Back in Lake Huron/A Survival Guide to the North Atlantic

PORT HURON, MICHIGAN

I’ve returned to the ship after a couple of weeks off. Currently we’re spending the day in Port Huron on Lake Huron before continuing on to Detroit around midnight.

Here is another flashback from Bay City, Michigan a month back, together with a Very Frozen People’s Survival Guide for the North Atlantic. I will be back with more recent observations as they follow.

BAY CITY, MICHIGAN

It’s warm up in the 90s here and I’m dreaming of a cabin in the woods, where I can sit and stare at the trees and think about the breeze for a week straight without saying a word to a single other human being. Tall ship life is like that, it cycles, but this is a ship of extremes and so the cycles are extrem as well. Sometimes it is taxing.

Sailing Lake Huron on our way here, the first time we set sail during any sort of stronger winds since coming into Quebec a month ago, the spray again soaked the deck of the ship and us along with it. It woke you up, an excitement spread among us. We started reminiscing about the crossing, because it was just like it, only the water was warm and dried quickly in the sun. I’m becoming nostalgic about the crossing and it bothers me a bit. I find myself glorifying it. I saw photos of our soccer game in Qaqortoq and it made me miss that time. I thought about our Soviet-era apartment there, how we merged into a little flock in it, we cooked food and watched movies together. I wished for a second that we’d remained there, away from the public glorifying and idolizing, that we’d still be walking down to the store to buy yesterday’s half-prized pasteries, closed in our little wifi-free bubble. But of course it would’ve been different had we still all been in Qaqortoq, and of course I know that.

I stand the 12-4 watch, for the past three years I’ve ended up doing that watch on every ship I’ve been on and grown quite acustomed to it. The best part is of course the night watch, and now the skies are becoming brighter and you can see the stars again. Mars and Saturn line up in Scorpio, Jupiter is just below Leo. Like seeing old friends.

On the North Atlantic there were no clear nights, which was probably for the best, the nights were cold enough as it was with overcast skies. We were woken up 30 minutes before watch, the wake up call was always the same, “it’s cold outside”, which just became silly after a while. Of course it was cold. Being a fairly slow dresser and also having about twice as many layers as most others it was just enough time for me to get dressed and make it to muster in 25 minutes. I slept with my clothes as a pillow, sometimes wearing my socks in the sleeping bag in a vain attempt to dry them. The sleeves of your shirts would get wet, too, especially when you had hauled lines and the water ran down your arms, inside your clothes. I tried to fold them out of the pile of clothes and drape them over my face, blocking out the blue light from the USB-charging station and imagining the warmth from my breath would dry them a little.

Putting on your clothes before watch, after realizing they were still wet, you surveyed the weather outside and then made a dash for the box on deck which contained your Musto gear, hoping you were fast enough to get it on before you got soaked by the spray or the rain or both. You developed a very close relationship to your gear, out of pure neccecity, knowing exactly what to put on in which order according to the weather outside. The decks were awash from the spray all the time, so opening up the deck planks to get into your bag was something you tried to avoid if possible. While preparing for this trip I naively bought enough thin wool socks to last me a ten day passage, realizing the first night onboard that the prospect of changing any of your clothes ever was a very far-fetched one. Whatever you have on your body as you leave dock is most likely what you will have on your body when you arrive to the new dock, plus/minus some top layers. I guess in that aspect we were fairly historically accurate.

 

Here are the clothes I wore:

 

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  • LAYER 1

Houdini thin wool/silk shirt and pants
Woolpower thin wool socks

  • LAYER 2

Icebreaker medium thickness wool shirt and pants

Smartwool really thick socks

  • LAYER 3

Black Diamond fleece balaklava
Houdini fleece shorts
Knitted heavy wool socks

  • LAYER 4

Houdini fleece jacket with hood
Arc’teryx thick fleece pants
Rubber boots

  • LAYER 5

Random hat (optional)
Houdini second layer jacket, PrimaLoft insulation
Wool liner gloves

  • LAYER 6

Knitted wool sweater from Shetland
Arc’teryx ski gloves

  • LAYER 7

Knitted wool sweater from Ireland, probably contains the wool from one entire sheep
Arc’teryx Gore-Tex shell gloves

  • LAYER 8

Musto MPX gear (Gore-Tex), jacket + pants

The Vikings were accomplished navigators, artisans, traders and story tellers, but their greatest triumph was the ship they built.