Learning to Play Boat

October 28, 2022

Matt Bihrle, Assistant Scientist

B Watch (Diego, Brighton, Bird, Aster, Nora, Micha, Maggie, Rikki, Paloma, Krista, and Matt) dressed up after our "black tie" dinner anchored off Nuku Hiva.
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B Watch (Diego, Brighton, Bird, Aster, Nora, Micha, Maggie, Rikki, Paloma, Krista, and Matt) dressed up after our "black tie" dinner anchored off Nuku Hiva.

Ship's Log

Noon Position
11 59.8' S x 143 56.5' W

Ship Heading

Ship Speed
7.5 kts

Taffrail Log
3818 nm

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Winds easterly, force 3. Sailing on a port tack under a shallow reefed main, the mainstays'l, forestays'l, and tops'l

Description of location
156 nm from Rangiroa!

Souls on Board

All blogs from S-305

To be completely frank, we get a little stir crazy at sea and I love it.

Just as sailors of old came up with shanties and scrimshaw, the crew of the Seamans has come up with our own "games" to keep us occupied on our long ocean passage. Some are organized and have a purpose, like the pin rail chase or the science report song, others are odd and don't have much purpose other than passing time. Either way, the games we play to keep ourselves occupied are my favorite form of entertainment. Through an informal dinner poll, some of the crew's favorites include:

Main Salon Wordle: using lookout time to come up with the best wordle words to stump the crew at the next meal. -Orly

What's On the Hutch? - Wake up after a nap tired and hungry and try to find a delicious leftover from the morning's snack-Diego

Planks- See how few deck planks you can have between your feet before a wave knocks you off balance. Best played on a rolly day. -Jordan

Bunk Twister- Find the best way to wedge your body in your bunk to stop from sliding side to side. -Paloma

Poop Timer - This game is played while turning off our sanitation device before science deployments. Pump down the black water tank afterwards and guess how long it will take to empty. -Parker

Bunk Toss-Throwing fallen items from the lower bunk back into their rightful spot in the upper bunk. Bonus points if you can do it without fully waking up. -Espy

The Most Dangerous Game- Try to stay upright during galley cleanup while the traction mats are up on deck. -Aster

What is This Repetitive Noise Keeping Me Awake? - This game was played for a couple days simultaneously by the residents of the foc'scle and the bunk nook called 16th street. In a historic tie, everybody won at once when we changed back to a port tack and the noise mysteriously stopped.

Story Time- Make up imaginary past lives for crew and new worlds where each watch lives in their own house. -A Watch and B Watch

Feet or Face? - Played in the dark during wakeups. Try to guess if you are talking to someone's feet or their head. -Nora

Lookout Logic - Can be played with the goal of trying to stand lookout the most or the least while on deck depending on who you are. -Brighton and Stella

And my personal favorite, Turnover Roulette - Played by trying to savor an extra minute of bunk time before watch without accidentally falling back asleep.

These games are admittedly silly and the rules are always up to interpretation, some may even say they aren't real games. But in this former camp counselor's opinion, play is serious business. Through play we learn how to experience our new environment, how to interact with each other, and how to form relationships. We learn how well we can balance in a wave, how to solve conflicts with our bunkmates, and the rhythms of the watch schedule. Neuroscience has shown that dopamine boosts from unexpected rewards help cement learning faster than our brains normally can. Play helps us learn!

Today, while running our weekly drills, our "play" was not goofy but focused. We practiced efficiently striking sails, and got comfortable operating emergency gear should we ever need to put it to use. Our play here keeps us safe.

Sometimes in the late hours of dawn watch I wonder if we learn to play well with our shipmates here we will learn to be kinder and more aware of our impact on our communities ashore?

Or maybe "Poop Timer" isn't quite that deep.

Regardless, I do know that behind me, relationships are being strengthened as a group of crew crafts false lives for each other.  I know that my favorite memories at sea involve laughs and bad song parodies. And I know that I am grateful to be making this trip with such wonderful playmates..errr shipmates.

As Alexis Pauline Gumbs writes in her wonderful book, Undrowned: "I do not commit to playing a permanent role in a system designed for our lack, but I do commit to playing with you."

Matt Bihrle, Assistant Scientist

P.S. Hello to all at home! Sending lots of love from the South Pacific.  I hope you are enjoying a wonderful fall season and send lots of cuddles to Mo. Mike, I can't wait to hear how your semester has been going! Miss you all! <3

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  1. Nick Grant October 31, 2022 at 11:43 - Reply

    Matt, your post was hilarious. And kudos to you for your camp counselor background (moi aussi). Of the games you listed, the ones that this landlubber liked the best were Story Time, Planks, and Feet or Face? (Planks sounds like a gas.)

  2. Stephen Held October 31, 2022 at 11:52 - Reply

    Ri, you and the B watch crew look GREAT! Relaxed, happy, smiling sitting closely, the natural bond shines through — and I’ve been wondering if you still had your hair, thought so but you never know in a gang of scurvy fighting sailors, hehe. Have a great two weeks as you sail downhill!!! 🙂 Love from home, Dad

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