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Old 09-08-2008, 08:45   #1
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Watchkeeping Dangers

I've been reading a lot about singlehanding and watchkeeping. (15 minutes for a boat to cross the horizon and run you over etc.) And i have a question for bluewater sailors in general.

How often have you been on open sea, and actually HAD to change course?

I've mainly done short hops, and even when in heavily trafficked areas, rarely - if ever - have i actually been on a collision course with anyone.

I'm thinking that this might actually be a "slightly" escalated danger especially for Pacific / Mid atlantic stretches.
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Old 09-08-2008, 08:50   #2
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It is a strange fact that in the middle of the atlantic, you may not have seen another vessel for days, but the first you see will actually be on a steady bearing.
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Old 09-08-2008, 08:53   #3
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Talbot,

No murphys law shouldn't be ignored i know that. But have you actually had a situation where you had to change course?

In other words, would you have been chum if you left it on the vane/autohelm?
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Old 09-08-2008, 09:07   #4
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yes - but at the time, I was in a big ship as well, so short handed watchkeeping was not a problem
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Old 09-08-2008, 09:27   #5
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In our eleven year circumnavigation, we have had to change course many times offshore to avoid ships.

When we started out, we checked around the horizon every fifteen minutes, and we quickly learned that was not frequent enough.

When we checked the horizon every ten minutes, disturbing encounters with ships no longer happened.

The closest and scariest encounters occurred when we were sailing on reciprocal courses with a ship ---both vessels heading directly at each other, bow to bow. In those instances, a gaze around the horizon every ten minutes was just enough to keep us out of trouble.

Even out in the "Big Empty" - 3000 miles - from Galapagos to French Polynesia, we saw 5 to 6 ships, and one of our friend's yachts was even run down by a ship in the same area.

For us, the ten minute check works extremely well. If a person is sailing in a fast multihull, then checking the horizon every ten minutes would probably not be adequate to assure safety. We average sailing 150 miles a day - 6.25 knots - around the clock, and the ten minute horizon check works at that average speed.
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