The most important lesson I’ve learned in my 30-year career in submarines is patience really is a virtue. When you spend a long period of time deployed in 16000 tons of steel with 167 other souls you learn to be patient and understanding of your shipmates and support each other. People will always have down days. Respect their space and be there for them when they are ready to talk.
So, when you’re at home with your family remember you’re all in the one boat (Pardon the pun). Be patient, kind and keep your sense of humour. A good laugh can get you through the worse of situations. It relieves tension, stress and helps improve your resistance to infections.
We don’t have TV on patrol and very few submariners miss it. We like to play a board game called Uckers. It’s like Ludo for grown ups. It can get competitive and is great fun. So, while isolating at home with your family, ditch the TV and spend time with the them playing any board game and have some competitive fun with each other.
Food is important while on patrol. We enjoy traditional fair and we can tell the days of the week and time of day by the menu. Depending on which watch you keep you can find yourself getting out of bed to an Indian buffet instead of bacon and eggs. Fridays are for fish and chips and Saturdays are always steak night. Traditional Sunday lunch is always followed by trifle. We always have a theme night mid-week which can be from Mexican to Italian nights. During this period when some foods are short, shake up your usual menu and try something different. Sit around the table and enjoy each other’s company.
It’s important to keep fit and exercise at sea, especially with the good food. We do have a small gym where we can book 30-minute sessions. It’s important to get out and get exercise and fresh air during self-isolating. Remember it’s only in pairs. So, while mum and dad are out a walk the kids can be doing the dishes.
We don’t know the whether it’s night or day when we’re dived on patrol. In the evening, in the control room and mess we dim the lighting. It creates a relaxing ambiance and helps your body clock adjust and unwind. Do the same at home. Dim the lights and read the kids a story. It’ll get everyone relaxed and help release melatonin which will help you sleep. This should help the kid sleep as they might struggle to burn off energy with time outside limited during isolation.
Portable media is restricted on patrol for security reasons. Take the opportunity in isolation to take a break from your tablets and learn the art of communication again. If you do use them, use them to communicate on Skype or FaceTime with friends or family you are unable to visit. Older people will appreciate the contact even if it’s over social media. It would be amazing if I could contact my family like this on patrol, especially at birthdays or Christmas.
The important thing during this period of isolation is to look out for each other. A lot of people around us will be under a great deal of stress for all manner of reasons due to COVID 19. Be patient, kind, understanding and support each other.