Life at Sea: The User Experience
UX Connections is proud to sponsor our advisor Guy Rigby’s attempt to row the Atlantic in the Entrepreneur Ship, in support of UnLtd helping social entrepreneurs.
Although you may think of UX as a digital product and computer-based process, it can actually be applied to everything, even physical experiences. It exists in every aspect of our daily lives, and thus of course, in life at sea! As we are in the start of February 2022, The Entrepreneur Ship has come to its last 10 miles! Guy and David are 52 days into their voyage, and thanks to their amazing support team, we are able to see, in detail, the life Guy and David are living in the middle of the ocean. We thought, as a UX company, we could support their efforts by focusing on the ‘user experience’ of boat life being shared by a rowing pair crossing the Atlantic. Read on to see how a day at sea compares to a normal weekday for the rest of us here at home.
Life at Home: At 7am it’s time to wake up for a new day at work. We stay under the duvet for a while, snooze the alarm and enjoy the warmth of the bed before eventually getting up.
Life at Sea: At sea, things look slightly different. David has just given the oars to a sleepy Guy, who is ready to row for another two hours. Guy makes sure he is attached to the boat, using a harness and safety line, while David in the cabin can relax. So the day begins.
Life at Home: After a slow morning, we finally sit at the table with our breakfast: a cup of hot tea and some toast. As we read the morning news and eat our breakfast, we slowly get prepared for a new day at work.
Life at Sea: While Guy is rowing the boat, David unpacks the freeze dried food, which is the main source of energy they have on the boat. He heats up the filtered sea water, mixes it with the dehydrated food and – voila – breakfast is served! This 500 calorie meal marks the start of the 5000-6000 calories they need each day to survive the long journey.
Life at Home: At 9am, we have made it to the office, said our hellos to our colleagues and are about to grab that morning coffee or tea that will help us with our first tasks of the day. We take a seat in our comfy office chair, start the laptop and check our email inbox.
Life at Sea: For Guy and David, this marks a change, as David starts rowing and Guy can finally eat that well deserved breakfast. After eating, Guy decides to sleep a bit more, as it’s been a rough night. At sea, the team’s schedule is to individually row for two hours and have a two hour break, and this happens around the clock. Whilst one person is rowing the other can, hopefully, get a good 90 minute sleep, and the rower can keep a good pace before getting too tired.
Life at Home: It is time for us at work to join the first online meeting for the day, a nice break from our morning focus. We connect to the meeting and can finally catch up with our international colleagues.
Life at Sea: As it’s Guy’s turn to row, David gets some time to sit and reflect on the past few days. He writes this up and sends it over to their team on the mainland. They, in turn, make sure to share David’s thoughts on social media so we all can follow along on the journey.
Life at Home: It is finally time for lunch! We’ve been hungry for a while, but we’ve been so focused on work that time just got away from us. Some colleagues at the office want to eat as well, so we leave together to have a nice meal at a cafe.
Life at Sea: As David takes over the oars, Guy can now prepare his lunch, another freeze dried meal. He fills up their Jetboil, a portable stove, with filtered water that they get from an electronic water maker, powered by solar panels. In case this would break, they do have some emergency options. The first option one is a manual back-up water maker that would provide them with the ratio needed. The second option is one that disqualifies them from the race, but is for emergencies, and this is a fresh water supply at the bottom of the boat. Hopefully, Guy and David can finish the race without any major water issues!
Life at Home: At 3 in the afternoon, we carry on with our work, trying to stay productive and fighting against afternoon slump. If we’re lucky, a dog or two might pass by the seat, giving us a well-needed energy boost.
Life at Sea: At sea, Guy and David have to stop the boat for an hour to perform weekly maintenance. The rowers must pay attention to the performance of their boat. If the performance drops without clear reasons, they might consider giving the boat a bottom clean. David dives down underwater to scrape off the gooseneck barnacles since the boat has been slow for the past few days. The only tool he has is a scraper. Imagine how tough it is to clean the whole boar with it! David’s plunge into the sea is so unexpected in a tranquil afternoon that some curious dolphins are intrigued and arrive to see what is going on, which makes it the highlight of their day.
Life at Home: At 5, most of us are about to log off, finish the work and head off. It has been a long day and our sweet home is beckoning. We are ready to hop on the tube, at the peak of rush hour traffic.
Life at Sea: It’s Guy’s time to row now, and the ocean is capricious. All at once, the rain starts pouring down and the wind is picking up. To keep going, Guy has to make an extra effort for every stroke. It can lead to new blisters on his hands when rowing gets more laborious. Wearing gloves helps to delay the arrival of blisters but it’s only a matter of time. Eventually blisters come to every rower, and if one chooses not to wear gloves, it does hurt more, but it also helps blisters harden faster and turn into calluses, making their hands slightly more protected. The user journey of the sea is rather painful, isn’t it?
Life at Home: It’s our dinner time at 7, and lots of choices await: takeaways or yesterday’s leftovers? Whether alone or with family and friends, we get to enjoy the meal without disturbance.
Life at Sea: In contrast, David has to do his shift now, rowing alone on the boat. Meanwhile, Guy is back to the cabin, attempting to dry his soaking wet weather gear from the rain despite the fact that the cabin is humid itself. It is not an easy job – not only because it’s humid, but also because Guy might accidentally get his bed wet, too. No matter if it will be wet or dry in two hours, Guy has to wear the gear later when it’s his turn to row. If a usability test is performed, the UX researcher will certainly raise the eyebrow and note it down as something to fix.
Life at Home: Having finished our dinner, we are scrolling through Twitter, Instagram or perhaps TikTok, accompanied by some chitchat.
Life at Sea: Guy and David are also staring at a screen, but it is the monitor of their navigation equipment instead. To make sure they are heading towards the right direction and staying on track, Guy and David must check their location from time to time. After all, there are no traffic signs at sea. Looking ahead it’s endless water.
Life at Home: Once 9pm hits, we begin to wind down for the evening. We’re probably getting tired, and might even hop in the shower to clean off before bed. As we climb under the warm fall of water, our muscles begin to relax and we wash off a day’s worth of stress.
Life at Sea: It’s once again time for Guy to row. He’ll awake from his short sleep and put back on the clothes he hung up to dry just a few hours earlier. They’re still wet, but must go back on. David eats a snack before returning to his bed, ready for another short sleep.
Life at Home: As 11pm rolls around, we climb under the warm, clean sheets. Maybe we’ll pick up a book, watch a film or scroll on our phones once again before we try to fall asleep. After a while, we rest our heads on the soft pillows as we slowly drift off into a nice, deep slumber.
Life at Sea: Guy and David continue their shifts as darkness falls. The air turns colder as the sky goes a deep shade of blue. They switch roles again, and continue their journey into the night.
Life at Home: We wake up during the night unexpectedly – too much water before bed! We head to the bathroom as we stumble through the dark, squinting at the bright light we just flicked on.
Life at Sea: Guy wakes once again, ready to take over David’s role of rowing the boat toward the West Indies. They are surrounded by pitch-black nothingness – a never ending sea of darkness that is slightly visible from their boat lights. These times of night can get spooky – on a boat ride earlier in the year, they even thought they saw a ghost ship! During the night, they passed a very old, very beautiful 60/70-foot yacht under full sail. A bearded gentleman stood at the helm, but, despite being fully framed by their spotlight, he didn’t even turn his head as they passed his ship. The ocean, untouched by most of mankind, is a very strange place – especially at night.
Life at Home: As we hit the deepest part of our sleep, we roll over in bed, acting out the vivid dreams going on inside our heads. We toss and turn, and maybe even knock the covers off, but we do not awake from our slumber. Instead, we continue our snooze into the early hours of the morning.
Life at Sea: David takes over the row, having had a couple hours of shut-eye, on and off. He’ll eat a snack as he begins his shift, and look out into the ocean. These parts of the day can be the hardest. The mental turmoil is no longer blinded by the sun, or distracted by the wonderful sights of dolphins and jellyfish. Instead, they are alone in the silence with just their own thoughts. They can begin to doubt your progress, worry about life back home, or even hallucinate. But they don’t let it deter them, they can’t.
Life at Home: As the sun begins to rise, and the birds start to sing, we slowly come out of our REM sleep. Though we do not wake up, we are more aware of surrounding noises. The cars outside, the kettle boiling, a neighbour moving around. The world is waking us up slowly, and a new day is beginning.
Life at Sea: Guy awakes to the rising sun, and allows David some well-deserved rest after he makes both of them something to eat – beans, or yoghurt, perhaps. They eat together, and discuss the progress they’ve made. They look over the empty ocean and get ready for another day – one day closer to the finish line.
Both the Life at Home and Life at Sea examples used are generalised, light-hearted ideas of what we do everyday, versus what Guy and David are up to out at sea. Of course, everyone’s reality is different, and much more complex than eating, working and sleeping. But, we wrote this article in an attempt to support the amazing effort The Entrepreneur Ship is doing to aid the UnLtd charity, and we wanted to put our own spin on their experience out at sea. As mentioned previously, there is a user experience of anything – whether it’s tangible, intangible, digital, or conceptual, if it can be experienced, then that is all that’s necessary. Guy and David will have experienced a UX that not many can say they have – a UX of life at sea. They will have felt it all, from happiness to sadness, utter panic to complete tranquility, and a sense of being connected to the natural earth in a way most of us living in the modern age have never known.
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