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Old 11-05-2020, 09:09   #1
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Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

Hi all -

I'm curious as to what crew watch schedules look like for couples cruising around out there.

Do you have examples you could share? Do you run one type of watch for shorter sails (a few days) versus ocean crossings? Do you run a set schedule at all? Are you meticulous in your schedules or fluid?

I've done some multi-day sails single handed, but my wife has never done any and we want to start doing some and we're going to plan some coastal cruising in the next year and then begin a circumnavigation in 2022.

Just looking for some practical experience and knowledge. Thanks!
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Old 11-05-2020, 09:15   #2
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

It changes all the time

With a Pro crew I use 6 hr on for settled weather

Both crew on deck for maneuvers

For Bad weather , Inshore or technical days the watch schedule is made as appropriate


Local time or GMT is an issue on long passages
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Old 11-05-2020, 09:21   #3
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by slug View Post
It changes all the time

With a Pro crew I use 6 hr on for settled weather

Both crew on deck for maneuvers

For Bad weather , Inshore or technical days the watch schedule is made as appropriate


Local time or GMT is an issue on long passages
So you're basically a 6 hour, but completely fluid and dependent on current sailing situation/weather. Thanks for the response, I appreciate it.
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Old 11-05-2020, 09:47   #4
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

Long watches give the off watch time to shut down

The problem with 2 crew is that watch time can’t be varied

If you get the afternoon watch each day the burning sun will hurt you and your shipmate gets stuck cooking dinner seven days s week

Three crew is the gold standard for flexibility
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Old 11-05-2020, 09:49   #5
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

There is no "right" answer for this. It depends on the individuals involved. Flexibility is important so everybody operates at a reasonable level of alertness.

When sailing by ourselves, my partner and I usually use a [2 on/2 off] schedule. I find I get enough sleep in 2 hours that I can operate well. There is no way I could enjoy maintaining useful function for a watch that lasted from 00:00 to 06:00. Other people find that 2 hours is just not restorative enough and need a longer break.

With two crew we find it takes us about 4 days to really get in the swing of the watch schedule. On Day 5 of a passage we don't feel sleep deprived at all, and can go on forever after that happy, alert, and relaxed.

With a larger crew, it gets a lot easier. If you have four available in a rotation rotation, a [2 on/6 off] is practically luxury.
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Old 11-05-2020, 09:57   #6
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

Thanks for the replies. I'm not looking for a definitive answer, just ideas and examples that others actually use.

My wife and I are not currently planing on sailing with extra crew in general, but experience may change our minds as the years go by. So that means looking at couple sailing realities. I'm well aware that three or four makes the crossing tremendously easier, but the whole point of our new life is travel together and see the world on our schedule.

Our original thoughts were 3 hour shifts and a lot of day sleeping so the nights have that second crew member ready to go. But I'm very interested in what everyone else out there actually does.
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Old 11-05-2020, 09:57   #7
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

2 hours Is a sprint

The problem with sprint mode is that all ship cleaning and tasks get neglected

Longer watches give the off watch time to keep the boat in order and get some rest
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Old 11-05-2020, 10:13   #8
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

As others have said, watch schedules are very individual. My wife and I are generally very flexible, but not when it comes to watches. We have never done a long trip with other than the two of us aboard.

We use four hours on and four hours off. My watches are 3 pm to 7 pm, 11 pm to 3 am and 7 am to 11 am. This way she gets two night watches, but she hates waking up early in the morning, so whe will do anything to not have to get up at 7 am. If we are only doing a 12 hour trip, we use this same schedule. This may mean that one person has to be more on watch than the other, but since the times are given, there is no disagreements over that.

We almost religiously follow the schedule. You have to be up and ready when your watch starts. I set my alarm clock for 6:53 am, 2:53 pm and 10:53 pm. I can get ready in seven minutes. I wake her up 15 minutes before her watch as she likes to wake up slower. The exception to this is that I wake her half an hour before her 7 pm watch starts. She uses this extra time too cook (usually heating a frozen meal and boiling some rice or pasta). We then have dinner together around 7 pm, so my off-watch is also affected by having dinner together. She prepares lunch during her day wath, which we may share during my 11 am to 3 pm off-watch if I am not sleeping or we may eat lunch separately. We eat breakfast separately.

We are always both awake when someone goes on deck. Because of this, we always try to change sail plans and such adjustments at watch changes so we are both available and no-one has to be woken up. On the whole, I get woken up more often than she does, which may make up for the fact that she does all the cooking. Still, getting woken up during an off watch is rare.

The night watches on the first couple of nights can be a bit rough, especially if we are not well rested when starting the trip. Our only exception to our watch schedule is that we may change during the night if the person on watch is too tired. This has only happened on the first or second night.

We like always having the watches at the same time every day. This way you can also see progress being made by following the changes in sunrise and sunset. It may also make it easier for us to get into the rhythm of sleeping for shorter times and during the day. If we cross time zones, we usually just leave the clocks (and watch schedule) unchanged. This gives a bit of variation over a long trip. We even did this when crossing the Atlantic which ended up completely switching our watch schedule relative to the sun.

After the first two or three days, we are not really tired any more, day or night. We are good at sleeping during the day, so we always get enough sleep. After some days, we are rested enough that we often spend a little time together in the afternoon and we often have lunch together. We don't see each other much except for meals and a quick chat when changing watches.

I think one mistake couples sometimes make is that they spend the day together and then do watches at night. This way they only sleep half the night and they wonder why they are so tired when sailing... We both typically sleep at least 8 hours out of every 24. And I mean actually sleep for 8 hours, not just laying down for 8 hours. I think it is important to be rested, both to make good decisions and to not suffer during the night.
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Old 11-05-2020, 10:15   #9
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

We mostly sail with two aboard, love having three, but that is pretty rare. Our longest passage was just over 4 weeks. For that and most other long passages with two we sail 6 on - 6 off. Usually 2-8, 8-2. The 2 am to 8 am shift is the most difficult. This assumes the autopilot is working and can handle the bulk of the steering. Staying at the helm steering for 6 hours makes things a lot more difficult.

We've tried, 2, 3, and 4 hour watches at times, the 6-hour increment gives a nice, solid sleep period and results in the crew feeling most refreshed (for us) out of the options.

When the s*** hits the fan all bets are off. It doesn't happen very often (we do try to plan and sail to the weather) but when it does watch schedules can and do get adjusted as required.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BjarneK View Post
...
We both typically sleep at least 8 hours out of every 24. And I mean actually sleep for 8 hours, not just laying down for 8 hours. I think it is important to be rested, both to make good decisions and to not suffer during the night.
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Old 11-05-2020, 10:18   #10
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BjarneK View Post
As others have said, watch schedules are very individual. My wife and I are generally very flexible, but not when it comes to watches. We have never done a long trip with other than the two of us aboard.

We use four hours on and four hours off. My watches are 3 pm to 7 pm, 11 pm to 3 am and 7 am to 11 am. This way she gets two night watches, but she hates waking up early in the morning, so she will do anything to not have to get up at 7 am. If we are only doing a 12 hour trip, we use this same schedule. This may mean that one person has to be more on watch than the other, but since the times are given, there is no disagreements over that.
Fantastic post. Thank you. We were actually discussing 4 hour shifts as I'm more like your wife (do not like waking up early mornings and slow riser) and my wife is a lot like you. She thrives on short sleep cycles but I like longer rest periods.
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Old 11-05-2020, 10:26   #11
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

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Originally Posted by Dsanduril View Post
We mostly sail with two aboard, love having three, but that is pretty rare. Our longest passage was just over 4 weeks. For that and most other long passages with two we sail 6 on - 6 off. Usually 2-8, 8-2. The 2 am to 8 am shift is the most difficult. This assumes the autopilot is working and can handle the bulk of the steering. Staying at the helm steering for 6 hours makes things a lot more difficult.

We've tried, 2, 3, and 4 hour watches at times, the 6-hour increment gives a nice, solid sleep period and results in the crew feeling most refreshed (for us) out of the options.

When the s*** hits the fan all bets are off. It doesn't happen very often (we do try to plan and sail to the weather) but when it does watch schedules can and do get adjusted as required.
Thanks - great information. So you feel 6 hours on works well for you? I've head a lot of opinions that 6 is just too long to stay focused and alert - especially that early morning stretch.
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Old 11-05-2020, 10:45   #12
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

The early morning is the most difficult. And the first 2-3 days of a passage before you get into the rhythm are the worst. After that we find it works out well. I get the 2am-8am shift and generally don't have problems staying alert - as long as I have gotten the 8 hours sleep recommended by BjarneK.

We have dinner together, then I generally sleep 8pm to 2am solidly. At 8am I get into bed immediately and sleep until I wake up, usually late morning/noon. We have lunch together, my wife usually takes an afternoon nap and I cook dinner so we can eat before her watch at 8pm.

I do think you'll find that it all depends on you two. Different people have different rhythms and patterns and there is no single "right" answer.
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Old 11-05-2020, 10:55   #13
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

Good observations here. We typically have 4 - 3 hour watches with no formal watches during the other 12 hours. There is always one person or both available then. We slightly alter the starting time of the first watch by when it gets dark which is impacted by whether you are in the eastern or western part of the time zone. I take the first and third watches, say 1900-2200 and 0200-0500. The latter one can be a drag although lots of stars to check out.
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Old 11-05-2020, 11:09   #14
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

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Thanks - great information. So you feel 6 hours on works well for you? I've head a lot of opinions that 6 is just too long to stay focused and alert - especially that early morning stretch.
Modern boats sail under autopilot and benefit from many electronic sensors

Long watches aren’t so bad

Keep your equipment in first class condition
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Old 11-05-2020, 11:56   #15
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Re: Examples of a two crew watch rotation for an ocean crossing?

As others have mentioned above, the rotation will depend on crew strength and also on what kind of conditions you are in. Bad weather may force shorter tricks. While perfect weather may allow for one crew to do all work, leaving the other to enjoy long periods of rest.


We are a crew of 2, one very fit (once) and keen (but weakened now, by age and hard use), the other less navigationaly experienced (but younger and more resilient).




Offshore, our regular schedule is as follows:


crew one:
06:00 till 14:00 then
18:00 till 02:00 (roughly 16 hours on watch)



crew two:
16:00 till 18:00 then

02:00 till 06:00 (roughly 6 hours on watch + cook job)


Our 14:00 change over is the one we cook and eat.


In heavy weather, we prefer to stop over and get extra rest rather than shift our watches. We noticed shifting or shortening watches tends to actually make us more tired. Stopping and getting full rest for both crew seems to recharge our batteries better. Possibly something to do with being together, getting a good meal and some sort of reassurance from talking to and listening to the other crew helps a bit too.


Cheers,
b.
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