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Old 01-06-2012, 02:07   #1
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Illusions Through Lack of Sleep!

Recently we made a long crossing and I went without sleep for far to long.

In the early hours of the morning the bundle of lines around the mast suddenly became my son tied up there. I saw Ninja's running down the side decks clad in black which I thought was rather stupid as he had no life jacket and the seas were pretty roly. I had baots of all shapes and sized heading towards me that just did not exist.

I learnt a lot that night although how much was actually real I am still not sure. What I am convinced about is how dangerous lack of sleep can be.

What is the longest you have gone without sleep and has anyone else had Illusions/ delusions through lack of sleep?
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Old 01-06-2012, 02:22   #2
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I did the same many years ago whilst driving through southern Ireland ( 36 hours no sleep) kept see zoo animals in the road. Mind you could have been the local brew.

But the point you make is very valid and true, sometimes it hard enough to work out what's out there at the best of times.
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Old 01-06-2012, 02:25   #3
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Re: Illusions through lack of sleep!

I regularly go 24 hours without sleep. No good for me and thats on dry land. I see things out the corner of my eye, hear things etc but nothing major. I have read tons of books by ex military guys and they all see stuff after a certain period without sleep. According to one you'll only ever hallucinate like that once but I think it's BS. The mind is a funny thing and always more effective when well rested.
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Old 01-06-2012, 02:30   #4
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Re: Illusions through lack of sleep!

Trains. Trains in the ocean. I was in a survival storm in a sinking boat. After four days of taking on water all our pumps had failed one by one. So I was bailing every 40 minutes to keep the water below the engine line. The captain and other crew aboard were sick. We were in the Atlantic. I had an egg timer that I slept with that woke me up every 35-45 minutes, so I could bail with my trusty bucket. After many days of this sleep deprivation and the screaming rigging from the wind I started to see trains out on the foamy ocean. Sometimes they crossed our bow, I worried that I mistook trains for ships but the storm was such, wasn't much I could do anyways.

Forgot all about those trains till I read your post.
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Old 01-06-2012, 03:17   #5
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Re: Illusions through lack of sleep!

Friend of mine (on his maiden voyage of the beautiful sailing yacht he and his wife had built) sailed into a bad blow on the first leg. She was bunkridden; he wasn't feeling much better but it was just the two of them; he hand-steered for 36 hours straight, hard on the wind, sail numbers reefed down to the boom.

When they finally made it to somewhere (barely) approximating shelter, in the middle of a dark horrible night, he was desperate to find somewhere he could sling the hook. Using the powerful searchlight, he found a bunch of goodly-sized fishing boats. He could see the big painted numbers on the hulls, the radar scanners and aerials against the sky, the whole bit. So he went into the middle of the bunch where there was a bit of room and anchored, then collapsed into a bunk.

When he awoke, many, many hours later, he found that the boats were in fact rocks.
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Old 01-06-2012, 03:17   #6
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Re: Illusions through lack of sleep!

I saw the 'min-min' lights - after about 48 hrs of being awake. However, so did the other person on the boat!!!! So we were either both nuts, or the lights were real. That was freaky.
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Old 01-06-2012, 03:22   #7
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Re: Illusions through lack of sleep!

I have heard of someone reporting hearing childrens voices and seeing the 'skeleton of a tall ship - just its ribs, not the planking. I told her that sounded like the old FLying dutchman. Anybody else heard or seen similar?
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Old 01-06-2012, 05:05   #8
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Re: Illusions through lack of sleep!

Randy Smyth (famous multihull sailor) has some funny stories about his sleep deprivation experiences at the WaterTribe Challenge races
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Old 01-06-2012, 05:12   #9
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Re: Illusions through lack of sleep!

Lack of sleep and extreme exhaustion are dangerous but at times there may be no choice. Hallucinations are a real concern. I've never seen things outside the boat, but I once watched my thumbs melt on the wheel during a particularly bad crossing with a broken auto pilot after sixty hours of non sleep. The hallucinations weren't as bad as the many bad and stupid decisions I was making.
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Old 01-06-2012, 05:26   #10
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As a Watertribe member, I have done many long distance races and participated in an informal study done by one of the guys in WaterTribe. The bottom line is that the more processed (junk) food and sugary food you eat the higher the probability of fatigue induced hallucinations. Those who have hallucinated, and changed their diet to healthy foods stopped.

In 2010 I did a 30 day race around Florida. During that time I had several 36+ hour days. Never hallucinated until I ran out of my good food around day 25 and had to stop on the Suwannee at a 7-11 type store. After eating a cold cut hero for lunch and a can of chili, that night I hallucinated that the seven dwarfs (oops short people) were hiding in the trees along the bank and they seemed rather mad!! I ate healthy at Cedar Key and went +/-36 hours non-stop to Tampa without hallucinating.

Best hallucination was my first.... Had Humphrey Bogart on board one afternoon.

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Old 01-06-2012, 05:37   #11
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Re: Illusions through lack of sleep!

A year and a half ago in a race from Galveston to Port Aransas, Tx. No sleep for about 36 hours and partially sea sick, I was seeing sailboat masts sticking up everywhere with no boats underneath them. Also lots of square wraught iron square trees and a floating file cabinet. I was aware that I was hallucinating but couldn't control it. They would come and go.
First time ever hallucinating without drugs.
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Old 01-06-2012, 06:11   #12
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Re: Illusions through lack of sleep!

Let's not forget the pilot of the Pinta who came on board Joshua Slocum's Spray during his passage across the Atlantic...
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Old 01-06-2012, 08:26   #13
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Re: Illusions Through Lack of Sleep!

Once on a long trip coming back from Costa Rica with a friend, we had flown into Chicago and driving back to Grand Rapids in the middle of a huge snow storm. The night before we had been out drinking and dancing with a pretty girl at a local watering hole. We stayed out all night only to come back to the hotel at 4:30am to pack our bags ect. At the point we were driving back from Chicago I'd say we were up about 36-40hrs. My friend thankfully was driving because I kept seeing some of the small childern from the village running around in the snow covered highway right in front of the car. I kept thinking they must be freezing! Later I saw some of the village mutts running around too! I couldn't quite understand what was happening, although I had a pretty good idea it wasn't real! Although each time the kids would appear is scared the crap out of me, I really thought we were going to hit them!
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Old 01-06-2012, 10:04   #14
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Re: Illusions Through Lack of Sleep!

Did a delivery with my wife on a boat without self steering. Helm took too much effort for her to steer more than a few minutes. Conditions were ideal so stayed at the helm for 3 days. The seas were particularly phosphorescent on the last night and a dolphin decided to play with the boat. I was semi conscious at the helm and looked out to see this phosphorescent trail streaking toward the boat. Immediately thought we were being torpedoed and yelled to my wife to go to GQ. Did manage to wake me up and I stayed alert for the rest of the night till we got to port in the morning.
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Old 01-06-2012, 10:25   #15
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Re: Illusions Through Lack of Sleep!

On my first several day ocean trip we were caught upin a minor gale for the first 2.5 days. I managed the boat round the clock for 2+ days non stop. On the third day things subsided some, I was standing in the companionway and my wife was talking. Suddenly I realized that I woke up in the middle of the conversation... fell asleep standing there for a couple of minutes... at that point I told her "it's all yours for a while..."
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