I’ve been thinking a lot about coffee lately. I’ve mostly been thinking about how to kick my habit. I’ve also been thinking about the repercussions of kicking my habit…it’s not as straight forward as just giving up a vice. In order to really help you understand why there might be repercussions I need to discuss shipboard coffee culture.
Coffee time happens twice a day. 0950-1020 is morning coffee and 1450-1520 is afternoon coffee. These are the only designated breaks other than regular meal hours. Coffee time is a sacred thing – most sailors have a daily coffee time routine. I sailed with one guy who would go to his room and eat an exact amount of jellybeans during his break. He brought just enough jellybeans to last a trip and they were tightly rationed. He would get visibly upset if something prevented him from scurrying to his room at exactly 0950 for his daily jelly belly fix. Coffee time differs from ship to ship. I’ve sailed on some ships where all the officers met up in the officer’s mess (o-mess) and all the unlicensed met up in the crew mess everyday for coffee. I’ve also sailed on ships where all the officers met in the Engine Control Room (ECR). On one ship all the officers met in the ECR when one Chief Engineer was onboard but didn’t meet down there when his relief was there – the Relief Chief didn’t believe that Deckies belonged in the Engine Room. On my current ship we pretty much all scatter to our own spaces to do whatever it is we do. I’m personally a fan of everyone getting together. I think it is a great way for everyone to stay on the same page and builds crew morale – a daily dose of fun if you will. Coffee time can also indicate your shipboard social status….for example, I had a First Assistant Engineer on this ship a few trips ago who kicked me out of the Engine Room during coffee time…..and it was because he got offended with me making fun of his car…..he said he had a corvette or something fancy like that but he didn’t really because it was a kit car.
Coffee on ships is also really important because sometimes caffeine is all that’s keeping you awake. The midnight watch can get awfully long with no pick me up. This isn’t even taking into account the nights where you get called out – go back to sleep – and then get called back out again.
I’ve been on ships where I’m drinking coffee strictly for the warmth it provided. A four-hour deck watch in the middle of an Alaskan February can feel like an eternity.
Yesterday I hosted coffee time on the bridge. It was like a mini tea party. I had sent a box of cookies to the company headquarters. They had held onto it and then dispatched the package with the next shipment to the vessel – I guess they didn’t understand that it was addressed to them ‘Vessel Manager’. So we sipped coffee and enjoyed treats from Big Island Candies.
In a nutshell coffee provides: an excuse to gather and gossip like old biddies; energy when you have none and; warmth in arctic (or even just plain chilly) environments. Also not mentioned is that it gives you something to do….watch suddenly feels oppressively boring….oh! I have to go brew a pot of coffee!
The problem lies when it is time to go home. All of a sudden I’m confronted with the fact that I have a 6-8 cup a day habit. The headaches are horrendous – it can also be held accountable for the plain old bitchiness. Then I leave the house and convince myself that it is okay to go get a coffee at my favorite coffee shop because my headache is just unbearable - and my Mom doesn't give me a hard time about the 'latte factor' becuase she's just hoping it makes me stop being such a bitch in the car!
I’ve been trying to drink black tea instead of coffee. This hasn’t been working out that great for me. I’ve been ‘off’ coffee for about a month now and I’m still suffering from withdrawal headaches. Sometimes I’ll allow myself a cup just because I can’t get down to my room for some ibuprofen. Black tea obviously has less caffeine but I still find myself drinking copious amounts of it. I make 3-4 mini pots a day…which is still quite about of caffeine…..and tannin which is making my teeth yellow.
Coffee To A Tea With Sugar is in West Seattle at The Junction. It is one of my favorite places to grab a cuppa something – and they have really, really yummy cupcakes. Which leads me to another problem. I love coffee house culture. Sitting and sipping and staring - it just wouldn’t be the same without a vanilla latte!
I went down to the engine room today for coffee time. I had half a cup. I told myself to try to enjoy the ambiance and conversation without the coffee but I felt like an outsider! I think I’ll just keep thinking about coffee and then justify it by telling myself that it is okay in moderation...