I finally climbed into my bunk this morning at 5 AM, after 20 hours without sleep. There was a break in the RAFOS float deployments—a chance to get a little rest. I dozed off right away, inspite of being rather jazzed up by all the stress of choosing the right float release positions. But just three short hours later, I was awakened by a familiar but unwelcome sound—the needle gun. This is a tool used by the crew to chip off rust in preparation for re-painting. Whoever was doing the rust-busting was doing it several decks above, but the high-pitched, Jack-hammer-like sounds reverberated down to my cabin.
Salt spray wreaks havoc on steel, so maintaining a ship at sea is a non-stop necessity. It just happens that it was my turn to have my sleep interrupted–just bad luck that it happened at a time on the cruise when I most needed to sleep. My solution? I took my noise-cancelling ear buds that I use to listen to books on my MP3 player (a Victor Reader Stream) and stuffed one as hard as I could into one ear and pressed my other eaar into the pillow. It more or less worked, although when my alarm went off at noon, I had a bad headache. I’m not sure if it was caused by the background noise or the tension of the previous day. Nothing a little Advil couldn’t take care of though.
Anyone who has been to sea is familiar with the needle gun, but for those who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing what it sounds like in a 10 foot by 10 foot cabin with steel walls, I’ve included two recordings below. These don’t do justice to the volume—crank up your computer speakers by a factor of five and you’ll get the idea!