My Story: How to Find Happiness in a Hot Bunk

March 2, 2018

Life is made up of important, personally defining moments, and taken together they shape who you are. We want to hear about your moments. Your happy moments, sad moments, life-changing moments, your moments of hardship, survival, and enlightenment, Everyone has a story to share, and telling your story is now more important than ever.


We are a diverse community full of individuals with different stories, perspectives and experiences. We are excited to create a safe place on our website to share our stories and learn from one another. The day that we stop sharing our stories is the day that we start to lose history. We encourage you to share your story, and you can do so anonymously. Click here for more information. 


Today we are hearing from Sally Kettle, an adventurer, speaker, event host, television presenter, and author of 'Sally's Odd at Sea'. Sally is the first woman to row the Atlantic Ocean twice from East to West, and once with her mother!



I love adventure, and I’ve been lucky to be able to go on quite a few really big ones over the last ten years. They’ve enabled me to learn a lot about myself, for example I’m at my very best when things are at their worst. But one of the most important lessons became clear very early on – whether I've been rowing across the Atlantic; traversing the Pyrenees; or even running a regular city marathon – it’s always been the creature comforts which have made a massive difference to my morale. It's almost as if I need the hardship of winds, waves, or sheer exhaustion to remind me of that very simple truth.


One experience which springs to mind is my time aboard the Clipper yacht Uniquely Singapore.  I’d never sailed before but after a ‘sink or swim’ intensive course in seamanship I was aboard 'Singas' for the last 5,000 miles of the round the world race in 2010. We sailed from Jamaica to New York (we won that leg) then on to Canada, across to Ireland then back to Hull via the Netherlands.  With 19 people on board and only 10 bunks, some bed sharing was required, or hot bunking as they call it!


Perhaps you’d think it a little strange if I said my hot bunk was home - even if I only occupied it on and off for five hours a night, shared with a girl called Ruth from New York - but that didn't take away the absolute bliss of having somewhere to put your head after a shift out on deck facing the squalls of the North Atlantic or battling with a midnight sail change.


Typically I would jump into the bunk just after Ruth had got up to join her ‘watch’ on deck. To wake up the for next watch someone would ring a very loud bell to ensure we all knew it was time to get up. The sails are stored where the bunks are, in fact you’d have to climb over them to get into your bed. If you were lucky the sail change would be a dry affair. Sometimes in very wet weather the team up on deck would have to open the hatch above you effectively letting water cascade into the space below – the bunk space… and your warm bed!



Although it sounds slightly weird to talk about enjoying the warmth of a recently awoken stranger when living a normal life, when you're at sea and being tossed about in a Force 6 it doesn't seem that weird at all! 


I’ve mentioned that it feels like home – with the guard sheet up (to stop one falling out when the yacht heels over) you can create a sleeping cocoon. I used to hang my head torch on the clip that held it up. I used it to read a book I’d carefully kept in a plastic bag to keep it dry. There are small cupboards built beside the bunk where I kept my clothes, but most importantly those special little things that kept me sane. A small tube of face cream, my book and a much loved pair of soft, warm woolly socks where my go-to items on the yacht.


In their own way each of these little comforts has helped to make even the hardest adventures more bearable. When ocean rowing a perfectly rehydrated chilli con carne, growing cress to add to my otherwise dull army rations; and a buff to keep my hair out of the way helped me through 106 days at sea.  They also mean that when I come back home, I learn to treasure the little things more than I would do otherwise.  That may not include the delights of hot bunking but I've learnt to truly appreciate what I have – because no matter how small, these little luxuries can be truly wonderful.


We want to thank Sally for sharing her story with us. If you would like to share your story, click here


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