Winding down my week on the ship, even in port, I’m tired. After just one week. Trying to remember how I managed a month at a time. Trying to fathom how some folks manage the two month at sea deployments.
Nominal work week is 84 hours (12×7), and when you’ve got a limited window to get stuff done before you need to go, there’s a tendency to push that even further. I’ve been getting to my desk by around 7, sometimes not signing off until 10. Yes, we’re in port, so I can actually get off the boat, out of this vibrating steel box (ambient noise at my desk is ~62-64 dB) and walk around. Or put the kayak in for a paddle when I need a break. But there’s so much that needs to get done.
In spite of the exhaustion, I do well in this particular life. There’s a focus, a clear mission, and a team with a well-honed sense of camaraderie. Everyone on the ship has their roles, and they do perform them magnificently. That dedication to functionality lets me get my own head down into what I do. And lets me remind myself that, in my particular role, I’m actually pretty damned good, too.
I don’t get that kind of reminder in many of my other lives. I tend to push myself into new worlds, or onto levels in which I’m trying to scramble my way up from the bottom. Among the WW2 barnstorming gang, I have roughly 1/10th the flight hours of the average on the team. That’s not a typo: 1/10th. I’m pretty good, considering my lack of experience, but I’m the rookie’s rookie out there on the road, trying to keep my mouth shut, pay attention and not make too many mistakes. And the farm? I’ve never been a farmer. Everyone at Natembea knows 10 times more about farming than I do – I’m just trying to keep up, to learn enough about pasture cycles and brush hogs and drip irrigation to know what I’m being asked so that others can do what they’re good at. And writing? I’ve been trying to write that same damned novel for the better part of this past decade.
So it’s gratifying to get to spend a bit of time in a role – the more intense the better – where I know I’ve got chops. Where I can take off my coat, look things over, stretch my fingers and say, “Oh yeah – I’ve got this.”
My manager Scott and I have been working side by side this week, and every couple of hours he’ll look over and say “What?” And I’ll realize that I’ve just done a little fist pump of success. I’ve been plowing through requirements, building servers, deploying configurations, fixing bugs on the fly (yes, and documenting them and checking the fixes back into the repository). And churning out pages of documentation so that the sysadmins and scientists who next have to drive that system can say, “How do I…oh, here’s the doc for that.” I’m going to be exhausted when I head south from here, but it’s going to be a good exhaustion.
But wait – what was that about a kayak?!? Yeah. Folks who have been peeking at my Instagram page will know that I haven’t been working all my waking hours. It’s a bit of a story, but on the drive south from the farm, I uh, happened to buy a kayak, and when the wind’s been light enough I’ve been sneaking away to paddle around the bay for a bit just before dusk. We’re across from Eureka adjacent to the Samoa Dunes recreational area, with otters, seals, more egrets, pelicans and blue herons than you can count, all romping around the saltwater inlets.
I’d actually been searching for a kayak like this (a Pygmy Coho or Murrelet) for close to three years. Checking Craigslist fairly religiously. The couple of times one has shown up, it’s always been gone by the time I’ve called. But last week, just before climbing into the car to drive south, I checked Craigslist along my route on a whim. Just on a whim. Jackpot – a gentleman just outside of Portland had listed his Coho for sale four hours earlier. I told him I’d be there quick as I could, threw my paddle, PFD and roof rack in the back of the Subaru, and hit the ATM for all it was worth.
Clearly, it was love at first sight. I’ll still be taking my canoe out in the bay for early morning paddles once I get back up to Port Townsend, but I guess it’s going to have to learn how to share.