Morale aboard. 07/24/13 Kotzebue Sound
Morale is everything afloat.
There are unavoidable conditions at sea, which will wear a crew down. Kill Morale or upset the rhythm of a crew. These hazards can be mitigated but not eliminated.
Many times we confuse the 2 and our tunnel vision assigns avoidable hazards into the unavoidable column.
It doesn’t have to be a wicked storm, pounding rain or doldrums that set off Morale. It can be a combination of things
2 days out of Nome, we had made 240 Nautical Miles toward Point Barrow. We had been triple reefed with no jib or Mizzen for 24 hours and still making 6 plus knots along our intended path, when a High pressure system invaded us with contrary winds.
This was the first leg of the trip for the other 3 crew members and everyone was feeling queasy. Sleep had been patchy at best and the crew had not yet adapted to our watch schedule.
We had begun with 2 teams of 2. 6 on 6 off. But the rough weather and other conditions I described were wearing the crew down a bit. We had wide open water and over 100 miles of leeward sea room to spare. Though not along our intended course.
Everyone’s face was sullen. Although willing to proceed. The foggy shroud around us gave the aura of endlessness. We were feeling the grind..
But why? We still had 5 tenths of Ice past Point Barrow, only a few hundred miles away and only one semi acceptable anchorage along our path.
No one was enthused with adding the motors grind, to the one well in place and some of the crew had hardly eaten.
One of the crew mentioned heaving to for rest. Initially I bounced back with the “importance of progressing” as we sailed slowly on a close reach. Reefed heavily at the prospect of more gale force winds.
Then shortly thereafter I realized what was happening and made the call to Heave too.
We all slept a few hours, and I agonized at our slipping position. Again… why? Our intention was to sail slowly after all, as the ice was not ready to pass. But the gale forge on our stern had built a rhythm of speed in my mind that was not necessary to continue.
I laid down again and tossed about while the crew slumbered. I thought of many things. The slow dripping leak around the rudder post, which I could not fix properly at sea. The weather, the crew, the rigging, the radio. The long list of things that needed some tuning and attention.
Then I realized again what was happening. It was my morale that had slipped. I was worrying about to much. I was wearing out my mind and not enjoying the process.
My brain needed to sleep, but the bookshelf was full of only sailing and weather manuals. So I broke a rule I had set for myself. And watched the first movie of the voyage. The first mindless nonsense in a month and a half.
I passed out shortly after, and slept hard. Totally accepting our situation. Waking only to confirm our position for safety.
After some sleep we had a huge meal of spaghetti and slept some more.
The crew was eating and rested. By the next day, we had lost 24 miles to leeward and had in no way compromised safety.
Now rejuvenated, we fired up the engine, to charge, made some repairs in the galley, called in a weather report to plan our next move.
Back under way, the crew had adapted to the motion of the sea, and we had our rhythm back.
All math aside, we needed that. I needed that and we were all to happy for the trade off.
A happy cohesive crew will smile at a gale. An unhappy one will grumble at anything other than 70 degrees and 10 knots on the beam.
Morale is everything.