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Old 09-06-2015, 10:30   #1
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Solo sailers and sleep reality

I've seen many threads where people recommend 20 minute sleeps or similar when on long solo passages and other recommendations, but what is the sleep reality for YOU when you are on long solo passages?

What is your desired routine and how long does it take you to get into the swing of it. Perhaps you are the type of person who falls asleep immediately normally, so 20 minute sleeps are easy for you. Or maybe you can't get into a routine of short sleeps until you are so tired?

What do you use to reliably wake yourself?
Where do you sleep? Cockpit, your berth or perhaps by the nav station?

Do you ever get to the point where you say "f.ck it" and take an extended sleep to get rid of exhaustion and if so, do you change the way you are sailing for the longer sleep?
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Old 09-06-2015, 11:54   #2
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

Hi Hoppy,

The topic of "single handing sleep" is one I have found interesting in the past. One of the best descriptions of what the lack of sleep is like or does to a sailor and how single handing racers deal with it was found in a book by one of CF's members. I will post the information about it below. When I read it I found the content (on that topic alone) interesting and new (I had read about the topic elsewhere) and of course the book has many more topics covered too.

Here is the book I often recommend regarding Single Handed Sailing. I read this book and found it FULL of helpful, concise information. It also has many viewpoints (not just one sailor is quoted).

This is the newest edition (2014) and contains new, updated material in addition to what was published before.

The author (Andrew Evans) is an accomplished and respected Single Handed Sailor, a nice member of this forum (forum name is "Foolish"), and he earlier gave away 25,000 copies of his earlier ebook edition for free to any sailor who wanted one (a very nice thing to do to help the sailing community).

Singlehanded Sailing: Thoughts, Tips, Techniques & Tactics: Andrew Evans: 9780071836531: Amazon.com: Books

I read the earlier edition, and intend to buy this newest edition as a Kindle version and read it thoroughly and keep it aboard as a reference.
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Old 09-06-2015, 12:58   #3
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

When more than 8 hours offshore from any hard objects and out of high density traffic shipping lanes, I sleep when I feel like it. Sometimes sleep for relatively long periods though that is not my normal sleep pattern. Typically will sleep for a few hours and naturally wake up whether at sea or ashore. Sailing, will usually go up on deck, if I'm not already sleeping there, have a look around and then go back to bed. Sleep at all hours, day and night though mostly at night. Current boat, it is actually quite comfortable to sleep on the bridge deck under the dodger if heel is not too great. If we are going more to weather with significant heel, prefer a snug leeward berth below.

Keeping a watch at night is a false sense of security. Things like trees and containers are very difficult to see during the day and nearly impossible at night with any kind of sea running. Your chance of avoiding such an object is very doubtful. Ships do maintain a watch and will do everything in their power to avoid you if you just maintain a steady course. What really screws them up is when you start changing heading in an erratic manner. On the open sea, best to maintain a course, like when you are asleep. Outside of congested shipping lanes like approaches to ports, have seen fewer than 10 ships on the open ocean. None passed close and most were so far away only saw the glow of their lights or the top of their super structure. Most of my sailing has been in the Pacific that doesn't have the traffic of the North Atlantic and East Coast. Still didn't see much traffic coastal sailing there outside of approaches to major ports.

Coastal sailing is a whole 'nother ball game. I stay awake and usually on deck sailing where there will be traffic and/or hard things to run into. Don't recommend it, but once stayed up for more than 72 hours sailing from SF to LA. Conditions were perfect, 180nm days in a Westsail 32 without self steering. Only breaks were to use the head and grab junk food. Got really weird by the end with interesting hallucinations to entertain me. Don't recommend doing that and would definitely heave to and grab a bit of sleep after 36 hours or so, now.

Sailed most of my miles without any electronic aids including radio. Bought my first VHF radio less than a decade ago. Did have a ham radio on the second half of the Tahiti cruise. Just not that in to gabbing on the radio or listening to other people do that. Now have an AIS which I highly recommend to be sure that ships are apprised of your whereabouts. Also kind of fun to see where to and how fast these behemoths are moving. Have a radar reflector in a 'catch rain' orientation mounted on the spreader.
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Old 09-06-2015, 13:21   #4
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

i worked night shift in emergency rooms and critical care areas wherein we could only sleep standing up for about 15 min each time. we were fired for taking a break longer than 30 mins or sleeping. i learned fast to sleep in short spurts. this also is a part of how i got thru college--all nighters during which i sleep for 15 mins then restart.... always got a plus on papers this way, and on exams..
when i am sailing, err cruising on a passage, i am able to sleep for 15 mins damnnear exactly. has been intrained into my spirit.
i do not go below to sleep as some brag on doing. i sleep my 15 mins between horizon checks. as it takes 15 min to get from horizon to your own boat location, this is kinda adequate, as you are not technically off watch, and yer very wake-able in short time.
when i can see land i do not sleep at all
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Old 09-06-2015, 14:19   #5
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

Peter & Zee, thanks for sharing your experiences.

Steady, interesting book. I might download it to my kindle also
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Old 09-06-2015, 21:14   #6
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

The book is also available as a free PDF from the SFBay Single Handed Sailors website: Resources | Singlehanded Sailing Society
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Old 09-06-2015, 23:00   #7
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

When I'm doing a solo passage, I sleep in the open cockpit if at all possible, with the VHF on. Here in SoCal it's been possible every time I've done it, which is not often--I can only remember four night passages over the past 20 years where I've slept.

I happen to be a naturally fitful sleeper and routinely wake up for a few minutes every 45 to 90 minutes even when I'm in bed, and so when I'm soloing I wake up, have a look around, and if all is dark, I go back to sleep. If there's anything lit at all, I'll remain awake to identify it and watch it all the way to the horizon.

There's generally very little wind at night here in Southern California, so I furl the sails and drift at night, mostly because it keeps the sails and running rigging from slapping and flapping while I'm trying to nap, but also because it puts the vessel in the legal state of being not under command and makes collision both less likely and less likely to be my fault if it occurs. Obviously you can only do this if you have the sea-room to do it, and you should calculate your maximum drift area before you go to sleep. Be certain you won't drift into a shipping channel, a military restricted area, or any other kind of restricted maneuvering or traffic separation scheme. Offshore currents here offshore are usually about one knot, generally northward.

You have to hoist two red 360 degree red lights one above the other on a halyard to show that you're not under command, and leave your nav-lights on if you are adrift. Nothing about being "not under command" relieves you of the responsibility for maintaining watch or avoiding collision, but it does inform other boats that you may not be able to maneuver out of their way and that they will have to avoid collision even if they would normally be the stand-on vessel. Essentially it just makes you the "stand-on" vessel under all circumstances.

You won't see anything unlit in the dark unless there's a big bright moon out. I have a handheld FLIR that I use to help identify distant objects at night, but offshore it lacks the range to be useful for detection of dark objects, and it won't see anything sea-temperature such as flotsom. It does a good job of identifying boats however.

We get quite a bit of traffic here even offshore. It's typical to be passed by between 1 and 4 fishing boats per night, and often a Navy ship or a container. Some come quite close, probably to see if there's anything wrong. Never have gotten called on the VHF at night.
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Old 10-06-2015, 00:28   #8
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

When solo I sleep when I can. Sometimes for 4 hours or more, but it depends completely on what is going on, and where. I don't do well on 20 min naps over a long period. I always have both radar and AIS watches on with VERY loud alarms that will wake me, even in 50 knots or more. This have proven to be a good system, the modern electronic watch-keeping abilities are now pretty much a better lookout than a novice on deck....
I normally sleep in a quarter-berth, or nap in the cockpit.
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Old 10-06-2015, 01:09   #9
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

Solo the first thing for me is to get off the shelf, into deep deep water. Coastal Sailing, no real sleep. Ocean is with 2 alarms, an hour at a time then I don't really wake up completely, check on deck, check course and see the boat is happy. Write it in the log otherwise no way you'll remember. If anything is up then coffee and wake up
proper to sort it out. Radar and ais alarms set to 5 miles. Offshore maybe a ship every 5 days average? Radar alarm goes off more often for squalls - shampoo time and more drinking water
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Old 10-06-2015, 01:10   #10
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pirate Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

I piss a lot so keep a regular watch
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Old 10-06-2015, 01:21   #11
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

Quote:
Originally Posted by boatman61 View Post
I piss a lot so keep a regular watch
LOL
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Old 10-06-2015, 01:34   #12
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

Quote:
Originally Posted by boatman61 View Post
I piss a lot so keep a regular watch
Yo, Boatie,

We've a lovely friend who practised the watermelon method: eat one just on dusk. You'll be checking around often enough!
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Old 10-06-2015, 07:24   #13
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

Mstrebe, displaying NUC lights might work for you but, strictly speaking the vessel isn't NUC when the skipper is taking a nap. The definition refers to exceptional circumstances, which might include loss of steering or engine etc

(f) The term "vessel not under command" means a vessel which through some exceptional circumstance is unable to manoeuvre as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel
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Old 10-06-2015, 08:03   #14
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steady Hand View Post
....

...
Singlehanded Sailing: Thoughts, Tips, Techniques & Tactics: Andrew Evans: 9780071836531: Amazon.com: Books

I read the earlier edition, and intend to buy this newest edition as a Kindle version and read it thoroughly and keep it aboard as a reference.
Thank you for the recommendation. I just ordered it. Finished a sailing book last night and needed a new one. Perfect timing!

Thanks,
Dan
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Old 10-06-2015, 08:16   #15
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Re: Solo sailers and sleep reality

It is not like anybody can walk on a boat and start the 20 minute nap technology. It takes preparation and it takes discipline. Solo racers can train to do so, as a part of their training. Cruisers can adopt a much more slack regime - we do not have to get up and trim, grind and adjust, and fight to get there first.

And the condition you are in after a 48hrs+ of such a regime is way below the 'normal' sleep pattern too: you are slower, way slower. You are bound to make mistakes and you are unlikely to understand you are bound to make them. It may too take some time to realize you are making them.

I think if you look up Solar Impulse there may be something interesting to solo sailors there right now - their trans-Pacific is supposed to take at least 96 hours of solo flight. Sure they have done plenty of related research and preparation.

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