Three round trips Chesapeake to FLL, Catalina
42, all outside, three legs solo. My MO:
#1 GOOD AUTOPILOT
. Hydraulic, below deck
. A backup autopilot
. (ST4000 in my case)
Alarm every hour on the hour, around the clock. Some hours sleep, some hours do what the boat needs, some hours do what I need. Sleep in the cockpit
. Sleeping bag with water
proof outer bag. Reef before dark if there's any chance of needing to do so. This adds up to 10 hours of sleep/24 hours. It becomes a rhythm. I have done it for 6 days, but could have gone on for ever if I wanted to. The boat wakes you up if it needs you.
Get well offshore
before the napping starts. Beyond 50/60 miles off-shore 99% of what you run into is large. Check PAPER charts
for solid objects 50/60 miles ahead.
Alarm hooked up to ship's stereo LOUD. (I'm a pt musician, and LOVE music
, but for some reason not at sea.) AIS
makes the traffic a non issue. You know about every one of them 20 miles before they get to you, 10 miles before you can see them.
Last but not least. Plan a landfall with an IMMEDIATE place to drop the hook and take a long nap. Once you get into the above described rhythm for more than 24 hours you are living "from paycheck to paycheck" sleep wise. Once you get in-shore again there's too much going on and you start missing the naps.....you VERY quickly become dangerous. Make landfall, park and nap.
I remember being abeam Stuart FL, at 1 am and needing "a few minutes" I set every alarm and laid down. When I woke up it was.......DAYLIGHT and I recognized West Palm!!! 25 miles, 5 miles from shore.... Fortunately it just babbled along at 4-5 knots.