emacs. The time I had was much more usable: there was nobody else awake to interrupt me, no TV going and no internet to distract myself. Finally, I was excited about the code I was adding. Now that I'm back in port, I'm not sure how I can get such good working time again. There's too much going on to make daytime sleep an option.

Of course, we don't just sit at anchor for the entire trip. The passengers had their bush-walks, sea kayaking, boat trips up the Davey River and that sort of thing. Every time we moved the ship, the second mate put me in a power boat and had me conduct maneuvering drills. It was pretty frustrating work at first, but I had my camera to take shots of the whole ship:

Windeward Bound, Moving Between Anchorages

Eventually it was time to go, and we set sail for Hobart, and I mean that literally. We had a favourable (if light) wind and managed to get up almost all of the canvas:

Set Sail

The wind eventually died and we were in no particular rush, so we spent a couple of hours idling in the channel. With the ship not making way, the helmsman doesn't have a lot to do:

Tired at the Helm

Since nobody was used to it, the four-on, four-off schedule was actually quite challenging for the crew. It's funny to think that a few years ago, there was a meme going around the internet (an actual meme, not an image with some text on it) that claimed that short naps, when taken frequently, would provide an effective rest and allow people to have more time awake. The concept was called polyphasic sleep, and seems to have been popularised mostly by this Kuro5hin page, this Everything2 node and Steve Pavlina. Hardly anyone else claimed success on these schemes, and tonight's googling shows mostly pages from the early-mid 2000s.

It should've been obvious, but if shift workers can barely function with four hours of sleep for every four hours awake, how could anyone think that twenty minutes every four hours would work? I suppose everyone was too excited about the prospect of so much free time to stop and think "will this actually work?". I know I was.


Posted by Jack Kelly | Permanent link | File under: windeward_bound