As the weather changed from cold to rainy in the months of March and April of 2011, the crew fell into a routine of launch, recovery and maintenance outside of our watch periods. Isolation began to take its toll on us and we started to feel like we were on our own – almost a pirate mentality.
After all, we had a ship, a small crew to man it, and a platform that resembled a ship’s deck. Of course, dark humor was always present on the site and the presence of the Jolly Roger added to it. The locals who supported our site didn’t know what to make of it – they had never seen a pirate flag before and were kind of scared of it. We forget that around 60% of the country is illiterate and have never seen or heard of pirates (guess they haven’t seen any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies either) so they didn’t understand what they were looking at. American sarcasm and humor probably doesn’t translate well.
To combat the boredom of being on a small non – U.S. site with few resources like tv or a decent gym, some of us concentrated on working out to improve our bodies. I found some great bodyweight exercises and created a routine that I followed for several months to get into better shape for my upcoming leave. The site Fitness Black Book is a great blog on all types of fitness science, techniques, and ideas that helped me a lot and allowed me to get great results in time for my vacation – great advice for men and women.
Working out at the site felt like what it must be like being in prison (without the high threat of unwanted lovin’ looming over you every minute). I couldn’t leave the area, had to make due with what I had on hand, and I was surrounded by 8 foot walls on all sides. I would do legs one day, upper body the next, and rest on the third day. Leg workouts consisted of farmer’s carry with sandbags, lunges with a sandbag across the back, prisoner squats, one-legged squats, and 20 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) running/walking around the perimeter of the site. Upper body and back workouts were push ups (several different kinds), pull ups (ditto), throwing a heavy stone high in the air and catching it, a couple of types of band exercises for the arms and shoulders, and something I liked to call “the wheel of pain”. It is a big reel we would use to change out a tether with a manual caliper type of brake that you could set the resistance to. I used it by pushing and pulling on the reel, increasing the resistance each time I did a set. It was a good way to burn myself out. I would finish my workout with 15 minutes of nunchakus (Bruce Lee eat your heart out). Damn, I’m tired just typing all this out – can’t believe I did all that!
One thing I didn’t do was count the days until I could leave. The time passes much quicker when you aren’t watching the clock (or calendar in this case). I saw one of our teammates do that and he drove himself nuts, leaving after only three months. If you are in a situation like this, just keep yourself busy and don’t do any type of count down until you get close enough where you have to know when to go. You will be much better off in the long run.