Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Sounds of the Ship

Living on the ship, there are a number of sounds to adjust to. The bilge pump sucking dry like a child finishing a milkshake reminds us to turn it off. The radar unit beeps like a fire alarm when first turned on. The reverberations of the tugboats and freighters in the turning basin echo in the main salon. These are the easy sounds.

The other sounds we become almost hyper-vigilant about; mentally gearing ourselves up for the possibility of them. The sound of someone coming aboard in the night—an unwelcome yet common intrusion that usually results in Sam flying out of his bunk and yelling “Get the $#%^ off my boat!” When it happens, we all spend the next few days hearing the same sound and responding to it only to learn it was a container being dropped into position at the nearby port authority.

The ship’s wood rubbing a piling, instead of the squeaking rubber fenders. And, something many outdoor enthusiasts become hypersensitive to: rain. Inevitably it only begins to rain in the early hours of the morning. It takes great skill to differentiate the sound of the first drops on the deck from the waves hitting the ship’s hull, especially when asleep in a bunk. Once the sound is identified by a groggy crewmember, “Rain!” all hands leap from the berths, flying on deck to close the hatches. If this happened at 1 in the morning, it would be easy for the dripping crew to return to sleep, however, at 5:30; it is a wide awake and early start, time for nice warm, heavily caffeinated liquid ambrosia: coffee.

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