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Old 31-03-2011, 07:03   #16
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Re: Watch Keeping

The problem with 3 on/6 off and 3 people is that the schedule advances each day (one day your watch is noon-3, the next day 3-6) because it's a 27-hour watch cycle in a 24 hour day. I think it's better to stay on a fixed cycle, at least for several days, and then rotate. I also think that 3 hour night watches are just a little too long. In my opinion, 2 on/4 off is optimal for a crew of 3. Most people can stay alert for 2 hours, and quickly adapt to getting 3 hours of sleep a couple of times a day with the odd hour nap here and there.

One other thing I have found to work well, especially on night watches, especially with someone you are not sure you can trust, is to emphasize the importance of either standing the entire watch, or sitting on the edge of the seat (with back unsupported), because in either case, if you nod off you will wake up when you fall over!


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Old 31-03-2011, 08:13   #17
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Re: Watch Keeping

Good point with the "advancing watch" with three people.

Also, the rule of "don't leave the cockpit on night watch" AND clipping in is good advice. If you need to go forward, wake up the skipper. In rough but clear night weather, I was lying down (fully awake) across the cockpit seats behind the helm when a "big one" threw the boat sideways down a wave. If I hadn't been on a short tether I might have gone over the side. Skip came up and asked if everything was OK, found me still at my place (now sitting up and holding the bimini frame firmly, and then went back to bed!

Always, always clip on.

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Old 31-03-2011, 08:42   #18
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Re: Watch Keeping

Worked 2 different systems on different ocean crossings in the Pacific that I would recommend:

1. Always have someone in the cockpit during the day and then work the nights into 3hr watches

2. With 3 people on board, run 3 hour watches, so that your slot rolls each day. Don't worry about not getting enough sleep, you'll be glad of dozing to pass the time during the day after a week of a 27 day crossing!

As others have said:
Never go forward if you're the only one awake
Always clip on on night watch even in the cockpit
Always clip on when you go forward on nightwatch
Use an egg timer on nightwatch to make sure that if you nod off, you wake up after a min of 20 mins. Yes you are unlikely to see boats in the middle of the ocean if you're not on a shipping route, but I have met them in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific and Atlantic
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Old 31-03-2011, 08:48   #19
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Re: Watch Keeping

Originally Posted by yeloya View Post
I am planning a passage from Cape Verde to Tobago with my wife and maybe one more people. I know some people on long passages during nights are reducing sales, setting autopilote and sleeping... Their point is that to hit a sleeping whales or floating container is a very remote possibility and even if they are on deck, it's quite unlikely to see them and change the course. It's even less likely to hit a ship in the middle of the Ocean, they say they don't even see it for days.

Any thought ??


You can set a guard zone on your radar with an alarm to wake you up in case something shows up on radar.

People do it -- obviously, otherwise no one would ever single hand on a long ocean passage. But it is a violation of the Colregs to sail without anyone keeping a watch, and I think it's a bad idea. It's not just collisions, but wind shifts, problems with gear or rigging, squalls blowing up, and so forth, which require human supervision.

Much better pick up a couple more people and keep normal watches.

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