We are currently cruising in the Marlborough Sounds. A beautiful part of the South Island of New Zealand. It’s secluded tree lined bays provide perfect quiet anchorages to spend the night.
However despite how quiet and sheltered the bay, there are still plenty of things that will keep you awake on a boat at night.
1. Sea creatures
No I’m not talking about big scary monsters lurking in the shadows below your boat – they are actually nice and quiet. I’m talking about the crackling kind. Just as soon as you lay your head in the pillow you will hear the most unusual crackling noise which kind of sounds like a crackling fire. After you’ve turned the boat upside down and identified that the boat isn’t burning, you eventually realize that the noise is coming from outside the boat. Apparently it’s shellfish. God knows what they are doing to make all that racket. Tap dancing perhaps. Eventually you get so tired of listening to it you fall asleep.
Wind always sounds worse at night. You will lay there listening to it shrieking through the rig while you quietly worry about what is going on out there. Eventually when the sun comes up and the howling increases to a crescendo, you pop your head up and realize that it’s just a light breeze.
Generally silent through the day, and right up until you are just about to nod off – then your halyards will start clanging against the mast incessantly. (Halyards are the ropes that go up the mast to pull your sails up). Even if there is no wind. They will do this right up until they drive you crazy enough to get out of bed and attempt to identify the noise. Once you get on deck they will be silent again and will only resume clanging once you are tucked up in bed again.
4. The mystery knock
Happening on an irregular basis. Knock… Arraggh what was that? Could it be a tin rolling in the bilge? A bottle of wine moving in the chilli bin? The dinghy banging against the hull? Who knows? The mystery knock is almost impossible to find.
5. The squeaky fender.
We’ve been rafted up with our friends for the last few days. We’ve got nice fuzzy covers on our fenders, but our friends fenders don’t. “Squeak, squeak, squeak.” It sounds like we are torturing mice. Thankfully there is a cure for this noise. My lovely friend Nicci who we were rafted up with, popped her head up at the same time I did. She had a bottle of liquid soap in her hand and proceeded to give the fender a good squirt with it. Problem solved! Back to sleep.
Everyone complains about people anchoring too close. When there is a huge amount of space in the bay, why do people choose to drop their anchors on top of yours? Who knows? Perhaps I should get in the dinghy and go ask the people who just did it to us. Either way, a closely anchored boat will cause you to lay awake worrying about whether you are going to swing round in the night and hit them.
I’m sure even the most experienced sailor still lies awake at night worrying about their anchor dragging when the wind comes up. Anchor chains are noisy in the bow roller unless you’ve rigged a snubber, and you can sometimes also hear the chain dragging along the bottom too.
Sadly not all these noises can be cured with ear plugs. Noises are only amplified with imagination. Perhaps that’s why sailors tend to drink so much beer/wine/rum. It helps ease the worries and gets us off to sleep!
What keeps you awake at night?