On-board Diary: A day in life

Author: Maureen McGregor
Date: May 24, 2008



We quickly fell back into the routine of the Ranger after a daylong respite in Gibraltar. While at sea, the ship requires 24-hours-a-day maintenance and if not for a strict schedule, it simply would not be able to operate.

For most of us, the day begins at 8 am when we shake off the last remnants of sleep and sit down to a simple breakfast of fruit or toast. We check the whiteboard to see who has been assigned additional responsibilities. One will act as “marmiton” or dishwasher and two more will be responsible for cleaning the heads. The only one immune to this less-than-glamorous chore is the cook, Patricia. I suppose it has something to do with not wanting the person who cooks your food to clean the bathroom? No complaints here.

During the day, one of the four crewmembers (Jesus, Nuño, Justino and Mario) will be on watch for a three hour shift from 8 am to 8 pm. Suzannah, Sylvia and I will drift above deck and below throughout the morning. Above deck, we search for wildlife and illegal fishing fleets. When we spot dolphins, shouts of “delfines!” will bring anyone within earshot running, sometimes too late to actually catch sight of them. Below deck, we will write, read up on campaign materials or go through email (when the Internet feels like cooperating).

Patricia will start cooking lunch at about 12:30 and we´ll sit down to eat at about 1:30 or 2. Lunch always consists of salad and bread, and usually a main dish such as soup, paella, hamburgers or pasta.

The afternoon is spent much the same way as the morning. In the weeks that follow, many afternoons will be spent doing research: scuba diving and exploring habitat with the remote operating vehicle (ROV). But for now, our top priority is simply getting the Ranger to Vigo on time to meet the rest of the crew.

At 8 pm, the darkness and danger of the night requires two-person shifts, forcing the four men to sleep on and off for three hour increments. This makes me feel an uneasy mix of gratitude and sympathy, but those of us who aren´t sailors don´t had the training of this experienced crew. Sometimes we´ll hang out in the cockpit after dark anyway, keeping company and watching for other ships on the horizon.

We´ll have supper at 9 or 10 which usually is a buffet of leftovers from the previous day or two. After that, some will watch a movie while others will read or chat. And then we adjurn to our respective bunks for what typically is a fitful night´s sleep, depending on the weather conditions, until we awake and repeat it all tomorrow.