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Old 29-07-2016, 19:39   #1
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Single-handed ocean crossing

If someone was going to cross an ocean single-handed, how do they handle sleeping?

Does anyone put the sails down and go to sleep in their cabin with maybe their radar on? If they kept the sails up with autopilot, eventually the autopilot will likely go off course at some point.

When passages are a couple weeks or longer, how is this usually handled single-handed?
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Old 29-07-2016, 19:51   #2
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

Most accounts I've read involve either continuously cat napping, or two-four hours. The boats were typically under 30ft and no radar, sometimes no AIS.
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Old 29-07-2016, 20:02   #3
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

Singlehanded Sailing Society | San Francisco Shorthanded Racing


These guys have all sorts of info about this kind of thing.


Check the "Resources" section.
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Old 29-07-2016, 20:27   #4
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

Hi Linda, I have made many coastal, singlehanded passages but always stay 100-200 miles offshore. I tried catnapping but never was too successful at it so set up a two hour Alarm system that woke me up. Checked course, or engine if I was under power, sail configuration, weather updates, plotted position, stayed awake for usually 1/2 hour then down again for another two hours. Only did this during dark hours and stayed up and awake during daylight. Never even came close to seeing or hitting anyone over 20+ years of doing this.
Yeti has a good suggestion... Contact the Singlehanded Sailing Society for other tried and true methods. It is a big ocean out there and not a lot to hit!
Safe travels and cheers, Phil
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Old 29-07-2016, 20:41   #5
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

Boat_alexandra is a member here that travels alone in a small boat. He seems get by with a wind vane in a Bristol 27 fairly well.
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Old 29-07-2016, 20:49   #6
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

I remember reading about a single-hander who would drink a diet soda and go to sleep. When his "bladder alarm" woke him up, he would have a look around and drink another and go back to sleep. Another guy I read about went overboard and was dragged alongside, unable to get back aboard, until the boat went aground. He survived; I don't know about the boat...
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Old 29-07-2016, 20:49   #7
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

I have only done one single handed passage of consequence.... about 14 days or maybe a bit less. Bora Bora - Tonga.

Wind vane self steering and AIS..

Would cat nap in the cockpit through the day.... sit in cockpit listening to radio until maybe 0100 then have nap downstairs until about 0400 then do it all again.

There is an element of risk that you have to accept no matter what your routine is.

Only woken once by a wind shift... true wind increased, change in apparent wind led to a change in course ( wind vane keeps steering to same apparent wind ) which led to a change in motion which woke me up.

To prepare for singlehanding/catnapping/sleep deprivation I suggest long haul flights ( 10 to 12 hours is good) in cattle class combined with 6 hour layovers between flights......
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Old 29-07-2016, 21:12   #8
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

Here's some reading for you:

books
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Old 29-07-2016, 21:28   #9
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

Sleep when I feel like it, day or night. It's comfortable to sleep on the bridge deck under the dodger which I often do though not always especially on a close reach or beat. Have sailed many thousands of miles on open ocean passages without keeping a regular watch. When I have been on deck have seen only 4 ships and those a long long way off.

People that are waking at two hour intervals are deluding themselves. An approaching freighter will go horizon to horizon in under an hour.

Coastal cruising is another story. Always mIntain a watch inside 50 miles which has made for some marathon sleepless sessions.
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Old 29-07-2016, 23:00   #10
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

Here's some more reading for you....hot off the presses:

https://www.amazon.com/Not-Yacht-Clu.../dp/1533175217
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Old 30-07-2016, 00:34   #11
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

It seems catnapping is not ideal for a 2-week or longer passage. I can see it for a few days.

Why not drop the sails so less might happen with weather shifts, as long as the current and winds aren't too disadvantageous, and sleep 6-8 hours, then sail 16 hours. If you have radar and AIS, set if any vessel gets within 10 miles or so, it would give you plenty of time to adjust. It may be slow, but if you are not in a rush, why not sleep well?
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Old 30-07-2016, 01:12   #12
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

Strangely.. the longer you go the easier it gets.

You sail conservatively and you should - these days - know what the weather will be offering up through the hours of darkness so there should be no rude surprises.

Heave to for 8 hours or more a day soon makes a manageable passage a very very long one.

My last sea voyage was 44 days ( three of my last six have been +/- 40 days) .. for most of that I didn't get more than 3 hours kip at a time... and that was with crew ( one of whom was mad).... you adjust.

Want a good night's sleep? Stay in port.....
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Old 30-07-2016, 01:18   #13
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

However, on three occasions over the years I have stuck a 'stuff it' sticker on the helm , dropped the lot and just lain ahull, and gone below for a little lie down.

Twice because I was on the verge of hypothermia. Once just because the weather was crap ( northerly gale on the beam ) and I was kanakad .

Sailing in the trades that shouldn't happen....
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Old 30-07-2016, 02:20   #14
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

It may well make sense to reduce sail a bit while sleeping, but in most cases there is not really an advantage in just dropping everything. At least some pressure on the sails is usually a much more comfortable ride than rolling around with bare poles. Also, I don't believe you are any less likely to be run over by a ship if you are "stopped" versus moving at a few knots. If a ship meets a sailing boat on the high seas it's the ship that does the maneuvering. The sailboat is actually obligated to hold course and speed, to the extent possible. (This does not apply to fairways and channels.) You will only make it more difficult for them by not following the Colregs and changing course. Even if this were not the rule, you are moving at a few knots vs a ship at 18 knots, it really doesn't matter very much which way you point your slow moving boat, because you will not go very far compared to the distance covered by the ship. The ship's actions are going to do much more in determining the closest point of approach than any distance you can manage moving at a few knots. This fact does not mean you should not use AIS and / or radar and keep the best watch you can.
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Old 30-07-2016, 02:43   #15
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Re: Single-handed ocean crossing

I do an hour at a time at night with radar and ais alarms set. If nothing much is happening (normal mid-ocean for weeks at a time ) then I find you never fully wake up, just go through a few checks, have a look about, write it it the log as our memories are useless then back to bed. If something needs tending to then it's coffee time first.
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