My problem with folks who run their vessels while the occupants, or occupant, "themselves", are asleep, with NO ONE on watch, is this:
I frequently go to windward in high wind
and waves, and the motion on our little trimaran
in those conditions is "lively" to say the least. I may well be on watch, at night, while my wife tries to rest. I can avoid LARGE vessels, like ships, while also ducking below for 5 minutes to make myself a cup of soup. Ships, with their lights bright and high up, are obvious for a LONG way. In good visibility, If I scan carefully before I duck below, I can be assured that their are no "ships" within 5 minutes of me. This is not necessarily true of small sailboats. They are frequently within 1 or 2 minutes of me before I catch a glimpse of their small bouncing tricolor light. If it is raining, they may be within 30 seconds before I see them! The saving grace is that responsible behavior "and maritime law", dictates that BOTH vessels keep a watch. In this case, if one person has ducked below to make a cup of something, or take a whizz, OR they just didn't see you, then the other skipper
is highly unlikely to be doing the same, "at exactly the same time". Both skippers being on watch shares the responsibility of avoiding collision
If one vessel has no one on watch, it puts the other vessel at twice the risk of collision
, without their having made that choice or being consulted first. It "assumes" that the OTHER skipper
will see you, and requires a level of vigilance on their part that is difficult for days on end, and impossible in poor visibility.
I have had a number of close calls with small sailboats due to their having no one on watch. If I had been on a larger boat, and had better visibility, or not been dead tired, I might have seen them BEFORE we were within 100'! To see the other boat ghost by with no one on watch, and I'm already doing the best I possibly can, but didn't see them earlier... and we nearly collided, kinda sandpapers me! I'd like the other guy to be watching to the best of HIS ability too! THEN, if we collide, it's **** happens, VS if one skipper is below asleep, it's that person MAKING **** happen.
I can well sympathize with the fact that some folks simply do not have a sailing mate. It is more their "predicament" than first choice. I was a solo sailor for 20 years before I met my wife. I either had temporary crew, or did day hops no further than I could go without sleep. I have known others who made passages and the wife chose not to go. They were always capable of finding a crew for the passage
to an island group, then they could resume day hops, without leaving the vessel "without a watch", except on rare occasions.
I understand that some well equipped blue water
vessels have an electronic equivalent of watch. That is better than not having it, but I doubt that my wooden boat, (even with it's Firdell Bliper), would show up if you filter out the high waves & rain in rough weather
. Hopefully I'm wrong on that count???
ALL dozen or so single
handed sailors that I have known personally, were really nice guys, but they were poor young men
with funkey boats hung together out of habit. They had none of these electronics, and their batteries often got REALLY low at night, so their nav lights were either dim, or OUT entirely. AND THEY HAD NO ONE ON WATCH!
I realize that there are a lot of folks who just don't care about the other guy... It's up to THEM to avoid a collision. Their are others that feel they are between a rock and a hard place, and would LIKE to share the responsibility, rather than dump 100% of it on the other guy. For them, I suggest that you choose destinations that allow for LOTS of short day hops, (my favorite kind of cruising, diving
, and living anchored out)... And to get there, take on crew as often as it can be arranged.
one is single handed or not, we ALL have a responsibility to "more or less" be on watch at all times, rather than sleeping below in a mindless machine, while under way.
For you other guys, I will continue to keep watch for you as best I can, but for the reasons I mentioned, one of your brethren have nearly run me down on several occasions, IN SPITE of my being on watch. Something to think about...
Best of luck to all of us, in those situations.