How do you fill the eight hours between watches, besides sleeping and catching whichever meals are served in the mess during your off time? No matter what you choose, you’ll not be able to get too far away from where you started, but that’s just another way to say that there’s plenty to do on board practically within arm’s reach. After stopping by the computer lab to keep the current watch entertained, putting some time into your own work in the main lab, or resting up a bit, you can indulge in the ship’s library or gym, catch up with your fellow watchstanders over a game or snack, learn a bit about the routine and responsibilities of the professional sailors on duty, or just take in the view and air on deck.
The tropical Pacific sun is quite the attraction in December and January, and it’s easy to enjoy in any number of ways. In the absence of a wire under tension (a scenario which means no one is allowed on this portion of the deck without a hardhat and work vest), the aft deck provides the closest view of the ship’s wake and spray. Depending on the current roll, pitch, and heave, this spot can be anywhere from ten to just one or two feet above the water. Eleven knots looks and feels faster the closer you are to the surface, and from here it’s possible to hear the electric drives adjusting their output on the fly to keep the ship on a steady course.
Further up, the 02 and 03 decks wrap around the entire ship, providing a nice walking circuit as well as long unobstructed views of the sky and sea. At the bow, noise from the drives fades and all that can be heard is the sound of wind and water against the hull, loud in proportion to the agitation of the weather. On calm days, it is nearly perfectly still. In the center of the ship, the 03 deck is equipped with a couple of sturdy chairs which nearly never slide across the rough non-slip deck surface. Grab a book; have a chat; or just sit in the sun.
When you’ve had enough of loafing about, it’s no trouble to head down to the lower deck and hit the gym, which is distributed across two locations on the engineering level. In the aft, and coincidently therefore closer to the very warm engine room, a treadmill and elliptical constitute the cardio portion of the gym. Forward, inside the sloping port-side bow can be found the well-outfitted weight room.
After your workout, you can rely on the galley to have a good stock of everything from bagels, fruit, crackers, and cereal to a particularly resilient reserve of ice cream to fill the gaps between mealtimes. If you’re feeling like housekeeping, you can avail yourself of the full-service laundry (be sure to use the detergent provided, as it’s designed to cooperate with ship’s water-treatment system). If you’re feeling recreational, you can probably get a game of cards going (we find cribbage has wide adoption in this region, and the Michigan contingent is always up for supplementing the population of euchre players).
In the evenings, it’s not unheard of to find the main lab converted to an impromptu theater for a film brought by one of the science party or Sentry team, or from the shipboard network’s own expansive collection. If you’ve kept up with the longitude of the current course, you can be outside in time for sunset, which can be well worth seeing (and if you’re lost amidst time changes and course corrections, the bridge can give you sunset to the second in a pinch). Later, depending on cloud cover, the dark working deck can be an excellent place to take in the night sky.