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Old 29-01-2011, 09:17   #1

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Been reading here for years and thinking for a couple about getting a ship and sailing off. I'm at the stage where I can't really grasp in my thinking, about single-handing a power vessel on a voyage. The base question is, is that "allowed"?

For example I'm honing in on a Leopard 47 Powercat as travelling condo for one if you will. What I am struggling with is visualizing voyaging by oneself. Say for instance Florida to Bahamas which I believe is not more than say 10 hours. Driving a boat by yourself, what exactly does one do the entire time? Sit at the helm and keep watch? Auto pilot part way physically the rest of the way?

More importantly much longer voyages. I see they are delivered from Cape Town to the Bahamas via Brazil for refuelling. Is it feasible for one person to even attempt something like that? What does one do at night. Stop slow down to sleep? If you stop can you sleep as long as you like or should it be for a few hours at a time and wake up and look around (per solo sailors in their sail boats). Also, again what would one do the entire time, sit at the helm and drive the boat 8 hours a day? Stop sleep repeat the next day till you get to the destination?

I am having difficulty visualizing this aspect and probably very obviously its a fundamentally newbie (which I am) question to those experienced but if someone can illuminate for me whether is "permissible", not possible, or not a good idea, or nothing wrong with doing it if you do it like so and so, it would help me to to the next step.


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Old 29-01-2011, 10:21   #2
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Single Handing & Welcome Aboard

Everyone has their own system. Some need to sleep longer then others, so different routines come into play.

If the boat has an adequate auto pilot it can travel in decent weather but if it picks up (25+ kt. wind) then manual steering may become a must. The object it to get your rest in fair weather.

Some set timers to go off every 20 min's or so.

Some stop the boat depending on the weather. A sailboat one can heave-to. A power boat one could put out a small sea anchor to keep the boat into the wind. A full size sea anchor would be a lot of work.

The use of AIS, radar and depth alarms make it much safer out there these days. So a full electronics package would be wise.

There are a lot of options and I'm sure others will pipe in here.

Have you considered taking on a crew member?

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Old 29-01-2011, 11:10   #3
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I wouldn't think there is a difference between power and sail. In general us singlehanders get very tired. We are not at the helm continuously. Or even at all. But we are on watch all the time. Even when the eyes are closed. Planning a voyage with stops every day is the sweet way. Going to the Bahamas would be trivial I think, given appropriate weather.
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Old 05-02-2011, 16:52   #4
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As you have engine/s you may care to check out the Nordhaven and Passagemaker websites- quite a lot about couples passagemaking, and the problems they have encountered/solved etc. Just divide by 2.
Singlehanded KadeyKrogen 47' owner after 2700 miles- "You might wonder if this is a journey I would take again. The answer is an unequivocal maybe"
Fred Pflaum, PassageMaker mag. article, Feb2009.
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Old 05-02-2011, 17:18   #5
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I single hand commercial fish, and I have done a gulf of Alaska crossing single handed, 800 nm leg. I had a crewman with me on the gulf crossing, but he was so seasick, he never left the bunk until we got sight of land on the other side, since he was inexperienced, I didn't dare lay down because of our proximity to land.
What is required is to perform a much more detailed voyage plan, so that when you are closing with your land fall, and or shipping channels, it is daylight and you have had some rest so you can think clearly. I know 2 Australian couples that sailed from Auz. to Alaska and they would douse the sails for tea time and come night fall deploy a sea anchor and go to bed, get up the next morning rested, and ready to get underway again, and this was in the day before GPS or Loran C, strictly sextant and compass. They made it fine and were well rested coming into port.
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Old 09-02-2011, 12:56   #6
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Under the COLREG's you cannot single hand for any length of time and have a proper lookout. Legally, you can't. Humans need sleep eventually. But of course this is done all the time. You just have to realize the increased risk you take and decide if the reward/risk ratio is worth it. Many think it is worthwhile. I would do it.

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Old 09-02-2011, 13:12   #7
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Your autopilot will do 95% of the work... come time for beddy byes you acknowledge the basic fact everyone dies sometime... even in bed... so set your warning systems (if you can afford a powercat you can afford every possible warning device on the market) and get your head down...
I have no warning systems at all and regularly follow this routine when solo... sometimes just keep sailing and snoring... if weathers bad heave to and snore...
Untwist your knickers and get out there...

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Old 09-02-2011, 13:56   #8
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Originally Posted by aireflow View Post
Driving a boat by yourself, what exactly does one do the entire time? Sit at the helm and keep watch? Auto pilot part way physically the rest of the way?
A 10-hour voyage is not that big a deal if you've got good sailing conditions. On the other hand, if it's nasty and your seasick, 10 hours could be pure hell.

Let's assume the best in terms of conditions. When this is the case, I find a 10-hour passage much more restful and enjoyable than something like a ten-hour car ride. While you're on watch the entire time, that doesn't mean you have to be at the wheel. You can warm up a bowl of soup, use the head, check on the engine, et cetera while still keeping a proper watch, especially with assistance from modern navigation systems.

When I'm making a passage, whether singlehanded or not, I tend to set up a "guard zone" with the radar so that it will sound an alarm should any other vessel appear within six nautical miles of my position. When that happens, I ask my MARPA system to track the target, and it will warn me if it thinks there's any chance of a collision. Indeed, it gets positively pesky should any vessel come within a half mile.

Your question about what you do is interesting. Navigation takes up a considerable amount of time, especially if you're keeping a running log of your dead reckoning position. I chart and log my position every hour on the hour, and I check my systems (engine temperature, oil pressure, fuel supply, packing gland) every hour on the half hour.

We tend to get relaxed when we're offshore away from shipping lanes. My practice is to do a sweep--both visually and via checking the radar--at least every ten minutes to make certain I'm not going to run into anything. Once I've done that, there's very little to be gained by sitting at the helm staring at the water. If at that point it's time to change CDs in the stereo, I tell myself that I've got 10 minutes, maximum, before I need to do another sweep.
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Old 10-02-2011, 12:54   #9

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Thanks very much everyone.

That addresses my concerns. It can be done, with planning and care, and is not not recommended. Bash your details paint the picture very well as to how it should be done. I'll definitely check out the Nordhaven and Passagemaker websites for indivual logs. 10 hours or even 24 wouldn't be a problem, my thinking has been on much longer voyages such as Southern Africa to the Caribbean etc. No doubt a bit or arm twisting would get me at least one or two to come along. But when you got to go, you got to go.
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Old 16-02-2011, 11:21   #10
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When you get out there (leave the marinas in the US), you will find people who will want to come along, and will be useful. They got out there, they are still out there, and they want to keep going.

Its a small world, so its easy to check references. Never, ever take someone aboard for a voyage who does not have a verifiable track record at sea.

Until you get out there, you will mostly find people who are inappropriate for any number of reasons.
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Old 16-02-2011, 11:41   #11
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Beside being illegal, it is irresponsible too! Oh, I've done it, but I was young and irresponsible when I did it... Yes, I have been run down! I have also had boats come within 100', with NO ONE at the helm, on about 10 occasions! Unless it is a daysail, or you can stay awake for that "one over nighter", don't do it, you must stand watch at all times! Mark
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Old 16-02-2011, 12:08   #12
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If you read the posts carefully and maybe between the lines, the people who have responded have ALL been or seem to be very experienced sailors and DEFINITELY NOT newbies to sailing or power boats.

I won't go into my background but I have been sailing single handed since 1964, and I (and they) might just have the experience to either avoid trouble if possible or get myself (themselves) out of it if sh"t happens, which it will.

Can I suggest that you get some training, do a few things wrong so you can identify when things are starting to go "tits up".

I don't want to put you off just suggesting a sensible delay while you learn to stay alive.

Then go for it when you are not a risk to yourself and others.

Sorry if I sound to be preaching but as an ex Skipper of a coastal police launch or two I have seen the wrong side of boating.

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Old 16-02-2011, 12:16   #13
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I personally can't do anything more than about 24 hours offshore by myself. My brain simply turns into mush and my decision making becomes compromised. This is even with "cat naps." At night, I sweep the horizon in every direction, looking for lights. If none are seen, I set a small timer for ten minutes and go to sleep. When the timer goes off, I sweep again, check my sail trim and instruments, then set the timer for ten minutes and go to sleep again. This can really take a toll on you, and I can't imagine doing it for days on end. The safest way to make passages offshore is to always have a person who is awake and fairly rested to stand watch. Anything else is a roll of the dice.
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Old 21-02-2011, 18:15   #14
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Re: Singlehanding

Originally Posted by Mark Johnson View Post
Beside being illegal,
hmmm.... perhaps you could provide us with an example where someone was charged with "singlehanding"?

Operating a vessel by yourself is not illegal, and I don't think you can come up with a single instance when, absent some other issue, a person in the USA was given a warning, fined, cited, charged or convicted of operating a vessel while single handed.

Failure to keep a proper lookout is contrary to the published Rules of the Road (rule #5) and some people incorrectly assume that, because a single handed crew will eventually have to take his eyes off the water that they are by definition in violation of the Rule...other folks can point out that even boats with multiple crew members often fail to "keep a proper lookout". The proper lookout issue isn't in any way tied to how many people are on board, at least not in any strict reading of in the Rules. For instance, it is certainly reasonable to think that you could keep a proper lookout all by yourself when moving your boat from a marina to a fuel dock that is a mile away.

In almost every case, one would have to be involved in some kind of collision before any authorities would find that you had violated a rule, and in most of those cases, the penalties are civil, not criminal.
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Old 21-02-2011, 18:44   #15
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pirate Re: Singlehanding

Doug86... its a misconception shared by many that COLREG's is a legally binding set of regulations like the Highway Code or something where a cop jumps out from behind a bush coz you did'nt stop at a junction... regardless that there was nothing coming and book you... take you to court and have you banged up or fined.
In fact its a set of recommendations designed to produce some form of order on the open sea's.... its illegal to sleep underway solo in a harbour/waterway.... but at sea... whole different ball game baby... and long may it stay that way...

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