AT LEAST WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT
AHOY. This is our first Welsh Sisters Blog post so please pardon our mistakes as we steer our way into the open water!
As we all enter our fourth week of lock down we can't help but wonder how The Captain's Wife coped with living in a confined space for long periods of time?
And on a similar theme how do female astronauts stay mentally strong on the International Space Station for more than a year? And come out smiling?
So here at Welsh Sisters we have come up with a few ideas on how we can use the experiences of sea wives and astronauts to help us stay sane in our household ships.
1 Community, Unity and Higher Purpose.
A former chief of the Astronaut office in NASA, Peggy Whitsun, points out that before a crew go into space they are trained in expeditionary crew skills which include teamwork and group living skills. A positive attitude is vital in keeping a team happy and the best way to achieve this is having have a common higher purpose or greater meaning for one's work.
On the international Space station, the goal is to provide an international laboratory for experiments in space which will benefit life on earth and in space travel. Which is a pretty big purpose!
This tallies with the experience of the Welsh sailing vessels which sailed out together from small communities with a common language, a strong religious belief and the aim of carrying their cargo to their destination safely.
Peggy Whitsun says: "Covid-19 gives us a higher purpose much like being is space does because we are saving lives by quarantining."
All pretty straightforward I guess. But it's the day to day living that can be tricky. Here we come to the next tip....
2 Risks, Goals and Rules.
Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space, points out that the first thing to recognize are the risks undertaken to carry out a mission. The Captain's Wife would have fully understood the risks of sailing a relatively small, wooden ship around Cape Horn, as well as other dangers on board ship. The risks in Space are manifold and all the astronauts on the ISS are aware of them.
The risks we face now, all of us, are the consequences of our actions if we don't socially distance ourselves.
The long held practice at sea and in space is to have a schedule of tasks allocated to each member of the crew to keep the ship safe and in good shape. Scott Kelly, who spent a year on the ISS, remembers having a full schedule from the time he woke up until he went to sleep ranging from an 8 hour space walk to 5 minute tasks. These tasks minimize the risks and prepare the ship for any eventuality.
The rules of living aboard a ship of any kind are learnt well in advance of the expedition but still have to be maintained through systems - for example the watch system on board a sailing ship is a system that binds the crew. The time is divided into half hour segments and a bell is rung to signal the time so all the crew are aware of where they are in the day's rota.
Most experienced crew say its important to have a hobby so one can be busy and occupied. As The Captain's Wife would say " The Devil makes work for idle hands." And as Peggy Whitsun points out - 'I would do the extra work that I'd been thinking about doing'.
As for rules ....it's hard to keep to strict rules at home but inevitably some kind of system evolves around the daily routine and jobs to be done to maintain a household and adjust to working from home.
The rules are easier to maintain and understand if there is teamwork and the key to good team work harmony is ......
3 Effective Communication
Communication is like a thread which binds the different functions, departments and people in any structure...so they say.
Traditionally the Victorian Welsh Ships carried crew from one village and they all spoke Welsh on board. The Captain was able to run a ship more smoothly if he felt he could communicate with his crew and they had a common understanding.
The communication networks on board the ISS is of course state of the art but the crew have also had effective communication training prior to the start of the mission. Peggy Whitsun, who has spent 666 days is space, says that isolation is very doable "but it's very important to be able to interact well with people you're staying with." .
But apart from communicating with crew mates the common theme between space and sea is that there are also messages sent to the home base or port. And most importantly to loved ones at home. We know a lot more about life at sea from the Captain's wife who sent letters home to her family and entries addressed to relatives in their daily journals. On the ISS they have found that video conferencing with family is as important to physical health, especially the immune system, as it is to mental health.
4 Relaxation and Fun
Although its important to be occupied and learning new things in a confined situation both sea and space crew advocate finding time to relax, have fun and pace yourself.
For instance on the ISS Scott Kelly remembers that they had "movie nights complete with snacks and binge watched Game of Thrones.... twice." On board a ship off Venezuela a Captain's wife recalls in her diary that the crew threw a barrel of tar overboard and set fire to it to watch the flames on the water!
5.Keep a Journal
As we know all ships keep journals or logs. The ISS is no different and in the age of sail, and even today, every Captain has to keep a ship's log which recorded all his observations including weather, location and wind.
A personal journal is very helpful in times of isolation. The general advice is to record senses or memories, or to write as if you were recording your experiences for a relative far away. Many of the Sea Journals from history such as Frank Hurley's journals and photographs of Shackleton's expeditions are of great value. The diaries of women passengers on board the great whaling ships are a record of their unique daily observations. Equally our journals and diaries will be a unique record of the these strange days of Covid-19.
6 Health, Food and Exercise.
All ships run on nourishing food and scheduled mealtimes to keep a happy crew
One of the goals on board any ship is to stay as healthy as possible as medical procedures and help are not close to hand. The Captain on board the old ships would have had a Medical Manual and a ships first aid box but not much else. The Captain's Wife would have had knowledge of Folk Medicine and would have brought some remedies with her but nothing more .
In the International Space station the crew work out every day to stay fit and healthy. Jessica Weir, an astronaut on the ISSS, mentions that "Studies have shown that exercise is vital to your physical health and also to your mental well being." She also points out that if the circumstances mean that one doesn't have the equipment to work out it is always fun to find new and inventive solutions in strange and difficult times.
6 Nature is vital ...go outside....if you can.
Scott Kelly said that he started to crave nature after being confined to a small space for months. He played bird sounds and it brought him back to earth.
After 328 days in space Christina Koch, who has just returned to earth, couldn't wait to see the birds and trees even though she saw 16 earth sunrises and sunsets a day in space. In the Atlantic, the Captain's Wife would marvel at he whales, dolphins and bird life she encountered on her voyage as she took a turn around the deck in the quiet of the evening.
As Scott Kelly says "Take it from someone who couldn't: GO OUTSIDE!."
If it isn't possible to go outside perhaps pictures and TV programmes about nature can help bring the outside indoors.
So its time to batten down the hatches and hope we soon turn the corner. May you have fair winds and following seas. Iechyd Da.