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Old 07-09-2006, 18:54   #1

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Best Watch Patterns for 2 People?

Looking at Sunspot Baby's website and reading what his seminars offer reminded me of a good question:

What watch systems do you all use on longer passages with only 2 people?

In my past work on megayachts, we had 4 crew min, so watches were pretty easy to divide up. I find that now, I tend to take much longer watches than my wife, while she tends to do more of the galley work. What do you do?

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Old 07-09-2006, 19:24   #2
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3 on and 3 off after dark... (12 hrs) 4 on 4 off when light (12 hrs) ... rotates every 24 hrs.

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Old 07-09-2006, 23:30   #3
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We also talk about keeping to the 3 hour on / off exchange as we're used to that racing overnight - but the reality is when 2 handed we usually default to another pattern simply because Sue can't sleep on demand - only when she's tired.

So Sue usually cooks so we eat dinner around 8 pm - after which I go down then. I can sleep anywhere, anytime. Sue wakes me around 1 am and we swop over.
I'll usually wait until Sue wakes - around 5 am - when she takes over again whilst I have a short nap before we both start the day with breakfast around 7/8 am.

Hardly scientific - but it works really well for the two of us.

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Old 08-09-2006, 04:55   #4
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Daytime watches are loose - around 3 hours, usually. At night, we are a little more rigid, although the captain will usually let me sleep a bit extra if he isn't too tired. I prefer one shift from midnight to 3 (I hate night watch), so the capt. takes 9-12 and 3-6. I don't mind making up the extra helm time during the day when he can nap.
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Old 08-09-2006, 06:00   #5
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With only two people on a voyage of more than 300 miles I have normally maintained watches only at night, unless the weather turns nasty. That is from dawn to dusk we are both mostly up and awake. If one person wants to grab a nap or just do something in the cabin for awhile, the other person is on watch.
At night we found the 3 on 3 off works well. The watch is not too long and there is the opportunity to get real sleep when off-watch.

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Old 08-09-2006, 06:44   #6
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Maggie & I mostly used nightime watch schedules of 2 on/2 off (sometimes extending to 3/3) on shorter passages of 3 consecutive nights or less. Under those circumstances, we delegated the daytime helm to "Auto", and only stood casual visual watch (allowing us both to rest, if not sleep). Obviously, this reflects favourable sailing conditions.
On longer passages, it's impossible to recover with these shorter rest / sleep cycles, and watch durations must be extended (as Rick pointed out). We have no experience with trans-oceanic crossings, so cannot offer any practical experience ~ so will leave it to Kirk aboard "GALLIVANTER" to offer some excellent advice.
I've stood more than one 36 hour continuous watch, due to more "exciting" conditions (werein Maggie was "indisposed"). Most sailors find that their aversion to "challenge" increases with their experience. We became conservative enough, that (ultimately) we were seldom out in nasty conditions, requiring extraordinary scheduling.
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Old 08-09-2006, 07:10   #7
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Port & Stbd Watch Rotation

Upon arrival, I feel better after a week at sea than I do after a 36 hr passage. We feel that overnighters or two day passages are the most fatiguing but after two days we fall into a groove.

So - after crossing three oceans, my Wife and Aye have settled into a nice and restful rotation for passages greater than three days.

6 hrs on - 6 hrs off from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM - daylight to dusk
4 hrs on - 4 hrs off from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM - dark to dawn

A - 0800 to 1400
B - 1400 to 2000
C - 2000 to midnight
D - midnight to 0400
E - 0400 to 0800

One day I'll do watches A, C & E while she only does B & D
Next day She does A, C & E while I get to take it easy.

The five watch periods per 24 hr day shuffles the watch so that each of you get to watch the sun come up every other day. And it allows the person who has just done the two hardest watches (2000 to midnight AND 0400 to 0800) to get a six hour sleep followed by an easy afternoon and then Midnight to 0400. It makes for a hard-ish day followed by an easy-ish day. It keeps us fresh and in good spirit.

Chores are divided into Pink and Blue jobs. She does what she does best and I do what Aye do best.

Purple pleasures are the ones we enjoy the most!

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Old 08-09-2006, 17:31   #8
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Personally. I find 3 hours sleep is enough to function for a good period of time. The key is to make the off time sleep period worthwhile. Not everyone is the same and with only 2 people you need something that works.
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Old 15-09-2006, 10:54   #9
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We tried 6 on and 6 of at night.. And that lasted maybe 2 nights.. Went back to, I think it was, 4 & 4. Cat napping was allowed with a 20 minute timer for horizen checks. During the day it was kinda' a "whatever" thing. Whomever was feeling more nervious would poke their head out for a look.

We just let "Stainless Stan the Sailing Man" Do all the driving. As soon as we were out of the anchorage and the sails filled, Stainless was hooked up on duty. He was on duty 24/7 'till the engine came back on. (Then it was Roda the Rat's shift.)

One morning, crossing the Pacific, Julie & I woke up incredibally refreshed. "Wow" we looked at one another yawning and streaching, "I feel great!" Then we realised, we'd both just slept through the entire 8 hour night. Yikes!

And the boat sailed merrely along, Stainless driving to perfection. Good thing we didn't hit a ship or something.

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Old 27-09-2007, 13:46   #10
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My wife and I do our shifts at 5 hour turns. But we had the advantage doing that as we are also over the road truck drivers, and thats the shifts we normally do. Doesn't work for everybody but years of doing it makes it normal for us. You will just have to see what works for you.
What we like about it is that its a rotating pattern and your shifts gradually change everyday.
Trying to build up the FREEDOM CHIPS for the last time and sail away forever.
Good luck and Fair winds
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Old 27-09-2007, 14:03   #11
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We have dinner about 1800-1900, I do watch untill 0000 or 0100, my wife then does until 0500 sometimes later if shes enjoying herself, i then take back over and let her sleep for however long she likes, during the day we do whatever we feel like
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Old 28-09-2007, 05:17   #12
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Good question. Varied replies. My boats in Planning, maybe a Mahe 36. Comments?
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Old 28-09-2007, 07:33   #13
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Eleven, there is a thread going about the Mahe 36 with lots of good comments. A quick search should find it easily.


She took my address and my name
Put my credit to shame
Sunspot Baby, sure had a real good time
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