Igor Tchouiko is a 22 year old Ukranian gentleman. He speaks Russian, but was born in Moldova. He now resides in Canada, and was excited to take part in the sail between Toronto and Halifax this fall with his girlfriend, Marisha.
In today’s blog, Igor describes life as a ship chef, and what it’s like to take responsibility for “mother’s watch”. Read on to learn how Igor dealt with early morning meals with a hungry crew!
Mothers Watch, An Experience.
By Igor Tchouiko
What can one say about mother’s watch? Well, it’s an experience that doesn’t end until you get off the boat.
Mother’s watch is definitely one of the most important jobs on the ship. When one crew is on watch and the other is asleep, there’s no time for people to be cooking, so two must go aside and answer the call of being a Mother. It is their job to provide nourishment, one of the most honorable and necessary rolls anyone can have in any part of life.
From our first morning aboard the Sea Dragon, we had our fate intertwined with mother’s watch. Our first task for the morning was to get the previsions for the ship. The list was long and there’s ten souls aboard that need constant feeding! This wasn’t our idea of the first tasks we wanted to do aboard Sea Dragon but we knew that we had to since Marisha lives only a ten minutes walk away and her car was eagerly waiting.
If not for the car I have no idea how we would have gotten all that food from the store to the boat. There is only one possible place to get that much food in one place and not break the bank, and that’s Costco!! We boogied our butts over and got to work.
The list was daunting to say the least but we hammered through it isle by isle. From rice and pickles, to chicken and salsa, we ran through those aisles like soldiers on a mission. By the time we got to the produce section we were starting to worry on the amount of food that we were throwing in our carts. We only finished with the dry goods and there was a lot more produce to go. We kept asking ourselves “is this too much?,” but it couldn’t be because every item on the list had to feed portions for ten, so we finished up and got the precious cargo back to the Dragon.
Later that night we found out that on this ship, if you cook,you can sleep! We volunteered for the first dinner shift on board. Knowing we were going to be cooking, we packed a few specialty items in our shopping bags to make one of our favorite specialties, Thai food. We ended up making a great chicken green curry and rice dish that everyone thoroughly enjoyed. That’s what the core of mother’s watch is all about, those sweet little compliments on the food. The best thing, of course, is silent munching sailors who are too engrossed in their food to remember to say thanks.
Marisha and I were sad to find out that there was a mix up and that mother’s watch works by you washing the dishes of the dinner shift that just finished eating, sleeping through a whole night and waking first thing to cook breakfast for the watch that’s asleep, have them finish eating around 7:50 so they can change and relieve the crew on watch so they can eat and then sleep. So our first dinner was more of a silent giving, and we didn’t get too much sleep that night.
It wouldn’t be for another four nights until we would have to take our first full mother’s watch. After finishing the dishes on Thursday night, we had ourselves our first full night’s sleep. Vivid dreams came and went and before we knew it we were awaken at 6:40 to start breakfast.
We had in mind French toast with a freshly made apple sauce and bacon on the side. Marisha had her head on a swivel and got right to chopping the apple so we could start boiling them, but for some reason I was on auto pilot and with tooth brush and paste in hand. I waltzed into the washroom and got myself freshened up. Oh, what a mistake that was, because it cost me a little over five minutes of my time. The sleeping shift should be awake for 7:20ish, and we had to have breakfast ready for 7:30 and relive the nights watch for 8am.That means I had only forty minutes to make breakfast to feed ten hungry souls. I had to get my ass in gear or I would have to face the wrath of Capitan Scott, a man who has been sailing for most of his life on super yachts and has a world of stories to tell that compares only with the most seasoned of Captains.
The last thing I would want to do is upset the Captain. The relationship you have with the Captain is one of the most important on the ship. You never want to ruin it because it can ruin the rest of the voyage. He can make your life all the more difficult or never have the trust for you to do anything note worthy like helm the ship, chart the course or any other responsibilities that an aspiring young sailor would want under their belt.
Having any meal late would cause a chain reaction of problems with the schedule. The eating crew would come out too late and that would piss off the watch crew who have been out and about for three hours, while cutting short their sleeping time. So with all that in my head, I had to get motoring, and oh we did!
By the skin of our teeth, we made the French toast just in time for the freshly awakened sailors. We literally finished each piece of toast for each sailor as they sat down at the table one by one, after the sailors were thoroughly impressed with are homemade apple sauce. I was fortunate enough that before I left my front door my mom made me pick the apples off are tree and pack them for the trip. I thought it would be over kill and useless but Im sure glad I had them then, the sauce came out great and breakfast was a hit.
Though the non- stop go, go, go of breakfast stacked on with a seemingly never ending pile of dishes put me in a foul mood, I managed to make it through in one piece. After finishing the dishes I looked at the time. I saw that we would only have an hour and a half before we needed to started cooking lunch. This nearly broke my heart, I just wanted more sleep!
When the time came we did it all over again, this time making chicken or beef fajitas, one of my favorite meals to date thanks to a special sauce Marisha brought from home. Again all I needed to hear was the thank yous and silent contentment of my crew. By this time, working in the smallest, most cramped kitchen I’ve ever seen, every little thing was starting to set me off. Something as arbitrary as Marisha asking me were the knife that was just on the counter that I washed and put back in its drawer was upset me.
The agitated Capitan who just awoke gave me grief because he woke up to find I had unplugged his camera from the plug so I could have my phone on to listen to music in the heat of the lunch rush. Of course in normal circumstances I wouldn’t be phased at Marisha for not checking the knife drawer first before asking, or the Capitan not knowing that there wasn’t any electrical sockets near the stereo that weren’t in use to keep my dead phone on, but after being cramped on a boat with a bunch of sailors and getting at most four hours of sleep a shift it was all starting to catch up to me.
All I wanted to do was get away from people and just have a few moments in my bunk to myself, that wouldn’t come to quite some time, but luckily the Capitan set up “the Chair” hoist on the topping lift and took us all up one by one to the top of the 96 ft mast for a better view. Oh what a view it was! Even though I have been rock climbing all my life, I hadn’t done it in a few months and was surprised at the adrenalin flowing through my veins as the electric winch brought me slowly up the mast.
By the time I was at the top I was back in the flow and in my element. There’s nothing quite like literally being high in the sky to put you in a good mood again. With the view and then a few episodes of Vikings, I took a quick nap and had my composure back and was ready to do it one last time.
I couldn’t be more happy to be on this trip with Marisha who got me on the boat in the first place. Even though were on different shifts, we still had time to see each other for a few fleeting moments before we had to kiss each the other good night. She helped me through mothers watch with dignity and grace, and helped me keep it together when it got dark, windy, and grey. She also helped me feel the sunshine when the skis were clear.
By our third meal, we had cooking on the ship down pat! It was the easiest and my favorite meal off this whole trip, Chicken Pad Thai. We made perfect portions and the flavor was nostalgic to our adventures in Thailand, a place which helped spark are interest in each other on top of sailing. With this meal, our duties were done, the crew was fed and happy. I played my part in keeping moral up through tasty bites and full bellies!
The crew has to work together and delegate rolls so we can make it to are destination with our sanity intact and all crew accounted for. That’s why having a good Captain, first mate, and pair of mothers feeding their babies is of the utmost importance. I think Sea Dragon has it all! Not one person on this ship I dislike or have bad blood with, everyone is such a stand up human being. I can’t wait to see what the next few days have in store before I must answer the call once more, the call to Mothers watch!