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Old 22-10-2014, 14:40   #241
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Originally Posted by jtsailjt
don't feel that I really am one of those in too dire need of your "refresher" regarding this calculation.

Well, your comment, which I was reacting to, did not appear to demonstrate awareness of the general results of these calculations. I said "a few minutes," not because I don't understand basic math, but because crunching the numbers as you did yields theoretical answers, but the boats I'm worried about you running into don't have a radar return 155' up in the air like the one you chose in your example to justify a longer time period between looking around, and may have almost no radar return until much closer. I realize you're not likely to run into a small wooden yacht or any small boat far out at sea, but the possibility exists that relatively small boats can be "out there" too and it's the responsibility of all of us to look out for each other, not just look out for those vessels that are big enough to hurt us if we collide. Isn't it just as important to look out for small vessels that could be hurt in a collision by us?

As to the rest:

I guess we both agree that this (watch keeping and short handed sailing) is difficult, But I disagree with you that because it is difficult I/no-one should do it. I do sports in part because they are difficult and challenging. Me too, but I don't do sports that could endanger anyone else. Any risk is all mine. If you wanted to singlehand all around the world with nary a peek out the companionway, I'd wholeheartedly agree with your sports analogy, but at sea it's not just about you and your boat.

I also disagree with you on the level of risk to others (particularly when done well, but in fact even when done relatively poorly). On the 'living in the modern world' risk scale it is not even a rounding error.
Rationalization.

I disagree with you on what is necessary, important and practical in keeping sufficient watch to avoid collision (or break any other Colreg rule), and with your assessment that no-single hander could possibly do what is necessary, and I believe (As I have pointed out) the US and French authorities support my position on this - it is possible, but difficult.
I disagree that any authorities have ever approved not keeping a watch at all times. It seems to me it's more like they have agreed to hold their noses and look the other way because the general public isn't interested in this issue, one way or the other, and there's a lot of money involved in promoting these single handed races and the are too few cruisers out there doing it to bother with. I'm a lot more concerned about the reality, and you don't need to ever have set foot on a boat of any kind to understand what happens to your alertness and your brain when you haven't slept for more than a few minutes straight in many days.

I disagree with you if you think all commercial ships are keeping a continuous 7x24 visual scan of the horizon. You simply need to get out more if you think that is either required or happening.I agree with you here, they're doing it "on paper" but when you read Adrift or Our Last Chance, you can't help but be struck by the frustration the survivors felt when being passed by because the nearby commercial vessel wasn't keeping a proper watch as they are required to. Does that really justify small boat sailors keeping a similarly poor watch, just because some other guys are doing it?

And I disagree with your interpretation of Rule 5, and I believe that at least both the French and US authorities support my interpretation (but I don't really care about that). Me neither, but I've seen no official explanation by either authorities saying that "at all times" doesn't mean just that.

You are raising essentially zero new points here, just banging on and on. And there is no point in 'discussing' it with you.
You're said that before, so stop discussing it with me. How can I miss you if you won't go away?

I only stepped back in to qualify/correct your 'mis-statement' about necessary scan interval, and to add the basic calculation to the thread, as it may be new and useful to some.
Now I can't wait for your distinction between "stepping back in to qualify/correct" and continuing to discuss when you said you weren't going to. Maybe you're right that some folks on here don't understand line of sight limitations due to the earths curvature, etc. but I was operating on the assumption that those who cared enough to comment on this subject would at least have a basic understanding of how to compute it and why it's important, but also it's limitations in adverse weather conditions or when equipment is degraded. Thus, depending on a best case scenario where the very tall radar target can be seen so far off in an attempt to justify longer time periods between taking a hard look what's out there is just the sort of "reasoning" that can be a contributing factor in a collision with a smaller, more vulnerable, vessel, like the ones most of us on this forum are likely to be aboard.




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Old 22-10-2014, 14:46   #242
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Seriously, you aren't aware of reports of singlehanders running into fishing boats or other vessels being required to maneuver to avoid collision with sailboats having no-one on watch? Perhaps a very quick google search will refresh both Ann's and your memories....Start with "Scully" or "BOC" but there have been other close calls as well, interesting reading. I doubt that someone who suddenly has a hole punched near their boats waterline in the wee hours of the morning would agree that they weren't "hurt" or seriously endangered. In addition to sailors, there have been incidents of other types of vessels endangering or colliding with others due to their lack of a lookout. These things occasionally happen even when the skipper leaves port with a well equipped and well crewed vessel and with every intention to keep a watch "at all times" as the Colregs require, but it seems to me there's no excuse for intentionally setting yourself up for poor watchkeeping by not taking adequate crew along to do the job.

Actual collisions at sea don't happen often largely because there just aren't that many shorthanders out there crossing oceans with no-one on watch and it's a very big ocean. But that doesn't mean it's right for the relatively few who are doing it to continue. The Colregs are supposed to apply to everyone and they say "at all times," that's pretty clear. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think it would be a good idea to change the Colregs to allow shorthanded offshore sailing with certain additional requirements and restrictions for those who choose to engage in it, but as written now, I think it's both illegal and endangers others lives unnecessarily.
congratulations, you found one event from more than 20 years ago. you have proven your point that it does happen.

I think your also correct that there are relatively very few single handed sailors crossing the oceans so stats would have to be very very low because of this.

BUT, you are completely wrong, as proven by both the Scully case and a much more recent case such as Jessica Watson in Australia, which proves without a shadow of a doubt that it is NOT illegal for single handed sailors to operate. The courts clearly acknowledge and permit single handed sailing as a venture.
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Old 22-10-2014, 14:50   #243
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtsailjt
don't feel that I really am one of those in too dire need of your "refresher" regarding this calculation.

Well, your comment, which I was reacting to, did not appear to demonstrate awareness of the general results of these calculations. I said "a few minutes," not because I don't understand basic math, but because crunching the numbers as you did yields theoretical answers, but the boats I'm worried about you running into don't have a radar return 155' up in the air like the one you chose in your example to justify a longer time period between looking around, and may have almost no radar return until much closer. I realize you're not likely to run into a small wooden yacht or any small boat far out at sea, but the possibility exists that relatively small boats can be "out there" too and it's the responsibility of all of us to look out for each other, not just look out for those vessels that are big enough to hurt us if we collide. Isn't it just as important to look out for small vessels that could be hurt in a collision by us?

As to the rest:

I guess we both agree that this (watch keeping and short handed sailing) is difficult, But I disagree with you that because it is difficult I/no-one should do it. I do sports in part because they are difficult and challenging. Me too, but I don't do sports that could endanger anyone else. Any risk is all mine. If you wanted to singlehand all around the world with nary a peek out the companionway, I'd wholeheartedly agree with your sports analogy, but at sea it's not just about you and your boat.

I also disagree with you on the level of risk to others (particularly when done well, but in fact even when done relatively poorly). On the 'living in the modern world' risk scale it is not even a rounding error.
Rationalization.

I disagree with you on what is necessary, important and practical in keeping sufficient watch to avoid collision (or break any other Colreg rule), and with your assessment that no-single hander could possibly do what is necessary, and I believe (As I have pointed out) the US and French authorities support my position on this - it is possible, but difficult.
I disagree that any authorities have ever approved not keeping a watch at all times. It seems to me it's more like they have agreed to hold their noses and look the other way because the general public isn't interested in this issue, one way or the other, and there's a lot of money involved in promoting these single handed races and the are too few cruisers out there doing it to bother with. I'm a lot more concerned about the reality, and you don't need to ever have set foot on a boat of any kind to understand what happens to your alertness and your brain when you haven't slept for more than a few minutes straight in many days.

I disagree with you if you think all commercial ships are keeping a continuous 7x24 visual scan of the horizon. You simply need to get out more if you think that is either required or happening.I agree with you here, they're doing it "on paper" but when you read Adrift or Our Last Chance, you can't help but be struck by the frustration the survivors felt when being passed by because the nearby commercial vessel wasn't keeping a proper watch as they are required to. Does that really justify small boat sailors keeping a similarly poor watch, just because some other guys are doing it?

And I disagree with your interpretation of Rule 5, and I believe that at least both the French and US authorities support my interpretation (but I don't really care about that). Me neither, but I've seen no official explanation by either authorities saying that "at all times" doesn't mean just that.

You are raising essentially zero new points here, just banging on and on. And there is no point in 'discussing' it with you.
You're said that before, so stop discussing it with me. How can I miss you if you won't go away?

I only stepped back in to qualify/correct your 'mis-statement' about necessary scan interval, and to add the basic calculation to the thread, as it may be new and useful to some.
Now I can't wait for your distinction between "stepping back in to qualify/correct" and continuing to discuss when you said you weren't going to. Maybe you're right that some folks on here don't understand line of sight limitations due to the earths curvature, etc. but I was operating on the assumption that those who cared enough to comment on this subject would at least have a basic understanding of how to compute it and why it's important, but also it's limitations in adverse weather conditions or when equipment is degraded. Thus, depending on a best case scenario where the very tall radar target can be seen so far off in an attempt to justify longer time periods between taking a hard look what's out there is just the sort of "reasoning" that can be a contributing factor in a collision with a smaller, more vulnerable, vessel, like the ones most of us on this forum are likely to be aboard.




.......
okay, peace boys. no point doing this for no other reason than to get one up on the other.
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Old 22-10-2014, 15:02   #244
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Everyone else at sea, from commercial ships, to fishing vessels, to military ships, always have someone awake and on watch.
Surely you don't believe this, Sir!

If you do, you should spend some time far out to sea in the vicinity of fishing vessels and merchant vessels as well. Your opinion might well change.

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Old 22-10-2014, 15:30   #245
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Surely you don't believe this, Sir!

If you do, you should spend some time far out to sea in the vicinity of fishing vessels and merchant vessels as well. Your opinion might well change.

Jim
You're absolutely right, sir!

As I mentioned just above, I should have said that they all are "required" and at least do pretend to have someone on watch but obviously fall short. Non of them attempt to argue that they aren't at least supposed to have someone on watch at all times.

I have a couple of friends, and another good friends son who all graduated from Maine Maritime Academy as "deckies" and have spent a lifetime working at sea, and they claim that at least on US flagged vessels they work on, a good watch is kept 24/7. I don't think it's quite as bad as life raft survivors reports would have you think because even if someone were keeping what I think all of us would consider a very good lookout, an object that small with no radar return would be very hard to see, whereas from the perspective of the guy in the liferaft, the ship looks absolutely huge and so close that can almost reach out and touch it. So, I wouldn't judge US flagged vessels watchkeeping as harshly as some have in books about survival at sea.

Maybe some who have served aboard commercial vessels offshore can comment on the watchkeeping they observed and took part in?
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Old 22-10-2014, 16:29   #246
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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You should perhaps refresh yourself on a few calculations that are taught at every nautical academy - time from hull down to collision.

Let me do a couple examples for you.

We need to start with some data: Lets say your height of eye is 10' from the water surface, and lets say an approaching ship is 155' tall (I just picked out of a NY City report of air drafts entering NY harbor), and lets take half the height of the ship (77.5') as its 'hull down visual range. And finally, lets say you are travelling at 7kts and the ship at 22kts.

That makes the 'hull down' visual range 12.7nm (3.4 + 9.3).

And it makes the head on closing speed 29 kts and the overtaking closing speed 15kts.

Which means that the time from hull down to collision is 26 minutes for a worst case head on collision and 51 minutes in an over taking situation. Which means in this particular case a thorough scan would be satisfactory about ever 20 minutes (giving you 6 minutes to decide on a course of action).

The very worst possible visual range case would be an object with no height, in which case your visual range is 3.4 nm. let's say that that very low object is also moving at 7kts, so the worst case spead on speed is 14kts. That gives you 15 minutes.

You can/should be able to adapt this calculation to whatever situation, types of vessels, you find yourself in.

Now of with radar, either mounted higher than your eye, or higher than 1/2 ship hieght will be able to see further and give you greater time. And with AIS we will also be able to see further.

What is typically taught at the academies, after they go thru all this math, is that the bridge should typically set a minimum horizon scan time of 10 minutes, giving them then 10 minutes to maneuver (you and I on our small boats would need rather less time to maneuver).

On another practical point - pretty much every one is out of sorts before they get their sea legs. Most are fine the first day until the sun sets, and then discombobulated until about day 3, and many not 100% until day 5. This is true full crew or shorthanded crew. This is why many of use prefer longer passages to shorter ones - three days ones are about the hardest/worst. The net of this is that personal discipline is required at sea, whether you are shorthanded or fully crewed. It is easy to slack off, especially at about 2am. My personal experience is that the size of the crew does not really effect or improve this - it is a matter of leadership and personal discipline. Some crew have it and some don't. Some really should not be at sea.

Single handing and short handing does place on top of this fatigue management (which is a different physiological topic than 'sea legs'). It requires further discipline, and I would suggest that a good fraction of westerners do not have what it takes to properly manage themselves single handed. This is a topic well studied in the military, and you will note that (for instance) seal hell week is essentially a sleep derivation tank, where those who can not manage are washed out.
Respect for experience.

to the anti-soloist.
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Old 22-10-2014, 16:54   #247
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

An inside glimpse of an adventure racing team | Inov-8 New Zealand

For those who don't believe, have a look at what they acheive in adventure racing: 2 hours sleep per day for 10 days while hiking, biking, kyaking etc in a race.
Compared to what they do in Adventure racing, solo sailing/watchkeeping is a walk in the park.
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Old 22-10-2014, 17:34   #248
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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In standby?! The alarms don't work with the radar in standby! Your radar in standby is basically like your radar sleeping in the cockpit. Why in the world would you let your radar sleep in the cockpit, when you would never allow a human watchkeeper to do so?
I can't agree more! Ridiculous to have it on standby. Sleep mode, maybe, where it turns itself on and off every few minutes (like a singlehander), but not standby. Personally, I almost always have my radar on, and at relatively close range, whether crewed or singlehanded, night or day, and I have many times observed that it is a much better watch keeper than the human eye.
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Old 22-10-2014, 17:54   #249
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Originally Posted by jtsailjt View Post
Seriously, you aren't aware of reports of singlehanders running into fishing boats or other vessels being required to maneuver to avoid collision with sailboats having no-one on watch? Perhaps a very quick google search will refresh both Ann's and your memories....Start with "Scully" or "BOC" but there have been other close calls as well, interesting reading. I doubt that someone who suddenly has a hole punched near their boats waterline in the wee hours of the morning would agree that they weren't "hurt" or seriously endangered. In addition to sailors, there have been incidents of other types of vessels endangering or colliding with others due to their lack of a lookout. These things occasionally happen even when the skipper leaves port with a well equipped and well crewed vessel and with every intention to keep a watch "at all times" as the Colregs require, but it seems to me there's no excuse for intentionally setting yourself up for poor watchkeeping by not taking adequate crew along to do the job.

Actual collisions at sea don't happen often largely because there just aren't that many shorthanders out there crossing oceans with no-one on watch and it's a very big ocean. But that doesn't mean it's right for the relatively few who are doing it to continue. The Colregs are supposed to apply to everyone and they say "at all times," that's pretty clear. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think it would be a good idea to change the Colregs to allow shorthanded offshore sailing with certain additional requirements and restrictions for those who choose to engage in it, but as written now, I think it's both illegal and endangers others lives unnecessarily.
This thread began as a question to the forum, who are cruisers, not to extreme singlehanded racers. Jessica certainly was a cruiser, but I repeat that I can't remember a time when a singlehanded cruiser hurt someone else. I am sure it might have happened, but very very rarely. And, by the way, almost the same thing applies to singlehanded racers, whether the true pros or the amateurs who might relish the challenge of something like the Singlehanded Transpac.

Beth and Evans are far from unique. Most cruising is done by couples, facing the same challenges, and pretty much handling them as Evans has so well described.

And, by the way, since aircraft have entered into the discussion, how come small commercial planes, carrying passengers, can operate with only one pilot? Surely that demonstrates that life is relative and everything is a risk. Is one of those pilots never going to have a health crisis? And wouldn't a mechanical crisis be better handled by a crew of two? And didn't the pilot unions used to insist that it needed to be a crew of three? What happened to that? Society weighed things and maybe rationalized things and came to its conclusions. Of course, it helps that planes and their electronics are much better now than they used to be, even though, in many cases, they have been more primitive than some of the stuff we use in small boats. But we still fly......

To conclude with something more lighthearted, years ago (true story, back when the OSTAR race was a mostly amateur competition amongst those scaling their personal Everests - which challenge, by the way, claims far more lives than any kind of sailing) one of the competitors spied another small sailboat, far out in the Atlantic. He sailed over to hail them, but no one answered. Maybe singlehanded, maybe doublehanded, maybe fully crewed, but no one came topside. He sailed up very close and then lobbed a loaf of bread into the other boat's cockpit. No one knows what the sleeping crew's reaction was when they eventually came up and found the bread, but it must have been interesting.
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Old 22-10-2014, 18:34   #250
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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In standby?! The alarms don't work with the radar in standby! Your radar in standby is basically like your radar sleeping in the cockpit. Why in the world would you let your radar sleep in the cockpit, when you would never allow a human watchkeeper to do so?
Because I'm not sleeping in the cockpit, I'm there and awake and as I said I do turn the radar on for a longer range look around every 15 minutes. That's not quite the same as just leaving the radar in standby all night long. Also, the radar in stby wakes up instantly when asked to and is also instantly coherent, unlike a sleeping watchkeeper trying to wake up and fall then asleep every 15 minutes. It's also almost instantly available if I think I see something within that 15 minute window that I want to check out. Of course, if I see a return that needs monitoring during that look around, I leave the radar on until I'm satisfied it's not a potential collision threat. But if I see nothing, then I go back to standby for another 15 minutes. So that I don't get sloppy and let that 15 minute interval turn into more, I allow myself only a 1 minute tolerance to do my 15 minute checks, including checking the radar. If I go beyond the 16th minute without noticing, I spend the next 15 minutes on my feet and moving to help get my alertness back where it needs to be. If, in addition to it being nighttime, there is poor visibility so I think I'd be unlikely to see another vessels lights in time to avoid a collision, I'd leave the radar on full time. But as is true using your technique of depending on your radar alarm to alert you to other traffic while sailing, of course I'm aware that while sailing, the boat is likely to be heeled over so that its effectiveness is limited on either side of center unless I have a leveling radar antenna mount (my current boat doesn't have one but it's "on the list"). But unlike blindly depending on a radar alarm that may or may not be triggered while heeling as little as about 12.5 degrees, at least I'm awake and can take the radars limited effectiveness to either side into account. Or, if the engine is running so electricity consumption isn't a consideration, I'd also leave the radar on all night (the comment I made was in response to a question about "sailing" at night). But in good visibility at night while sailing, once my eyes are adjusted to the darkness and my ears are adjusted to the quiet, I feel that a constant visual and listening lookout combined with a longer range look around via the radar every 15 minutes keeps me well aware of any other vessels in the area.
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Old 22-10-2014, 20:03   #251
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

[QUOTE=accomplice;1660659]Leaving the issue of AIS aside (see my earlier post on an encounter with a non-transmitting vessel), in my experience, in any significant sea state (10ft+), radar has had a far greater range and reliability in sighting other vessels (and rain, for what it is worth) than unassisted visual search.

Until this realization, I had not normally used radar while under sail because of the large power consumption. I am now starting to feel it is prudent, even in uncrowded areas, and even with multiple crew to stand watch. }

The radar will pick up most targets long before you can see them visually. Check your instructions, they can usually be programmed turn on at a set interval which will signifigantly reduce power consumption. On some the number of scans can be set,I usually set it to the maximum. Too few scans and it may not be on long enough to get a good look when you are on top of a swell and all around when rolling. An added bonus is an early warning for approaching squalls.
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Old 22-10-2014, 20:39   #252
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

[QUOTE=Sailormantx;1660930]
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Originally Posted by accomplice View Post
Leaving the issue of AIS aside (see my earlier post on an encounter with a non-transmitting vessel), in my experience, in any significant sea state (10ft+), radar has had a far greater range and reliability in sighting other vessels (and rain, for what it is worth) than unassisted visual search.

Until this realization, I had not normally used radar while under sail because of the large power consumption. I am now starting to feel it is prudent, even in uncrowded areas, and even with multiple crew to stand watch. }

The radar will pick up most targets long before you can see them visually. Check your instructions, they can usually be programmed turn on at a set interval which will signifigantly reduce power consumption. On some the number of scans can be set,I usually set it to the maximum. Too few scans and it may not be on long enough to get a good look when you are on top of a swell and all around when rolling. An added bonus is an early warning for approaching squalls.
I totally agree. Leaving the radar on standby is losing your best watchstander, much better than visual. Not everything is lit! IF you keep track of what you see and what it sees, you will find this to be the case. By the way, I found that out on a relatively tender monohull, and my radar was not self-levelling. But I would run it during the day, as well as night, and practice tuning it as well as possible and experiment with how it did. I believe the margin on the heeling angle is much greater than advertised, maybe because of rolling or pitching. OF course, there could be a colreg that said at night one had to reef such that one didn't heel more than 12.5 degrees......! Yikes.

Good point on the squalls... I find that very handy, too.

I remember a case where I believe the captain was found at fault, because he had a radar and didn't have it on, thereby not keeping the best watch possible. Of course, I am sure he argued that his eyes were better.

Look, it's clear that there are lots of folks on this thread who singlehand, and have thought about it a lot, have lots of experience, and who have explained what has worked. And there are those with little or no actual experience singlehanding who try to tear the singlehanders to bits. I have always found that the thoughtful singlehander is a very careful sailor, precisely because he or she is keenly aware that there is little margin and his or her own life at stake. They are not daredevils, but generally very methodical and foresighted folks. On the other hand, many crewed boats are lulled into a feeling that they are much safer, but don't take half as much care and don't preplan nearly as much. I do both, and both observations are true.
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Old 23-10-2014, 01:06   #253
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Originally Posted by jtsailjt View Post
Because I'm not sleeping in the cockpit, I'm there and awake and as I said I do turn the radar on for a longer range look around every 15 minutes. That's not quite the same as just leaving the radar in standby all night long. Also, the radar in stby wakes up instantly when asked to and is also instantly coherent, unlike a sleeping watchkeeper trying to wake up and fall then asleep every 15 minutes. It's also almost instantly available if I think I see something within that 15 minute window that I want to check out. Of course, if I see a return that needs monitoring during that look around, I leave the radar on until I'm satisfied it's not a potential collision threat. But if I see nothing, then I go back to standby for another 15 minutes. So that I don't get sloppy and let that 15 minute interval turn into more, I allow myself only a 1 minute tolerance to do my 15 minute checks, including checking the radar. If I go beyond the 16th minute without noticing, I spend the next 15 minutes on my feet and moving to help get my alertness back where it needs to be. If, in addition to it being nighttime, there is poor visibility so I think I'd be unlikely to see another vessels lights in time to avoid a collision, I'd leave the radar on full time. But as is true using your technique of depending on your radar alarm to alert you to other traffic while sailing, of course I'm aware that while sailing, the boat is likely to be heeled over so that its effectiveness is limited on either side of center unless I have a leveling radar antenna mount (my current boat doesn't have one but it's "on the list"). But unlike blindly depending on a radar alarm that may or may not be triggered while heeling as little as about 12.5 degrees, at least I'm awake and can take the radars limited effectiveness to either side into account. Or, if the engine is running so electricity consumption isn't a consideration, I'd also leave the radar on all night (the comment I made was in response to a question about "sailing" at night). But in good visibility at night while sailing, once my eyes are adjusted to the darkness and my ears are adjusted to the quiet, I feel that a constant visual and listening lookout combined with a longer range look around via the radar every 15 minutes keeps me well aware of any other vessels in the area.
But why would the "longer range look around via radar" be relegated to an intermittent duty, when it would be alerting you far sooner and far more reliably than your primary watchkeeping method?

I'm struggling to understand this approach. Maybe your radar is given to false alarms, like my old one was? Or you have a power deficit? Whatever the reason, it seems to me like a serious compromise of the effectiveness of watchkeeping, to keep the longest range means of detection in standby most of the time.

Do you have AIS? If not, then a radar plot is going to be your most effective means of figuring a CPA on a contact in order to determine whether you have a situation or not. If you wait until you see it with your bare eyes, you will lose a whole lot of precious time -- radar plots take some time, even automatic ones.

What I do is somewhat different. Far out to sea, I can't keep an effective watch sitting down -- human nature. Especially at night. So I stand on the companionway with my head and shoulders out the scuttle and look out over the bow and think about life. Radar guard zones and AIS alarms set. I can't think of a single case where I have seen a vessel with my eyes before it was picked up by one or both of the electronic means, especially since getting the new radar two years ago (B&G 4G). So when the alarm goes off, I walk back to the helm and figure out what kind of contact we're dealing with. Track it. Take any necessary action. Watch it go by. Check sail trim. Then go back to standing in the companionway.

Last summer, crossing the North Sea, I was on watch after midnight with another crew (I like to double the watches after midnight, if there's enough crew). We were passing through what should have been, according to absolutely fresh charts (electronic ones updated literally days before), open water. I was actually standing behind the radar, and not in the companionway, at this time, and was watching the radar screen. Suddenly at the outer range (set on 18 miles I think), appeared a mass of contacts like an invading fleet of alien spaceships. No AIS! It completely freaked me out -- what the h***? After doing a little plotting, I realized that all the contacts were stationary. So I altered course to pass just to the South of it. More than an hour later, only, did we make visual contact -- a giant wind farm! In the middle of the North Sea. The early warning was very, very useful.
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Old 23-10-2014, 03:58   #254
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Yeah those wind farms can be be poorly charted, I've come across a couple like that as well. They look like they're mahout of pretty hard moving stuff as well...
Our radar is usually on when offshore with alarms set at least in a forward sector. Occasionally we use the intermittent transmit feature to do a 30 second sweep every 5 minutes if we want to save power. I would have thought most radars have that feature which is much better than having to do it manually. One problem with radar alarms is that once a target enters the zone and activates it, it will keep activating the alarm till it's out of the zone. This means we need to adjust the zone to exclude the target which may be 10 miles away and reset the zone after it has passed clear. Not a real big deal but it would be nice to be able to exclude the target.
Sailing with AIS and radar gives a nice peace of mind that you have several overlapping collision avoidance systems in place. On a clear night I've seen a well lit ship visually just before the radar, but 9 times out of 10 the radar or AIS sees it before I do.
Often if it's a close CPA I grab the hand bearing compass and keep an eye on the bearings as well and also monitor the AIS passing on opencpn. I have a certain amount of faith in electronics, but definitely not 100%. It's not impossible for the AIS, radar or plotter to have a malfunction and stop working.
On a similar note, anchor alarms offer me the same peace of mind. I dont trust them 100%, but on a settled night I can sleep 8 hrs without feeling the need to go on deck and check things out.
On the defensive side, we transmit AIS, have a good radar reflector, good nav lights and also leave a deck light on as well as the anchor light if anchored in a traffic area, so we do our best to see and be seen at all times.
Some people seem comfortable with a lot less than I feel comfortable with but I fully respect their choices and decisions, even though I'd love to see other yachts transmitting, reflecting and keeping watch to my level of comfort, I also love to see a single hander far offshore in a little wooden boat with few gadgets...
Each to his/ her own...
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Old 23-10-2014, 04:21   #255
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Quote:
Originally Posted by monte View Post
Yeah those wind farms can be be poorly charted, I've come across a couple like that as well. They look like they're mahout of pretty hard moving stuff as well...
Our radar is usually on when offshore with alarms set at least in a forward sector. Occasionally we use the intermittent transmit feature to do a 30 second sweep every 5 minutes if we want to save power. I would have thought most radars have that feature which is much better than having to do it manually. One problem with radar alarms is that once a target enters the zone and activates it, it will keep activating the alarm till it's out of the zone. This means we need to adjust the zone to exclude the target which may be 10 miles away and reset the zone after it has passed clear. Not a real big deal but it would be nice to be able to exclude the target.
Sailing with AIS and radar gives a nice peace of mind that you have several overlapping collision avoidance systems in place. On a clear night I've seen a well lit ship visually just before the radar, but 9 times out of 10 the radar or AIS sees it before I do.
Often if it's a close CPA I grab the hand bearing compass and keep an eye on the bearings as well and also monitor the AIS passing on opencpn. I have a certain amount of faith in electronics, but definitely not 100%. It's not impossible for the AIS, radar or plotter to have a malfunction and stop working.
On a similar note, anchor alarms offer me the same peace of mind. I dont trust them 100%, but on a settled night I can sleep 8 hrs without feeling the need to go on deck and check things out.
On the defensive side, we transmit AIS, have a good radar reflector, good nav lights and also leave a deck light on as well as the anchor light if anchored in a traffic area, so we do our best to see and be seen at all times.
Some people seem comfortable with a lot less than I feel comfortable with but I fully respect their choices and decisions, even though I'd love to see other yachts transmitting, reflecting and keeping watch to my level of comfort, I also love to see a single hander far offshore in a little wooden boat with few gadgets...
Each to his/ her own...
Indeed.

Watchkeeping is all about being aware of traffic in time to perform decent collision avoidance. That is the purpose of it, and this purpose can be served in different ways. The ancient, traditional way is by sight (and sound) alone, and this is required as a minimum by the Colregs. But this method has huge drawbacks -- limited range, uncertain reliability, human factor, etc., etc.

Just because visual watchkeeping is the only method specifically required by the Colregs does not mean that the others should be blithely ignored. AIS is such a powerful tool for this that it really should be required -- and I'm sure it will be some day. If it were required, then this could really become the primary method of watchkeeping offshore with visual and radar as backups.

Even the minimalist single hander with kerosene powered nav lights could have a solar powered AIS box as required minimum equipment -- I don't think it would spoil his lifestyle.

So in my opinion setting and maintaining guard zones and keeping the AIS alarms properly set is as important a part of watchkeeping as anything else. And by the way, is also required by the Colregs, if you have the equipment in the first place. If you get into a collision because your radar was on standby, you are in exactly the same amount of trouble you would be in for getting into a collision because you were below sleeping -- both are violations of Rule 5. Making a judgement call to keep your radar switched off is no different, in the view of the Colregs, from making a judgement call to go below and take a nap. I'm not saying that it is per se negligent to keep your radar off -- I think it might be well justified in some cases -- but you do so at your own risk.

Kudos to you for keeping the hand bearing compass to hand. I have a lot of faith in my electronics, which I think give us a quantum leap forward in terms of safety, but in order to understand what you see at sea with your eyes, you have to have a way of taking bearings. I don't think your eyes are much good without the HBC. I always have one in the cockpit (plus I have binocs with an electronic compass inside), and like you, I like to use it to verify what the instruments are telling me. Lots of redundant sources of information reduce the risk of a mistake. Plus, I find that on long passages, it helps the quality of my watchkeeping to stay busy.


As to shutting off the radar -- I think this is the last thing you should save power on. Surely running your engine a bit more often is a small price to pay to avoid this hole in your watchkeeping. My new radar -- a continuous wave one, B&G 4G, hardly uses any power anyway -- I don't notice the consumption at all. I think it draws like 20 watts.
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