Lonely at the helm

Lonely at the helm

By Cameron Dueck

Being on watch while sailing a yacht at sea may sound romantic. But if you have to do it every night, it's not a lot of fun. Our shifts are three hours long, with a six-hour break in between.

The 3am-6am watch is the toughest, because it's dark and cold, and everyone else is in bed. I am the eyes and ears for the entire crew, making sure they are safe as they sleep.

At 2.40am, Hanns - the first mate - wakes me up. First, I put on my leather sea boots. Then I put on my headlamp. Next I stop in the galley where Hanns has put the kettle on.

It's just beginning to whistle as I grab it and make myself a mug of instant hot chocolate. Then I wear more layers of clothes to stay warm and put on my hat.

Finally, I put on my harness, which inflates automatically if I fall into the water.

I grab my cup of hot chocolate and put a few snacks in my pocket before climbing up onto deck.

The world is quiet, with the only sound being the wind and the water hissing by the hull.

Now I have three hours to kill.

By 5am, I'm starting to check the time every 10 minutes. My mug is empty, and I've eaten all my snacks.

At 5.30am, I make sure there are no ships around and quickly dash down below to wake up Tobias, the next night watchman. I put the kettle on for him so he can make a cup of hot tea, and hurry back to the helm. The sea is still quiet and empty except for our small boat.

At 5.55am, Tobias crawls into the cockpit and takes over the watch. I go below and fill out the logbook, which records all the details of our position, course and speed, and the weather conditions.

Then I take off the many layers of clothing and creep back into my bunk to sleep.

If you have any questions, e-mail them to yp@scmp.com with postcards in the subject field and we will forward them to Cameron. You can follow his voyage in his weekly log book in Young Post and on www.openPassageExpedition.com

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