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Old 06-03-2010, 10:13   #1
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Eyes on the Water Rule?

I read something in last month's Latitude 38 where a skipper enforces an eyes-on-the-water rule with his crew, meaning that he doesn't allow them to read while standing watch. This contrasts sharply with my own rule, which might best be called the please-look-up-from-the-book-every-time-you-turn-a-page rule. So I'm wondering what cruisers consider best practice out there for standing watch. Is the eyes-on-the-water rule despotic, or is my more casual approach unsafe?
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Old 06-03-2010, 10:26   #2
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Thats a good question.
When I was sailing with my dad, it was eyes on the water...also couldn't listen to music...when you're on watch, all your senses are on watch.
I like it like that.
But then we always had at least 5 people on board.
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Old 06-03-2010, 10:35   #3
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I like the look / page idea. Maybe even a stretch & good look-around / chapter also. I do know, you will tire and go crazy if you don’t keep your eyes moving and your mind alert. That water will hip-mo-tize you for sure.
Of course, that's way outside. If you even imagine there is anything just over the horizon, you better be keeping bearing notes written down. The back few pages of the book are usually blank and a soft pencil makes a fair page keeper. Then transfer the notes to a log or plot.
Of course, if you’re near coast, inlets, other craft or reefs, ALL EYES AND MORE SHOULD BE ON THE WATER.
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Old 06-03-2010, 12:10   #4
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Once again, I think the proper answer is "it depends".

We can all list many examples of times where a no reading and no music rule should be enforced. Obviously, this is the case when docking, maneuvering in tight harbors etc. But it should also be the case in fog, areas with lots of lobster traps, etc.

It would be a little crazy to enforce it at all times. Take an ocean passage as an example where most cruisers spend a lot of time reading.

Being from the commercial world, our rule was eyes on the water but that is very different than people who are out there for pleasure. Personally, I always want one person paying attention which is part of the reason why I refuse to run an autopilot under normal circumstances with a full crew.
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Old 06-03-2010, 12:47   #5
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If traveling inland or coastal, we keep a pretty good watch on everything around us, but once offshore a hundred miles or so, we kinda play it by ear and poke our noses out every few minutes or so..
At night, I set my alarm on 30 minute intervalls, to check all around and do a check of the sails..
We also run the radar with a 6 mile alarm in waters we're unsure of..
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Old 06-03-2010, 14:36   #6
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I think it is OK and perhaps desirable to keep all our senses on the water. But I am not pushing anybody into my own way of being.

I met many sailors who are completely unaware of what is going on around them. Such an attitude puzzles me, but again: oceans are huge and there is place for everybody.

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Old 06-03-2010, 19:45   #7
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I personally could not imagine being on watch and reading a book - I get quite immersed in a good book so having to pop out of it at each turn of the page would take away from the enjoyment. And there's not much point in calling it a "watch" if you're not going to be watching. I surely don't see a problem in listening to music, even strumming a guitar or other somesuch as long as you are also able to concentrate on the task at hand.
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Old 06-03-2010, 20:03   #8
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If you're not watching you're not watching. Person on watch should be "eyes on the water" scanning the surface and horizon at least every few minutes. If coastal or inland the person should be checking position against charts. There are surface hazards and debris, and you need to figure "closing speed" with other vessels (which may be faster than yours). If you are going 5 knots and a ship is doing 20 knots, the closing speed is 1 mile in 2 minutes.
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Old 06-03-2010, 20:29   #9
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Lots of good points, but one size does not fit all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SailFastTri View Post
If you're not watching you're not watching. Person on watch should be "eyes on the water" scanning the surface and horizon at least every few minutes. If coastal or inland the person should be checking position against charts. There are surface hazards and debris, and you need to figure "closing speed" with other vessels (which may be faster than yours). If you are going 5 knots and a ship is doing 20 knots, the closing speed is 1 mile in 2 minutes.
Near Annapolis on a Holiday weekend? I may need several in the cockpit to insure rapid tacks and jibes.

On the ocean, motoring in a calm? My BEST chance for getting an horizon check is to look once every page. Often I sit in front of the mast, which keeps me very much a part of my environment. It is like having timer. Yes, it is best to be reading some fluff or at least something clear, rather than "The Sound and Fury."

I also like to enforce the use of a a kitchen timer, if the watch goes below, even in the most benign conditions. It is EASY to lose track of time.

But this all depends and I generally keep eyes on the water most all of the time. It's more relaxing.
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Old 07-03-2010, 18:42   #10
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Interesting. I've used timers to remind me to log my position every half hour, but it never occurred to use one to tell me to check the horizon.

I guess what I've always liked about cruising is that I can sail and read at the same time. Hard to do that skiing or playing softball. But then again I worry about the number of times I've doinked a crab pot or, once, a huge redwood stump miles offshore. No harm yet, but I keep wondering whether there's a container floating around out there with my name on it.

Hey, thanks for the responses.
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Old 07-03-2010, 20:02   #11
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Hmmm ... around here, especially at spring tides but at any time, we get tide lines that look like forests. I have found myself drifting off into the oblivion of a sparkling sea only to realise I've just missed a tree or I'll be chatting with my son only to realise a crab pot just sailed by unnoticed. Miles off shore? I hope my luck continues to out perform my attention!
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Old 07-03-2010, 21:53   #12
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I have nearly been run down at least twice (BTW- I was NOT the watch person) so am very.. uh er paranoid is the best term about collisions.
I do read while on watch off shore. As I was reading this thread I realized that I have developed a natural internal clock that starts the minute I take my eyes off the horizon. The clock is a count down to being run over. The longer my eyes are off the horizon the louder the clock ticks and the more uncomfortable I am. So I don't really have a one page rule or the like, I can barely get through a paragraph before scanning, beside the ocean is so damn beautiful! The hard part is getting off watch and telling myself that the clock has been taken over by someone else, it usually takes me a good fifteen to 25 minutes to convince myself of this.
What I have observed is that you don't need to read a book to get run down. Many sailors fail to scan a full 360 deg. Some watch keepers don't look all the way BEHIND them, some don't stand up to peek behind that corner of the dodger that obstructs a sliver of the horizon. Any good watch keeper will know that since a ship on a collision course doesn't change bearings, a sliver of the horizon is all it needs to run you down.
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Old 07-03-2010, 22:01   #13
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It get that Ocean Girl. It's the bit of sea you don't see that jumps up and bites you!
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