And I lay my head down to sleep

12 05 2014

Ah, to lay a weary head upon a pillow.

Eyes close and fade to the warm darkness, a gentle voyage to dreamland.

What a nice thought to look forward to at the end of hard days work aboard ship. A wonderful fantasy land – it had to be a fantasy land for I never found it.

When the ship was at sea there were a great many events that conspired against my peaceful rest, some fairly minor, others not quite so. Let me start this look of life at sea in the mess deck of HMCS Qu`appelle.  I was a naval signalman, as such I was assigned to 8 mess, along with 54 other members of the Combat department. That is correct, 54 of us, stacked 3 deep, in a space that had a floor space large enough to legally house about 20 pigs(4 legged bacon producing critters).  All 54 of us were in this space that had all of our racks, lockers and a luxurious space with a couch and TV (the settee).

Cleanlyness is next to Godlyness. It was important to have your daily shower(all 30 seconds of it), to wash and shave keep yourself as neat and presentable as you were able. Unfortunately, there are those amungst us who sweat a lot and it appears that most of them tend to join the Navy. Sweating is a good thing, a natural function of the body but that sweat dries and then can become a bit harsh on the nasal cavity. Halitosis, another naturally occurring body function, generally made a bit harsher by consumption of fermented beverages. The human body also tends to make a fair amount of methane gas in the process of keeping the body in motion and most of this methane is generally released from the lower end of the digestive track. Add all of these factors together and all I can really say is after a run ashore, the air down there could get a wee bit crunchy.

The next big roadblock to a decent night sleep was being on watch.  While at sea, there is always someone awake making sure the ship is doing what it is supposed to be. In order to make that happen, each day is divided into 7 watches

0001-0400  Mids    0400-0800 Morning   0800-1200 Forenoon

1200-1600 Afternoon   1600-1800 First Dogs   1800-2000 Last Dogs

2000-2400 First

Each department on the ship had a specific watch routine, depending on what was going on. For me, I stood 1 in 3 and was expected to work between 0800 -1600. For me, that meant that at most there was a 8 hour break for me to sleep. 8 hours sounds really good until you factor in that within that 8 hours, I have to wake, wash, shave, eat and get to my designated place to be. Between coming on watch and going off watch, that generally ate about 2 hours. 6 hours isn`t great but it is better than a kick in the head.

Now, for me, it took about 2 weeks to be able to fight off the gag reflex when I went down into the mess and to learn to ignore the pounding of the engines on the other side of the wall. After 2 weeks, I could sleep through anything except the Action Alarm. In the middle of the ocean, it is said that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, be that a man falling overboard, a chunk of the hull deciding that 20 layers of paint and duct tape were no longer sufficient to hold back the sea (it happen) or someone deciding to pick a fight. There is no calling 911 so that means we have to deal with the problem and than means practicing. We practiced, daily, and usually when I was just about to reach that happy sleep place.

 

BONG BONG BONG BONG “RESCUE STATIONS, RESCUE STATIONS, MAN OVERBOARD PORT SIDE” Every freaking night, rain, shine, fog, sleet, hail, or any combination of them. Fleet standards demanded that a man be back on board in 6 minutes.

There is just no ignoring the action alarm.

Oh well, there is always tomorrow night, maybe I will get to sleep tomorrow night

Maybe

Please

 

 

 

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