Make the Most of Your Downtime During a Crossing

17 May 2011 By Rubi McGrory

Freelance Deckhand Al doesn’t waste a second of time during a crossing from Florida to the Med to the Red Sea. On watch, he paces through the bridge with a stack of index cards trying to learn basic Arabic. Off watch, he reads law texts and journals to prepare for upcoming semesters in law school.

“I didn’t come close to mastering the language,” explains Al. “But I was able to help the chef in the market and it made the miles go by a little faster.”

Learning a new language during the five- to fifteen-day passage to wherever your summer season begins is an ambitious, but not impossible endeavor. It could be the brush-up you need to prepare for the coast of Italy, France or Spain. Some programs require you to speak into a computer, so be aware that your crew mates may be less than happy to listen to you.

Mate Craig uses the transit time to study for license upgrades. “I know it sounds geeky,” he says, “but I read any manual I can get my hands on.” He points out that every bridge has a small library of navigation guides, which are a wealth of information. “At least once every trip I blow the dust off the sextant and find our position using the sun or stars,” he adds. “Sometimes, I even get it right.”

Another great use of time during a crossing: computer housekeeping. Stewardess Beckie is a self-proclaimed photo junkie. “[I have] tons pictures of everything from table settings to signs in local shops. I don’t have time to organize them as I download them. [But during a crossing] when I'm not on watch, I label all of the people and places.”

De-cluttering and reorganizing your computer is never a fun job, but if you tackle it an hour here and an hour there, by the time you reach port, your files will be neat and tidy. And you might be able to squeeze in a few games of solitaire.

While you have your computer out, and if you have Internet on board, a crossing is your time to play catch up. Bring yourself up to date with any bill paying, banking or other business that falls through the cracks during a busy season. Have a little more fun and catch up on correspondence with friends and family. “It’s so easy to lose contact with even my best friend or my mother while I am away," says Beckie. "I love the luxury of writing long, chatty emails to everyone. I need to remind them — and me — ‘Hey, I’m here, don’t forget about me!’”

Chief Stewardess Christina has a very different to-do list during offshore passages, “I need to chill out. After a crazy busy season, there is nothing boring about staring out into the sea for a few hours.” She whips out her Kindle and produces a list of books she has just downloaded. “I have a lot of reading to catch up on. When guests are on board, even if I have time to read, I’m so tired I’m lucky to stay awake through one sentence, let alone a paragraph.”

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