18th November 2001
It’s rough today, too rough to fish so we are hove-to and sitting it out. When I say sitting it out that is easier said than done, due to some quirk of a ship builder’s imagination.
The only chair I have in my cabin is a swivel desk chair, and the effort it takes just to remain stationary on such a chair on a boat which is being thrown about wildly in a North Atlantic storm is extraordinary. It literally takes all of my effort just to sit at the desk. What would possess a ship builder to install spinny desk chairs? If left to it’s own devices the chair spins wildly with the motion of the ship, and the chair-back smashes into the desk.
Some provision has been made for the fact that the chair is installed on a ship, and so the chair itself has been bolted to the floor. Unfortunately they didn’t fix the chair to the floor such that you could sit at your desk on it, but instead thought it would be wise to affix it to the floor in the middle of the room, arms length from the desk. The result is that sitting at the desk even in the best of weather requires you to sit with torturous posture, perched on the very edge of the chair and leaning towards the desk. In foul weather the problem is compounded because it’s necessary to spread your legs and try to keep them planted firmly on the floor so that you are not spun away from the desk and face the wrong direction. It is exhausting.
If they had their little hearts set on spinny chairs, why didn’t they go the extra mile and have some kind of locking mechanism so that the chairs could be locked still? With a forensic eye you can trace the various attempts that previous occupants of the cabin have made over the last 30 years in order to restrain the chair. Bits of string hang limp from various points of the chair after giving up the fight, fibres parting with the strain of the wild chair in a storm. I can approximate the age and order of the different bits of string, with a natural hemp fibre being among the earliest attempts, moving on to the modern era where a length of nylon fibre mono-filament lays defeated. Each piece of twine marks a past storm.
I have already added a few iterations of chair restraining devices, most of which now lay limp and battered from the arm of the chair. I inherited Simon’s attempt but it broke a few days after my arrival. His solution was to tie a piece of string to the arm, and when not using the chair to lock the other end of the string in the desk drawer to keep it secure. The trouble was it was difficult to apply enough tension and the chair would have some leeway to move. This took a toll on the string and one night the chair was liberated, and woke me with a start as it tried to smash itself against the desk. My new system is quite low-tech but highly effective. I wrap a towel around the arm of the chair and then jam it under the lip of the desk. So far it has worked well, but I doubt it’s hurricane proof.
And so, being unable to sit upright in this storm I have had to lay in my bunk again for the majority of the day reading. I would give all of my salary to date for a comfortable, soft, stationary arm chair.