I'm terrible at sleeping. Always have been. I know every little corner of the ceiling in the bedroom. It's not necessarily the quality of sleep that's bad, it's the practice of falling asleep. Don't I often wake up on the sofa in the afternoon, bewildered, disoriented, evidently after having fallen asleep there, though? Why yes, I can take a nap. I love taking a nap. But that is mostly due to the fact that I can't reach the end of the day with full attention capacity since I had had to drag myself out of the bed in the morning after having that state of unconscious computing of the day, reached at last in the first rays of sunlight through the shades, violently interrupted by my alarm. Therefore, that brief interval of chilling on the sofa with a book or some music rapidly becomes a desperate attempt of my body to catch up on dealing with that mad country life.
I find that I only drift away easily being physically exhausted or after a couple of drinks. Don't come harassing me with meditation. If I meditate before trying to sleep I just get really relaxed from that exercise and then lay awake for the rest of the night, steadily having my Zen state replaced by the frustration of having to listen to that tediously slow, predictable music arrangement played by the two church bell towers I can hear from my place.
Oh, my bunk in the fo'c'sle. Swooping down the hatch gracefully (only from the 100th attempt on, I should admit), dumping my clothes, leaving my gadgets in their usual spots, arranging the pillow to the headboard and plunging under the blanket. Opening Moby Dick – a book worse a monster than it's titular beast and certainly one of the greatest pieces of literature I ever read… and then often failing to finish half a chapter because I just… drop.
A ship is basically a high-tech cradle. In fact, the essence of nauticism is for restless human beings to have their well-deserved shut-eye. Think about it: does a ship (a proper ship) not look like an enormous cradle? Isn't she designed to rock and roll over various axes according to nature's mysterious soothing rhythm? And is she not always manned by folks that positively need to be desperate for some quality unconsciousness to engage in such erratic ventures? We would never have crossed the pond if vessels weren't places on which to sleep so damn well. Ishmael opens his epic explaining he unavoidably finds himself being drawn to the sea. He was just tired.
It's a remarkable thing, too, how I almost always tend to wake up perfectly in time on board. My eyes open without effort. I reach for my beloved trusted little Casio, light it up and learn that in a matter of minutes, someone from the other watch should come down with what may seem like a horrible declaration: that it's time to leave our comfy nests and face the ominous task of keeping everyone safe on what is not commonly considered a hazard-free means of transportation.
It's not horrible. It's fantastic. I'm ready. I slept like a log.