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Sleeping like a baby…

There is something decidedly different about sleeping on a boat.

I discovered this during the summer, lying in a tiny cabin in a raft of boats in Tarbert harbour. I can pinpoint my discovery exactly – to the moment I was woken up in the middle of the night by what sounded like a horse being sick two inches from my ear.

'Heeeeuuuchhh! Yeeeeee! Heeeuuuuccchhhh! Yeeeee!'

The racket went on for a good few minutes – about the length of time it took me to work out that while no sensible horse was likely to be swimming in the sea at that time of night, it was highly likely that somebody in the neighbouring yacht had been caught short, and was now pumping the contents of the toilet into the water. Two inches from my ear.


I already knew that sound travels over water, but that night I discovered that sound is pretty good at travelling through water too, and that a flimsy piece of fibreglass is not very good at soundproofing.

In fact, if you are looking for a quiet night’s sleep, then don’t look for it on a boat. Wind, waves, and people – they all add up to a very noisy experience.

Take the wind, for example. Anything stronger than a breath will set the halyards to rattling and you will spend half the night trying to tie down every bit of wire you can find.

Then there are the waves. Unless your boat is moored on a duck pond there will be waves. Even tiny ones hit the boat with a loud slap, while larger ones combine the racket with what can be a rather unpleasant lurching motion. Not good if you’ve just spent half the evening sampling the local beer.

Then, of course, there are the people - particularly if you are the inside boat in a raft of four. With the best will in the world, sailors can’t avoid making a certain amount of noise when crossing over the boats, but a party of heavy men, staggering back from the pub, make a heck of a lot more noise than that.

'Just one of the joys of sailing!' said the Sailing Fanatic, when I mentioned this to him, in what I thought was a polite manner.

He wasn’t quite so jolly a few hours later when we were woken by an ear-splitting wail, coming from the bow. We staggered out to investigate and discovered that our youngest daughter had fallen headfirst out of bed into the gap between bed and cabin door, and was now telling the whole world about it.

'Bl**dy h**l!' said the Sailing Fanatic, dashing to the rescue.

'Not at all!' I replied. 'Just another one of the joys of sailing!'

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