Food, Warmth & Shelter in the Arctic
Food, Warmth & Shelter. These are the simple necessities that are not only a part of life, but super mandatory with boat life in the Arctic. The North Atlantic sub-polar gyre to be specific. One of my biggest surprises is how incredible the cooking has been on my trip so far. There is a “Mother” for lunch & dinner and each meal is better than the last. Even mine was a hit, Taco Tuesday. It’s amazing what can be whipped up in a small space leaning to the side with limited ingredients, a swinging stove, and no oven. Not to mention making food for 14 people daily is no easy task.
It’s an all day affair from pre-cleaning, prepping, cooking, and post-clean. The incoming Mother helps the outgoing Mother, but I couldn’t help but wonder what the Duggar family must feel like when you have 20 mouths to feed daily. Standing in the kitchen for hours has its pros and cons, but for someone who hardly ever steps foot in one, I was ready to step out. The warm, hot meals everyone has prepared for 14 people has kept the crew happy, and when followed by fresh warm baked bread, you can’t go wrong. Mr. Eco has found a new calling…garlic bread. Yes, we have a breadmaker. Home-baked bread or should I say boat-baked bread from a breadmaker is one of the more “luxury” items on board. A piece of chocolate at the end of a long day makes us all smile as well.
What doesn’t make me smile is the cold nights. Long gone are the warm nights where we see the moon set and the sun rise or vice-versa. That has been over-shadowed by dark choppy waters, cloud covered skies with no stars to be seen above, and fog, 9 days of it. The fog gives us zero visibility at times. It has become a daily occurrence that we have less than 1 mile of visibility in front of us, so someone has to keep their eye at all times on the AIS (Automatic Identification System) for boats and ships. Too bad it doesn’t detect icebergs. Apparently we are sailing through “Iceberg Alley”, a comforting thought. With the sound of the wind turbines above the helm and the slow speed at which we’re moving, it feels more like drifting through the swamp in a bayou than in the middle of the Atlantic. The cold is refreshing and wakes you up at first, but once awake, starts to cut through your layers. There are nights I am wearing 5 pairs of pants, 4-5 tops from a base layer to a fleece, a puffy, and a major waterproof coat, 2 pairs of socks, a hat and 2 hoods and 2 pairs of gloves and I am still chilled to the bone. The worst part is we aren’t even near Iceland yet. The temperature is still going to continue to drop. I am so thankful for my “Deadliest Catch” overalls. I got them from Helly Hansen , a company that specializes in sailing gear. I’ve never had to wear anything like what we were advised to bring. Once I had them I thought maybe it was overkill and they would be silly to bring. I’m so happy I did. I have been wearing them every night on deck. I even clean the head (toilet/bathroom) in them.
Protective-wear goes a long way 🙂 There’s even a waterproof pocket for my iPhone. No I don’t have a “sea” service plan, but it is my full-time camera and video documentation. My other electronics are bulky and I’m not able to keep them safely tucked on my person in between weather and work. I have to say being disconnected has been enlightening. While I miss being plugged in, there is a simplicity, a relaxed feeling of just being present in the moment with who you are with and what you are doing. I not only have no idea what friends I don’t speak to from Junior High are doing via Facebook anymore, I have no idea what’s happening in the world. I haven’t had a TV on in 14 days. This is the longest I have ever been “checked out.” The thought of going home to 6,000 emails…literally, is a bit overwhelming, but I can’t think about that. All I can think about is food, shelter & warmth.
When your 3-hour evening or morning (depending on how you look at it) watch is over, 9pm-12am, 12-3am, or 3-6am, you dream of your bed. The thought of snuggling up in your tiny bunk with your mummy-like sleeping bag and the only place for your leftover stuff that doesn’t have a home like gloves, sunglasses, socks, water bottle, headlight, sleep mask, phone charger etc., (I sleep in a plethora of paraphernalia.) is what keeps you going. I’ve learned to love my bed. The top of a 3- tier bunk in a room of 5, directly next (open) door are 2 more bunks. No such thing as privacy.
It’s kinda like being on a waterbed on crack, make that a water hammock. If you don’t fasten yourself in, you might just go flying. Your body moves and floats with the waves. The most comfortable way to sleep is on my back. It keeps me stable. With my sleep mask on and my pillow taco’d around my head to act as giant earplugs, I can now sleep like a baby. There is constant noise throughout from snoring to the engine, to people walking through, going through their stuff, sails flapping, singing, yes, singing. People are constantly busting out in song. All in all we’re a happy bunch. We’re out here in this untouched sub-polar gyre territory for the greater good. The plastic would be proud.