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Old 17-10-2014, 11:35   #91
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Originally Posted by robert sailor View Post
Single handers and a proper watch can not be discussed at the same time.
I agree, in general, but in really open, obstacle-free water outside of shipping lanes, with good radar and AIS equipment, with radar guard zones, AIS alarms, and depth alarms set, I think we can cut single-handers a certain amount of slack. The visual watch is a small part of the whole picture, at night, with good electronic equipment.
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Old 17-10-2014, 11:45   #92
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Originally Posted by accomplice View Post
Last Saturday night, while hove to about 240nm WNW of Bermuda I was awoken by the crew on watch. Using Radar my crew had tracked a vessel off our starboard beam, with constant bearing, now 6 miles away. It was not appearing on AIS - but that might have been because our AIS has exhibited reduced range lately. I observed the vessel on radar and visually for a few minutes. It exhibited white over red with a feint green visible next to the red. Uh oh.

I attempted unsuccessfully three times to hail the unknown vessel on the radio.

We had our tricolor on, but as the other boat neared 1.5 miles I put on the spreader lights to light up the deck and sails. The other boat continued heading straight for us.

I then took out the brightest flashlight I had and began flashing towards the oncoming vessel.

Immediately the other vessel appeared on AIS and hailed us and asked, "Why you flashing that light at me?". I explained that I wanted to make sure they saw us. The other vessel requested that I repeat slower as his English was not good. After repeating myself twice more, he asked if we needed assistance. "Negative," I relied. They passed less than 0.2nm off our bow. They remained visible on AIS and radar for several miles.


I don't know what would've happened had we not been keeping watch.
Have had several similar experiences...mid-sized foreign freighters that don't broadcast and refuse to acknowledge you on the VHF, and end up passing frighteningly close. Really bugs me, particularly in bad weather at night.
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Old 17-10-2014, 11:50   #93
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Yes, always.
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Old 17-10-2014, 12:12   #94
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Originally Posted by atlantical View Post
I took 57 days to solo from Bermuda to Castle Bay Island of Barra Scotland. I don't do short sleeps, I took the full eight hours most of the time, I sleep much better on a boat than I do in a house, I have met people that claim they only sleep for thirty mins at a time, but I have honestly never witnessed anyone that sleeps like that. I think people say it, as single handing is very irresponsible, you cant keep a proper watch at all times, as the book tells us to do. Their is also the boredom, and the best way to stop being bored on a boat, is sleep.

I was in the merchant navy for many years, so I know how well a watch is kept on a ship, so I am quite happy to let ships avoid me when I am sleeping. I do though make sure my boat is visible with navigation lights and a radar reflector.

I have only ever had one close call while single handing, that was heading to Bermuda, I went head on with a sail boat that was coming from Bermuda going to the USA, I think it was another single hander, as their was no one on deck, no one answered the radio, and I had to alter to avoid it, had I been asleep at the same time, their is a slight possibility we would have collided.

.
If you've been sleeping for hours at a time with no-one on watch, you can't possibly have ANY IDEA how many close calls you've had, or how many others you may have endangered. Not everyone out there has an AIS transmitter or effective radar reflector so even with all your "magic" turned on, modern electronics are no substitute for a human being regularly scanning the horizon and radar screen and listening and smelling and you can't do that while asleep.

You do have it right that singlehanding is irresponsible, at least when the singlehander continues to drive on toward his destination while asleep, completely ignoring his obligation to keep a watch while underway. How can right of way rules work to keep us all safe, if one (or both) of the boats involved have no-one on watch for hours at a time? If anyone intentionally operates a boat without a lookout for a longer period than the time it would reasonably take another boat to close with them, then they are putting their own life in danger as well as anyone else who might be out there. The other boat might be keeping a good watch and see you and he might not. But where else is it OK to just drive through traffic with your eyes closed, expecting the other guy to understand and accept just how "special" you are and to assume 100% of the responsibility of avoiding a collision?

The best modern day analogy to not keeping a watch that I can think of is teenage girls adamantly defending their right to texting while driving because, after all, they just deserve to go through life with everyone else deferring to them and getting out of their way, and besides, they haven't run into anyone yet so it MUST be safe!
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Old 17-10-2014, 12:14   #95
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Secondly, Accomplice did precisely the right thing. Exactly the right thing.
So you're saying that sitting, hove-to, while a ship bears down on you is "the right thing"? Even when the ship got just 1.5 miles away? Let me ask, if you are driving down the highway and you see a semi-truck coming at you in your lane; do you just keep driving knowing that he will do the right thing? My dad had a saying "you were dead right."

What if the guy on the ship was in the head with a magazine? This probably does not happen in the English Channel, but you can bet it happens on the open ocean - all the time.

There is nothing wrong with flashing your light or hailing the ship by radio. But in the end it is up the the sailor to take control of the situation. And that means sailing the boat.

Just read the Jessica Watson report that I mentioned earlier to understand what happens when a sailboat does nothing and assumes that the ship knows what the rules are. Even after she was hit by the ship and spoken to them on the radio, they didn't stop. Just kept going.

Quote:
Thirdly, the advice in the book to ignore (to "reverse", even) the Colregs is very poor advice, for very many reasons.
When teaching my kids to drive a car, the best advice I give them is to assume that everyone else on the road is an idiot, so drive like they are out to kill you. That is, drive defensively. Don't ever assume that the other driver will stop at a red light or stop sign. Don't ever assume that the other driver will yield the right of way at an uncontrolled intersection. Just don't ever assume that the other driver knows anything.

The same rule can be used on the sea. You can hope that the other skipper knows what he is doing, but don't assume it. So if a ship is bearing down on you and you can't get in contact at the first instant, take control of the situation yourself. You can flash lights and flares all you like, but for heaven sakes don't sit dead in the water.
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Old 17-10-2014, 12:27   #96
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
I agree, in general, but in really open, obstacle-free water outside of shipping lanes, with good radar and AIS equipment, with radar guard zones, AIS alarms, and depth alarms set, I think we can cut single-handers a certain amount of slack. The visual watch is a small part of the whole picture, at night, with good electronic equipment.
Except many others like ourselves frequent those waters outside of shipping lanes and many yachts don't have an AIS transmitter and/or receiver(and are not required to), and small boats (especially wooden ones) often don't have enough of a radar return to trigger your alarm until they are so close that collision is imminent. Depth alarms are irrelevant to this discussion unless you are concerned about your deep draft sailboat colliding with a submarine. So your statement above is mostly true only regarding a singlehander running into a large commercial vessel that has AIS and a huge radar return, but is nearly meaningless when trying to avoid small seagoing vessels like most of us have, especially wooden ones. Doesn't the single hander have just as much of a legal and moral responsibility to avoid smaller vessels that he might damage/sink as he does to avoid large vessels that would most likely sink him without damaging them?

No slack, we all either accept responsibility for conducting our vessels according to the rules that everyone must follow and is expecting us to follow as well, or we do not, period. Watchkeeping isn't optional, for anyone.
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Old 17-10-2014, 12:41   #97
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

For a double handed boat on a long passage . . . fatigue vs look-out.

Fatigue is a contributing or root cause of many bad incidents.

In some of the ocean there is enough traffic you simply have to keep an excellent constant look out, but much of the ocean is pretty damn empty and it is usually more prudent to focus on managing the fatigue with a slight reduction in the 'constant' look out.

Just for instance, on our 59 day passage from Cape horn to Fremantle, we saw one ship off the falklands and one a day away from fremantle and zero traffic in the 57 days in between. Contrast that to the middle of the N Atlantic where you can have a couple ships in sight at one time.

So my suggestion is that this needs to be situation dependent. You need to manage/optimize the combined risk of collision and fatigue.

If you have three or more crew, the fatigue obviously (should) essentially disappear as an issue.
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Old 17-10-2014, 13:01   #98
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
For a double handed boat on a long passage . . . fatigue vs look-out.

Fatigue is a contributing or root cause of many bad incidents.

In some of the ocean there is enough traffic you simply have to keep an excellent constant look out, but much of the ocean is pretty damn empty and it is usually more prudent to focus on managing the fatigue with a slight reduction in the 'constant' look out.

Just for instance, on our 59 day passage from Cape horn to Fremantle, we saw one ship off the falklands and one a day away from fremantle and zero traffic in the 57 days in between. Contrast that to the middle of the N Atlantic where you can have a couple ships in sight at one time.

So my suggestion is that this needs to be situation dependent. You need to manage/optimize the combined risk of collision and fatigue.

If you have three or more crew, the fatigue obviously (should) essentially disappear as an issue.
Since you know ahead of time that you need 3 or more people in order to abide by the rules regarding watch keeping, and that will keep both you and any others who might happen to be out there safe, how can you justify going offshore with any fewer than that? I think two can do it if the weather is benign, but only for a limited time period before fatigue catches up with you. I understand that it's a romantic thing to sail offshore singlehanded or just as a couple, and that you've done it for quite a few thousand miles successfully and I respect that, but how can you justify deliberately putting yourself in a situation where you know you will be too fatigued to keep an adequate watch for other vessels? I know it's a big ocean out there, but what if the other guy thinks as you do and it's just not your day? Or maybe he has adequate and well rested crew and is being very diligent about his watchkeeping but his radar just went out so despite his best intentions he's essentially blind in foggy weather and against his will is depending on you, but despite your radar being operational, you're down below avoiding fatigue? I understand that it commonly goes on and even celebrated in singlehanded races, but I don't think that makes it good seamanship or the responsible thing to do, expecting everyone else to look out for you because you're blasting on through with no-one at the helm, while sound asleep.
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Old 17-10-2014, 13:18   #99
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

^^ That is a perfectly valid question, except I think perhaps you misunderstand the risk (given 'proper' management) - it is pretty much all on us, and essentially not on others.

When I do deliveries, I do insist on 3. I don't know the crew (and their watch keeping & fatigue capabilities) as well as my wife, and there are commercial implications.

On our own boat we prefer just the two of us for many reasons, and I would suggest the risk we are creating for others is as near zero as to be no difference.

When we double hand, I would say that we keep a pretty damn good watch (even down in the southern ocean, where we are really watching more for squalls than ships), although certainly it is not "perfect". However, I think a key point to remember here is that the risk is essentially ours alone, because if we have a collision with a ship at sea, it will probably not even notice. If we are anywhere near shore (or somewhere like say on the path of the ARC) where there might be other 'small' vessels that we could damage, then we do keep as perfect a watch as we can. That leaves the remaining small risk that we might collide with another sail boat say down in the bottom of the southern ocean during the small 'imperfection' in our double handed watch schedule, and also in their's - yes there is that risk, but it is so near zero I think there are better things to worry about.

Now single handing is another story. I have singled handed some distances the past several summers. I have been running a 10 minute alarm schedule with a 360 degrees scan at each alarm. But that is neither a perfect watch, not adequate for fatigue management. I have concluded it is really more risk than I want to be taking, particularly around decently heavy ice. I should note that in all this I have never been taken by surprise by any other vessel. I have always detected them well in time to avoid any potential collision situation, and in some cases I have stayed on watch for essentially 3 days straight to do that (eg block island to Annapolis thru the C&D canal non-stop). Again, I have managed the risk so it is on me - hitting ice or land - and not on other vessels.
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Old 17-10-2014, 13:25   #100
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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Except many others like ourselves frequent those waters outside of shipping lanes and many yachts don't have an AIS transmitter and/or receiver(and are not required to), and small boats (especially wooden ones) often don't have enough of a radar return to trigger your alarm until they are so close that collision is imminent. Depth alarms are irrelevant to this discussion unless you are concerned about your deep draft sailboat colliding with a submarine. So your statement above is mostly true only regarding a singlehander running into a large commercial vessel that has AIS and a huge radar return, but is nearly meaningless when trying to avoid small seagoing vessels like most of us have, especially wooden ones. Doesn't the single hander have just as much of a legal and moral responsibility to avoid smaller vessels that he might damage/sink as he does to avoid large vessels that would most likely sink him without damaging them?

No slack, we all either accept responsibility for conducting our vessels according to the rules that everyone must follow and is expecting us to follow as well, or we do not, period. Watchkeeping isn't optional, for anyone.
Well, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but in mine, which I don't attempt to impose on anyone, absolute, seamless, visual watchkeeping in all conditions and sea areas is an unrealistic requirement for pleasure vessels.

I do not advocate removing the responsibility, but practical realism allows a responsible single hander or short handed crew to leave some gaps in the visual watch, if other measures are taken.

If we required visual watches to be absolute, then it would be forbidden to navigate on moonless nights. On dark nights, you will never see floating logs or containers, so with respect to them, the visual watch is irrelevant. There are a few ships which don't transmit AIS, but a decent radar set will pick them up with almost 100% reliability. There might be some wooden vessel with no radar reflector and no AIS which you would not pick up on either radar or AIS, such that only the nav lights will give you any warning, but what are the chances? In the open sea where you might not encounter another vessel of any kind for days anyway? I think there are cases when electronic watchkeeping is practically good enough. Certainly, that's how I run my vessel. I don't require watchkeepers to have their eyes on the horizon every second, even in busy waters, and in the open sea, a few minutes to make a cup of tea or use the heads if quite all right. My boat is never so short handed that there is ever any time (other than the 5 minutes gaps mentioned above) when no one's on deck, but I have had an occasional catnap at the helm with nothing around and all the alarms set (and have allowed watchkeepers to do that), and I don't think that is per se irresponsible.


Depth alarms are highly relevant, because they can alert you to a case where the pilot has gone off (it happens, and it is possible to not notice it), you get off course, and start straying into some potentially less obstacle-free waters. I always keep mine on at sea -- setting it to a depth below which I'm not supposed to encounter on a particular passage. It's incredibly valuable if you use it right. Such an alarm would have saved Jean Socrates, for example.
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Old 17-10-2014, 13:28   #101
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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I understand that it commonly goes on and even celebrated in singlehanded races, but I don't think that makes it good seamanship or the responsible thing to do, expecting everyone else to look out for you because you're blasting on through with no-one at the helm, while sound asleep.
People pursue activities all the time that put themselves at risk: mountain climbing, hang gliding, sky diving, free diving, and so on, and it is not necessarily irresponsible behavior unless it puts other people at risk against their own will or jeopardizes the well-being of dependents.

There is a long and celebrated history of single handing sailboats and it is part of the tradition and legacy of the sea. In addition, many of these sailors have come to represent good seamanship, from Joshua Slocum to Matt Rutherford.

From my perspective the issue is the degree to which single handing puts others at risk, and I suspect the number of people in history that have been injured or killed by the actions of skilled and knowledgeable single handers is probably ridiculously small. I suspect more pedestrians are killed each day in the US than the sum total.

Everyone makes a decision for themselves how much risk they are willing to take in life. It's their business, as is the calculus of how responsible it is given their responsibilities in life, such as to family.
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Old 17-10-2014, 13:35   #102
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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So you're saying that sitting, hove-to, while a ship bears down on you is "the right thing"? Even when the ship got just 1.5 miles away? Let me ask, if you are driving down the highway and you see a semi-truck coming at you in your lane; do you just keep driving knowing that he will do the right thing? My dad had a saying "you were dead right."

What if the guy on the ship was in the head with a magazine? This probably does not happen in the English Channel, but you can bet it happens on the open ocean - all the time.

There is nothing wrong with flashing your light or hailing the ship by radio. But in the end it is up the the sailor to take control of the situation. And that means sailing the boat.

Just read the Jessica Watson report that I mentioned earlier to understand what happens when a sailboat does nothing and assumes that the ship knows what the rules are. Even after she was hit by the ship and spoken to them on the radio, they didn't stop. Just kept going.



When teaching my kids to drive a car, the best advice I give them is to assume that everyone else on the road is an idiot, so drive like they are out to kill you. That is, drive defensively. Don't ever assume that the other driver will stop at a red light or stop sign. Don't ever assume that the other driver will yield the right of way at an uncontrolled intersection. Just don't ever assume that the other driver knows anything.

The same rule can be used on the sea. You can hope that the other skipper knows what he is doing, but don't assume it. So if a ship is bearing down on you and you can't get in contact at the first instant, take control of the situation yourself. You can flash lights and flares all you like, but for heaven sakes don't sit dead in the water.
Highway analogies work really poorly for the sea. Collision avoidance at sea -- and the rules which govern collision avoidance -- works on fundamentally different principles. There is no such thing as right of way at sea, I say again.

Who said that Accomplice was sitting dead in the water? Where did it say that in his post, and why would you assume that?

Accomplice can speak for himself, but I'm sure he had fired up the engine and gotten ready for a sudden maneuver. The problem is that, unlike the situation on the road, where because of roads (duh), you know where everyone is going, you don't know which way to dodge, when a ship is bearing down on you on a constant bearing. Radar is very accurate for range, but very poor for bearing, so a constant bearing can mean he's passing slightly ahead, slightly behind, or straight at you, and a dodge in one direction or another has about a 50% chance of making the situation worse, rather than better. You really need to have both watchkeepers alert and ready to follow the Colregs, to safely get out of that situation. Just dodging willy-nilly is (unlike the situation on the road, where you can just get out of the road) not the correct maneuver. Getting the attention of the other watchkeeper is the first priority, while, naturally, you should get the engine running, un-back the headsail, and be ready to move -- when you know which way to go. But Accomplice did not say that didn't do any of that, and we have no right to assume. He did not say that he remained sitting in the water like a sitting duck.
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Old 17-10-2014, 13:57   #103
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

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The same rule can be used on the sea. You can hope that the other skipper knows what he is doing, but don't assume it. So if a ship is bearing down on you and you can't get in contact at the first instant, take control of the situation yourself. You can flash lights and flares all you like, but for heaven sakes don't sit dead in the water.
Sounds to me like you have probably not been in this circumstance before. It's not quite so simple.

Usually when you're hove to it's for a reason, and usually that reason is bad weather. Determining the exact course of a another vessel at night, in bad weather, where you can perhaps only see it for 15 seconds out of every minute due to 5m+ swells can be pretty difficult. You want as much information as you can gather before you act for the simple fact that you don't want to do something that makes matters worse. Of primary concern should be contacting the vessel since establishing communication is the best way of avoiding a bad outcome.

Of course the action of last resort is firing up the engine and flooring it. I've had to do that in conditions so bad it was not entirely clear to me whether I was putting distance between me and the other vessel or in fact closing the distance. In other words, sometimes sitting there "dead in the water" gives you the best chance of figuring out exactly what is going on and what the best solution is.
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Old 17-10-2014, 14:00   #104
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Accomplice was still 1.5 nms away when he was finally spotted. Thats plenty of time to react to avoid. He was correct to remain the Stand On vessel. Remember ships only go 25 knots on internet forums.

Colregs are colregs for a reason and when you do dopey change of course crap the ship gets confused.

As for the 'ships dont divert for sail boats' try your reading glasses on...

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Old 17-10-2014, 14:01   #105
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Re: Do you keep a Constant Lookout?

Evans, I can understand your perspective about preferring only your wife for crew because I feel the same way. You both know your boat and both know your own and each others capabilities and have a proven track record crossing oceans together. What's not to like? But I think your decision to do deliveries with a minimum of 3 is wise and the responsible thing to do because it gives you at least a little bit of leeway in case someone gets seasick or is injured or you have a malfunction (have you ever been to sea when at least one of those didn't happen?) so that someone can always be on watch. I also recognize that you probably have about as good judgment as anyone alive about when you are likely to run into another boat, in the southern ocean for example. But with just the two of you crossing the Atlantic, that's a whole different story. I don't question either of yours ability for a minute but you're only human and fatigue will wear you down without adequate rest, and for you to get adequate rest on a long passage that means nobody is minding the store for significant amounts of time. So why doesn't it make sense to hire or have as a guest a third person who can at least sit there and keep an eye on things while you get rest so you can make good decisions when they need to be made? Like I said, carrying a third party aboard my boat isn't what I prefer either, but for passages requiring more than 2 or 3 nights out, I feel like I owe it to other boaters out there to have someone on watch all the time so that means I have to take someone else along. The southern ocean (never been and never plan to) might be one of the few exceptions but just about everywhere else, I think we all need to have someone on watch at all times. It's not just about keeping YOU safe, it's about keeping others who might be out there safe, and you can't do that if you're asleep or excessively fatigued. Every human needs sleep and everyone is susceptible to fatigue so even the best laid plans or watch schedules can sometimes not be enough to avoid disaister, but I don't think it's responsible to deliberately put yourself in a position where excessive fatigue is almost inevitable. But I realize it's a very big ocean so you'll probably never be surprised by someone where you never in the world expected them to be, right in front of you....

If you think it's OK to do it when your instincts say it's safe to take a longish nap, then where do you draw the line about a much less experienced skipper feeling it's OK for him and his lone crewmember to take a nap and then doing so in a time/place where anyone with a shred of common sense would know he was very likely to encounter other traffic? Granted, you have tons of experience and well developed instincts to draw upon as you make that decision, but Capt. Newbie thinks his judgment is just as impeccable and he wants to be just like you someday so decides to try to emulate you, and as he slumbers, his boat tries to run into me. Why not just everyone try to obey the rules and always take adequate crew to keep constant watch while offshore? Are $$$ considerations a good enough reason to put others at risk? I'm not worried about your safety and I'm not worried about your personally running into me, but I think that widespread acceptance of giving watchkeeping a wink and a nod by singlehanders or couples or "budget conscious" delivery skippers, is a dangerous thing for us all.
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