The Most Coveted Chair

By the third day of long passages and offshore races, routines are rote and the boat begins to settle into a clockwork rhythm. But, there’s one aspect the skipper might not even predict.

Skippers can do their best assign berths, but good crew can quickly suss out the most prime of sleeping spots aboard and will value them above most else on board. Particularly in bad weather, sleep is a commodity and there are no holds barred.

On Etoile, this spot is a blue, upholstered armchair. Situated perfectly underneath a fan, to the left of the companionway, this seat has optimal airflow for the long, humid watches of the Gulf Stream. The cushions are soft, yet supportive enough to ease the load off of tired backs and knees. With an unobstructed view to the clock and access to both heads and the galley, the chair is as good as it can get during an off-watch.

Etoile was slamming through the Gulf Stream in 10-foot waves and 30+ knot wind—uncomfortable doesn't begin to cover it. Assigned the forward v-berth, I found myself regularly elevated from my bunk as Etoile's bow summited the waves. Restful sleep was not in the cards as I watched the minutes tick away towards my next watch. As I pulled on my soggy foulies, I noticed Solveig curled up like a cat in the chair, legs stretched over one arm and a pillow wedged against the bulkhead. She was dead asleep. Awash with jealousy, I climbed the companionway for a 90-minute thrashing at the helm.

When I returned below, Solvieg had gone, but her daughter, Lise, had already filled her position. With nowhere else to go, I scooted on my rear-end (the only safe method of travel) to the v-berth for another round of sleep-gymnastics.

From then on, I fought to keep my eyes open on nearly zero sleep, but I did keep them on that chair. I chose watch change as the time to go fill my water bottle or hit the head, hoping that the occupant would climb to the cockpit and leave it vacant.

Roughly 30-hours into the weather, I seized my moment. Leaving my foilies in a pile on the floor, I threw myself into the chair and sank down with a sigh. Oh, it was good. So good that I proceeded to sleep like a log for the next five hours, waking up only when the stiffness in my legs became too much to bear and my back protested the angle.

When I awoke, just in time to take my next watch, I noticed Solvieg sitting on the settee across the cabin. In an ill-concealed attempt at casual conversation with our skipper, Anne, no sooner had I stood up to dress for watch did Solvieg fling herself across the cabin and into the chair. She was asleep before I even made it up the companionway.
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Fran Grenon/Spectrum Photo/Marion Bermuda Race