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Old 19-10-2015, 19:31   #1
woc
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Watch keeping schedules

We are a cruising couple soon to start our first long distance journey to the South Pacific. I would like to hear from experienced long distance cruising couples what watch keeping schedules have worked best for them without additional crew.
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Old 19-10-2015, 20:10   #2
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

I like a "modified Swedish" watch schedule:
1200 - 1800 (6 hrs)
1800 - 2300 (5 hrs)
2300 - 0300 (4 hrs)
0300 - 0600 (3 hrs)
0600 - 1200 (6 hrs)
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Old 19-10-2015, 20:23   #3
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

Jim's and my schedule is 6 on 6 off. It has allowed us to keep rested, which the shorter ones don't. We are fairly free form during the daylight hours, and there is time for both of us to nap, if need be. The schedule starts at 6 or 7 pm the first day out, and then we continue ships time till arrival. The one long sleep and one short sleep way of life works well for us. We know other people who keep this same schedule. IMO, it is more restful than 4 on 4 off, which many couples also do.

Ann
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Old 19-10-2015, 20:28   #4
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

Similar to Jim and Anne - we are pretty relaxed during the day, with whomever is in the best shape doing the watches, often 6 hours each. This will depend on the workload and how good the AP/Wind vane is, as well as the weather. At the helm in heavy, cold conditions, 2 hours is a LONG time in some vessels. We often do 4 hour watches at night, or longer if feel up to it. Electronic watch is on 24/7, radar, AIS etc... Skipper (me) ALLWAYS on call of course.
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Old 19-10-2015, 20:40   #5
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

Depends on character of the participants in some degree. My wife is a "sprinter" and tires easily whereas I can plod on forever with two hour breaks. I never sleep more than 4 hours at any time anyway. Combine this with flexibility during daylight hours and there is a "variable feast".


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Old 19-10-2015, 20:46   #6
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

Ive always preferred shorter watches at night, when its cold and miserable, and longer ones during the day, when its warmer.

So I go 3 on 3 off at night and 6 on 6 off during the day.

A Downside of this is that it doesn't quite work out as the IMO sleep minimums of 2 breaks, 6 and 4 hours, so going 4 on, 4 off during the night can work, but then the watches rotate, and I prefer fixed watches so you get into the routine quicker.
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Old 19-10-2015, 21:33   #7
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

I try very hard to avoid sailing at night but when I do I keep the 12 to 4 or sometimes the 11 to 5 or whatever as that means I am never too long off watch/off the deck in the dark time.
The rest of the crew can sort themselves out around that.....
Daytime no regular watches are set....
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Old 19-10-2015, 23:39   #8
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

We don't have regulated watches during the day, only at night.
We start at 6pm and go through to 6am.
Just two of us..4 on 4 off i.e 6-10, 10-2, 2-6 then swap the next night
Three of us ....4 on 4 off, then rotate by one shift
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Old 19-10-2015, 23:58   #9
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

Quote:
Originally Posted by Albro359 View Post
We don't have regulated watches during the day, only at night.
We start at 6pm and go through to 6am.
Just two of us..4 on 4 off i.e 6-10, 10-2, 2-6 then swap the next night
Three of us ....4 on 4 off, then rotate by one shift
I think it is a good idea to still have one person designated as the official "watch keeper" at all times during the day even when you are both up and about.. That way you know someone is responsible for maintaining situational awareness. It doesn't mean that that person has to sit at the helm for 6 hours, just that they have prime responsibility during that period. There is nothing wrong with the designated watch keeper saying "Honey, keep an eye out for the next half an hour while I go below and ...."

Without a designated watch keeper, there is too much risk of thinking the other person is keeping a lookout.
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Old 20-10-2015, 00:24   #10
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

We use the "modified" swedish system, although during daylight with benign conditions we're rather at ease. I do agree with StuM. No matter what, we always have one who is desigated as having the watch. That way the ohter person can do what they feel is appropriate (fixing stuff, making dinner, napping etc etc).

As Stu said - always easy to ask "Honey - will you take the watch for a while whilst I ......"

Takes a couple of days to get into the system - but then it just sort of rolls on
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Old 20-10-2015, 00:34   #11
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

i always preferred the 6hr on 6hr off schedule over the rotating 4hr shift in the Navy. than of course there was not much choice either way.

the most important thing is getting into the rythm so a rotating shift is more detrimental than just taking the quiet middle shift every night.
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Old 20-10-2015, 00:49   #12
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

For the first three years of our current cruise, there were three of us on board and that made it very easy with 3 hours on and 6 off. For the last two years, my wife and I have given up using a fixed schedule and it works great. The person who is off watch can sleep as deeply as they want without worrying about being on time for their watch - they know the person on watch will wake them when they need relief. In rough conditions, a watch might need to be shorter but if it's calm, the person on watch may feel comfortable for 6 hours or more. Granted, routines are helpful for some people but those 'routines' are often disrupted anyway when you're offshore.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 20-10-2015, 02:20   #13
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

We always use 6 on 6 off during the night at daylight then the one on watch catches a few hours relaxing/sleeping and by the afternoon we start the 6/6 routine. Somebody at the helm 24/7. One of us is always on watch. It has worked for the last 6 years and all Ocean crossing
We believe that 6 hours allows us enough sleep not to be to groggy to keep a proper watch for weeks on end. It works for us
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Old 20-10-2015, 02:46   #14
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

We probably don't have as many ocean passaging miles as some of the other posters, but my wife and I do maintain a watch schedule during the day. Sure, one may relieve the other for a short while to fix dinner or whatnot, but there is a strict schedule of watches, even during the day.

We use a method I picked up from a delivery skipper, 3-4-5. It gives shorter watches in the dead of night and a little longer watch in late afternoon. We do not like rotating watches, but prefer to fall into a routine.

0000-0300 3 hrs Laura
0300-0600 3 hrs Steve
0600-1000 4 hrs Laura
1000-1200 4 hrs Steve
1200-1700 5 hrs Laura
1700-0000 5 hrs Steve

With all of these choices you are getting, I think the questions to ask yourself are 1) do I want a strict schedule during the day? and 2) do I want a rotating schedule where you are on watch different times each day, or do I want a regular schedule where you are on watch the same times each day?

Once you answer those questions, you can narrow your decision making a bit.

Cheers!

Steve
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Old 20-10-2015, 04:38   #15
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Re: Watch keeping schedules

Thanks everyone for sharing your experience. I am sure we will find our groove as we go but grateful to learn how each of you handle it.
Personal factors, weather and Murphy's law will never follow any schedule and we understand that.
To all of you, thanks again , fair winds and hope to see you out there
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