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Old 12-02-2009, 18:16   #1
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Watchkeeping Scheduling on Longer Passages

We were discussing this on another forum, and thought it might be of interest here as well. Anyone else utilise non-standard watchkeeping schedules? What works for ya on longer passages?



Not being a big sleeper definitely helps on passage. On land, my normal sleep hours are 1 - 2am til 7am. I'm generally awake all other hours, so this bodes well for flexibility watch keeping that keeps a crew fresh. I could not force my self to sleep during daylight, no matter how hard I try. Conversely, if I force myself to remain awake much after 2am, then sleep for that night is pretty much shot and I'll be up for the duration. Because of my somewhat strange sleep patterns, watch's get scheduled a bit staggered. For a 4 person crew, the watch schedule is as follows:

Day 1 Rotation:

1st watch = 4-8am (Crew #1) <Usually relieved by 7am>
2nd watch = 7am-11am (Captain)
3rd watch = 11am-3pm (Crew #2)
4th watch = 3pm-7pm (Crew #3)
5th watch = 7pm - 1am (Captain)
6th watch = 11pm - 4am (Crew #4) <Usually joint between 11pm-1am, so only 2-3 hours alone>

Day 2 Rotation:

1st watch = 4-8am (Crew #3)
2nd watch = 7am-11am (Captain)
3rd watch = 11am-3pm (Crew #4)
4th watch = 3pm-7pm (Crew #1)
5th watch = 7pm - 1am (Captain)
6th watch = 11pm - 4am (Crew #2)

Day 3 Rotation:

1st watch = 4-8am (Crew #4)
2nd watch = 7am-11am (Captain)
3rd watch = 11am-3pm (Crew #1)
4th watch = 3pm-7pm (Crew #2)
5th watch = 7pm - 1am (Captain)
6th watch = 11pm - 4am (Crew #3)

Day 4 Rotation:

1st watch = 4-8am (Crew #2)
2nd watch = 7am-11am (Captain)
3rd watch = 11am-3pm (Crew #3)
4th watch = 3pm-7pm (Crew #4)
5th watch = 7pm - 1am (Captain)
6th watch = 11pm - 4am (Crew #1)

Day 5 rotation = Day #2
Day 6 rotation = Day #3
Day 7 Rotation = Day #4
Day 8 rotation = Day #1

Repeat cycle as necessary


I find this to be the best way to fight fatigue since those with more 'normal' sleep patterns are able to get a reasonable amount of uninterrupted sleep, and aren't on the 2 overnight watch's alone any more than once every 4th day - and even then, they'd be alternating between the early overnight (11pm-4am joint) and the late overnight (4am - 8am) so they never come to be really dreaded. It also allows for the most joint social time, while still being able to easily maintain a more normal sleep routine. I've a slightly different scheduling for a crew of 3 but still accomplishes basically the same.
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Old 12-02-2009, 18:37   #2
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If it works for you and your crew...then it makes sense.

If I read this correctly, the Captain has pulled 4 shifts....before crew person number 3....has pulled their 2nd shift. between day 2 and 3......crew number 3 has 30 hours
off during that period......

Who's doing navigation, weather, communications, systems checks? The Captain is working too hard imho....lol.....
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Old 12-02-2009, 18:46   #3
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i find watch schedules to be antiquidated holdovers...

...and much prefer a watch rotation without a schedule. Schedules are fine for naval vessels with large crews, but on a cruising vessel with 2-4 crew it seems a bit goofy to let the clock tell you when to go to sleep. A better system, in my opinion, is stand watch until fatigue sets in, and then awaken the next person on the rotation. Using such a system, I find that everyone gets longer sleep periods.

Seriously, how many times have you gone off watch just because your four hours are up, only to go below and lie in your berth awake because you're not yet ready for sleep? What a huge waste of crew energy, especially if you're being replaced by a groggy crewmate who hasn't yet gotten enough sleep!

Cruisers need to figure out that naval traditions such as the watch schedule work better for navies than for cruisers.
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Old 12-02-2009, 19:04   #4
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Bash, in fine weather, and pleasant sailing I don't disagree with a flexible schedule.

In challenging conditions, we've had to post one on, two off..watches..( 3 crew)
and the unwritten rule is....you better be on deck..on time....meaning you wake yourself up...watches have a place in modern times too...imho.
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Old 12-02-2009, 19:07   #5
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Port and Starboard - 12 on - 12 off. Try that for 3 months

Do you set your clocks to zulu time when you cast off?
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Old 12-02-2009, 19:25   #6
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On board Exit Only, whoever is the most awake is on watch, and whoever is most sleepy is in the bunk asleep. I have a high energy level and tend to take more and longer watches, but when I get sleepy, someone else pops up fresh, rested, and ready to go.
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Old 13-02-2009, 01:03   #7
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I totally agree with Dave, whoever fresh and awake is on watch. No use being below if you are not tired..
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Old 13-02-2009, 02:37   #8
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Hmm.. interesting mix of ideas, I am going to watch this thread (no pun intended), especially as I could never work out a watch system that really worked well for a small crew (say 3).
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Old 13-02-2009, 03:19   #9
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Another variation using a 4 man system, is that the watchs are scheduled on a 3man rotation for watchkeeping, with each person taking one day off when they are "mother" and doing all the cooking and baking, plus getting a full nights rest.
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Old 13-02-2009, 08:22   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bash View Post
...and much prefer a watch rotation without a schedule. Schedules are fine for naval vessels with large crews, but on a cruising vessel with 2-4 crew it seems a bit goofy to let the clock tell you when to go to sleep. A better system, in my opinion, is stand watch until fatigue sets in, and then awaken the next person on the rotation. Using such a system, I find that everyone gets longer sleep periods.

Seriously, how many times have you gone off watch just because your four hours are up, only to go below and lie in your berth awake because you're not yet ready for sleep? What a huge waste of crew energy, especially if you're being replaced by a groggy crewmate who hasn't yet gotten enough sleep!
I can see the value of this method for a crew of 2, but with 3 or more, there is no reason that the oncoming watch would not be sufficiently rested - and a fresh set of eyes is safer. Fatigue is a funny beast - even if you don't feel tired, your mental alertness and cognitive functions diminish markedly after a few hours on watch. Having a schedule does not rule out making changes on the fly - such as letting your relief sleep a little longer, but it does ensure that you will have fair opportunities for sleep/chores/etc/. There is no rule that you have to go to your rack when off-watch; you could do some chores, or relax instead. But in not having a sched, what happens when you and your relief are both tired?

Quote:
Cruisers need to figure out that naval traditions such as the watch schedule work better for navies than for cruisers.
It's not just navies that use watch schedules - and there just might be some value in the distilled wisdom of several centuries of seafaring. But as others have stated, use what works for you.
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Old 13-02-2009, 08:40   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sushirama View Post
Port and Starboard - 12 on - 12 off. Try that for 3 months

Do you set your clocks to zulu time when you cast off?
You don't stand 12 hours in one go - it's broken into 6-hour stints, or 5 and 7-hour stints. And if you're going to spend 3 unbroken months at sea, then I think you misunderstand the concept of cruising
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Old 13-02-2009, 08:44   #12
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in challenging conditions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tempest245 View Post
Bash, in fine weather, and pleasant sailing I don't disagree with a flexible schedule.

In challenging conditions, we've had to post one on, two off..watches..( 3 crew)
and the unwritten rule is....you better be on deck..on time....meaning you wake yourself up...watches have a place in modern times too...imho.
in challenging conditions I'm pretty much on deck for the duration regardless of where the watch schedule says I should be. No way I'm going to be asleep below in a gale while my wife is on deck in her foulies riding out 40 knot winds in the middle of the night. I'd rather have her resting below so that once the gale has passed I can catch some badly needed zzzs while she stands watch.

I think the idea of waking yourself up to report on watch at a given time is an especially weird holdover from military discipline. If you're down for four hours and have to force yourself to keep one ear open counting the bells, you're not going to sleep soundly for most of that four-hour period. I'd rather have my crew sleep as soundly as possible, knowing that they'll be awakened when they are needed.
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Old 13-02-2009, 09:19   #13
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On Insatiable we (double handed) do 6 hour watches. I don't sleep well during the day, so getting a decent bit of kip at night is important. It has worked for us for a long time now, but each crew needs to work out a scheme that suits their own sleep patterns.

Of cours, we have the benefit that Ann is fully capable of standing watch on her own, and I can sleep comfortably, knowing that I am in good hands. Lucky me...

Cheers,

Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II
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Old 13-02-2009, 10:23   #14
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I think the idea of waking yourself up to report on watch at a given time is an especially weird holdover from military discipline. If you're down for four hours and have to force yourself to keep one ear open counting the bells, you're not going to sleep soundly for most of that four-hour period. I'd rather have my crew sleep as soundly as possible, knowing that they'll be awakened when they are needed.
You know they invented something for this - it's called an "alarm clock". Or you could arrange for a shake, since that is what you're using anyway.
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Old 13-02-2009, 10:34   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tempest245 View Post
If I read this correctly, the Captain has pulled 4 shifts....before crew person number 3....has pulled their 2nd shift. between day 2 and 3......crew number 3 has 30 hours
off during that period......

Who's doing navigation, weather, communications, systems checks? The Captain is working too hard imho....lol.....
Navigation and weather get's done by whoever is on the 4am-8am shift, and then cappy gets briefed when he starts snarling about @7am. Communications change according to which nets are being monitored, and what time of day they are broadcasting. System checks are handled by anyone but cappy during the 3-7pm watch when there are plenty of eyes up and about. While cappy is quite skilled at conducting repairs - he's a bit of the overzealous type when it comes to 'preventative maintenance' - ie, he has a habit of 'fixing things that have not yet malfunctioned'. You know the type. The one that see's something that is functioning just fine, yet he could get it functioning perfectly and often ending up with the inevitable of something becoming non functional for a period of time. So it's best to keep cappy's eyes (and especially hands) off things while they are in a fully functional state. Those who have learned about this tendency generally make habit of not even mentioning the 'imperfect' state of any system to cappy until they are certain that it needs some attention.

Much of the same logic goes into having cappy take more watch's. I'm afflicted with the lack of ability to enjoy reading fiction. Give me a nice in depth service manual anyday over a novel. So without that obvious time consuming distraction available, and considering that I generally need to be doing something - it's best to have a focus that keeps me out of trouble or else it's a case of - "anyone feel that vibration? I better go take a look at" which is seldom a good idea...

So while cappy has a skillset that proves invaluable, and brings a welcome sense of calm to the crew when situations get a bit dicey - the crew has to be protected from cappy's inability to deal with boredom during times of calm. It's a never ending battle for the crew, and I'm sure they'd chain me below if given the opportunity (so gotta sleep with that one eye open - lol)
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