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Old 23-10-2016, 02:27   #1
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Transitioning to longer solo trips

Hi Cruisers,

I do a fair bit of solo sailing, but the most I have done in one hit so far is 36 hours. That consisted of starting off at around 11pm and finishing up near midday a day and half later. During that time I managed fatigue by sleeping for 20 minute blocks during the dark hours, and taking it very easy during the daylight hours.

Our boat is very well setup for solo sailing, so from a technical perspective it was no great challenge. But I was quite worried by my general state of mind by the time I arrived at my destination. I felt like simple decisions were taking more effort than I expected, and I certainly did not trust my judgment generally. Probably it was classic sleep deprivation, though the number of hours of actual sleep I managed was reasonable.

So now I find myself considering a 500 mile trip, and wondering how to work up to such a journey. On a boat like ours that translates to 5 days and nights. The trip would be entirely off shore in light shipping traffic for the first 100 miles and maybe a chance of the odd ship in the last 100 miles. (I am assuming by then I will have AIS in addition to our radar which has a reasonable proximity alarm system.)

From those that have completed such journey I am curious to hear how you built yourself up to the longer durations. Did you slowly increase the length of journey you undertook or did you simply tackle the longer trip and trusted in yourself and the boat to get there? Do you have suggestions for conditioning yourself beforehand?

Matt
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Old 23-10-2016, 03:12   #2
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Coastal hopping is always more tense than offshore passages..
The worst period is the first couple of days while getting into a rhythm.. after that it gets more laid back so to speak as confidence builds up..
For myself its confidence in the boats I'm delivering and much less so in myself.
I don't restrict myself to 20minute naps.. generally grab a couple of hours at a time.
In your case boost your radar alarm volume and set a 6mile guard zone and you'll be fine.
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Old 23-10-2016, 03:36   #3
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

Yes I agree - no sense to sleep only 20 minutes especially during night...what you are looking for during night? My experience is that you anyway will not see anything which is floating around in the sea....so try to go as remote as possible (avoid costal areas), avoid shipping routes and relax. If you're confident in your boat and if you have a working AIS and radar - then it should work quite well. And you will develop a sensory for special sounds and stuff - which make you to stand up and check. And yes - the first two days are the most difficult ones.
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Old 23-10-2016, 03:46   #4
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

I know that for me, the better shape I’m in, physically, mentally, & emotionally, the easier it is to adapt to the conditions & circumstances that one faces when single/short-handing. Especially in terms of my ability to bounce back from the various stresses onboard, including during my onboard rest periods.So I try & do what I can to build up my endurance & strength on land via every & any means that I can think up. Especially as the more durable I am physically, the less that things take out of me; short & long term. Extended, non-stop & odd hours blocks of cross-training rocks!

I also do various bits of informal sleep training on land, & even on crewed boats. To include working on dropping off to sleep quickly, ditto on practicing on waking up sharp.And to do both without letting myself fall into the trap about being so stressed about getting enough sleep that it interferes with sleeping.
There’s some self talk involved, as well as practice at sleeping for different lengths of time. And with sleep, as in endurance & physical strength, practicing going without for extended periods of time helps a lot. Both so that the challenge of long blocks without are undaunting, & to build up your stamina.
I’ll rarely train by going without for more than say 3 days, as at that point one’s efficacy often begins to fade. But it’s worth experimenting in order to also gauge your bounce back times due to deprivation.

Obviously good nutrition also plays a role, especially at sea where cooking & eating take more effort. So I try & pin down what works best to refuel me, above & below the neck. And then keep such items on hand onboard, trying not to skip fueling & hydrating.

The other thing I’ve worked on since my teens is to sleep in bigger blocks during the day, & little at night. Since one needs to be sharper after dark. And it can sometimes help to do this at home, to include mimicking onboard tasks like doing nav problems. More specifically, making approach notes for harbors & traffic separation schemes. And checklists for same, so that when you arrive tired, the framework of what needs doing is right there on your notecards.
Or at home, working on the car, in lieu of a boat system, so that I have to use my head a lot when my circadian rhythm is yelling at me to sleep. Yeah it sucks, but failing at sea sucks more.

One other fav/tool is to do some writing in the wee hours. Technical stuff, letters to friends & loved ones, things for work, journaling, writing synopses based on studying tech references... The quiet of those hours tends to help me to focus thoughts that are harder to hear otherwise, so I’ve come to enjoy night/early morning.

Ah, & of course there are various types of meditation which can help with everything from making the most of a 10min nap, to clearing one’s head, & or assisting with staying awake at 0300.

And I almost forgot, wee hours watches are great for “war gaming”. The mental (& written) sketching out of your Plan A, B, & C if X or Y were to happen. To also include laying out several plans to give yourself an “out”, & slow things down or stop them if you just get too tired to function. Or rather, to do this BEFORE you get to that point, so that you always have some reserves even when tired. Only pushing super hard on land, or when you have a backup onboard.

Which, if you have a good partner, is a great way to train. With their function being only to monitor & keep tabs on you, as well as the big picture. But staying well rested, & only stepping in if you’re about to do something supremely stupid. Like break the mast, cause a big collision, etc. Set a hard number figure in dollars beforehand delineating what’s an acceptable amount of damage that it’s okay to incur during training. Seriously.
Then later, you guys can have eval & critique sessions, whether the other party was just along for the ride, or had to step in.


Edit: There's a good bit of info out there on this both via single handed racing, & from the perspectives of excercise science & studies on sleep. To even include working with professionals on your sleep habits & optimizing your training to boost your sleep quality ffor solo sailing. Including having some 2min or 5min excercise routines that help your clarity & energy levels.

Also, experiment with finding what kinds of projects you like that also will aid you in staying sharp when tired, without actually draining you. But not ones which are interesting but cause you to nod off.

And work out checklists for proceedures to calm yourself down when something happens which spikes your adrenaline, in order to avoid the post endorphine crash. As well as to maintain your energy long terms. As those kinds of up & down cycles are killer in the long run.
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Old 23-10-2016, 05:24   #5
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

Quote:
And work out checklists for proceedures to calm yourself down when something happens which spikes your adrenaline, in order to avoid the post endorphine crash. As well as to maintain your energy long terms.


This. Also you should walk through the trip step by step and write it down. When you are well rested pre-trip everything will seem so "no-brainer, I'll just handle it when it get there" but when you actually get to that point (like a harbor enterance) you could be extremely tired/stressed and start doubting your choices. With a written plan you can tell yourself "this is how I would have done it when I was sharp and well rested". Same thing with checklists, it gives you the confidence when your at your lowest that your not missing something.

Do a stint in the military, you'll have that sleep training down pat (I can fall asleep anywhere at just about anytime).
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Old 23-10-2016, 05:31   #6
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

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Originally Posted by dwedeking2 View Post
This. Also you should walk through the trip step by step and write it down. When you are well rested pre-trip everything will seem so "no-brainer, I'll just handle it when it get there" but when you actually get to that point (like a harbor enterance) you could be extremely tired/stressed and start doubting your choices. With a written plan you can tell yourself "this is how I would have done it when I was sharp and well rested". Same thing with checklists, it gives you the confidence when your at your lowest that your not missing something.

Do a stint in the military, you'll have that sleep training down pat (I can fall asleep anywhere at just about anytime).
[/SIZE][/FONT]
LOL, after a couple of years in, I could lay down on a steel deck, wearing only a windbreaker, in 40 degree drizzle & 25kt winds & grab a nap.

As to the written down walk throughs, that's what I was alluding to also. And it helps to keep notes from every trip, which, with computers is a no brainer. Ditto on tracking all things sailing, weather, diet, excercise & mood, etc.

While you may be cruising, it's nigh on as serious as any major sporting event, chasing a post grad degree, or other big ticket item. And needs the same kind of discipline & tools.
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Old 23-10-2016, 05:41   #7
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

Do a Google search on "sleep study singlehand sailing." There's good reading out there that'll give you some ideas on managing sleep. Responses to different techniques seem to vary based on whether you're a typical night owl or early bird and some do better with bigger chunks of sleep while others can manage with cat naps.
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Old 23-10-2016, 08:16   #8
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

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Old 23-10-2016, 08:51   #9
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

I try to sleep when I am sleepy. The 'sleep schemes' do not work on me, I end up ...-ed up.

When tacking along the coast, I neap on the offshore tacks only.

I have learned to 'suspend' which is a self-hypnosis / meditation thing. You simply reduce yourself to the very basic when no action required - I do not read nor listen to the radio, nor think about how to save the world. Saving the energy to spread it more evenly over a longer passage. Simple but you must exercise this before the trip to make sure it works on you.

I eat less. I avoid coffee and tea. I do not drink any alcohol. Avoid getting excited as the excited brain will need an extra portion of rest some way down the track.

I use plenty of alarms: XTE, AIS, Depth (only inshore), course, and wind dir / force (only if in stable conditions). These saved by back more than once.

A reliable AP is you biggest friend too.

My guess is there are many solo styles and one wants to find what fits their own specific nature.

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Old 23-10-2016, 08:55   #10
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

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Originally Posted by dwedeking2 View Post
This. Also you should walk through the trip step by step and write it down. When you are well rested pre-trip everything will seem so "no-brainer, I'll just handle it when it get there" but when you actually get to that point (like a harbor enterance) you could be extremely tired/stressed and start doubting your choices. With a written plan you can tell yourself "this is how I would have done it when I was sharp and well rested". Same thing with checklists, it gives you the confidence when your at your lowest that your not missing something.

Do a stint in the military, you'll have that sleep training down pat (I can fall asleep anywhere at just about anytime).
[/SIZE][/FONT]
Agree. I make "rules" for myself...when to take, when to reduce sail, when to eat, and stick to my rules. This way I don't need to "think", I just follow my well thought out rules. I say the rules out loud all the time.
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Old 23-10-2016, 09:00   #11
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

I find solace in thinking names for the bigger than average waves I keep all lights off except some red ones (cat eyes). Look for lights once in a while ,they do show up when you least expect it. Plot your course coordinates on paper charts. Keep busy with figuring out knots. Play a flute or guitar keep yourself entertained out there. It's a long haul so be nice to yourself.
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Old 23-10-2016, 09:03   #12
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

i spent 6 days sailing the center of lake ontario and found sleeping in the day worked for me .radar warned of any closing traffic ..couldn.t sleep at ease at nite but no problem in the day were u r more visible
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Old 23-10-2016, 10:12   #13
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

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LOL, after a couple of years in, I could lay down on a steel deck, wearing only a windbreaker, in 40 degree drizzle & 25kt winds & grab a nap.
Reminds me of my midshipman cruise on the Missouri (BB63), when there was never enough sleep allowed. During one watch in the #2 fire room, the CPO noticed my zombie status and allowed me to nap in shaft alley under the grating--120degF. After about 45 minutes, he revived me with a fresh dose of coffee, instantly heated. The main steam line (600degF, 600#) had bleed valves to drain any condensation. Someone had attached a coil of copper tubing sized to fit into a coffee pot and arced to drain into the bilge, allowing 1 second heating of fluid ... a device not conceived by the naval architects. Fascinating innovation.
As for sleeping on deck, often done aboard USS Pine Island (AV12) cruising S. China seas. The vessel was air conditioned only on the upper decks (CIC, senior officer quarters), so the optimum under way sleeping zone was on the seaplane deck, softened by oak timbering. During one passage from Keelung to Okinawa home port, I awoke to urinate over the port stern during a midwatch--and God spoke to me on the 1MC. I looked around to see if any of the dozen or so sleeping sailors were awakened--nope. Hallucination, surely. The voice in my head said, "No man remains in Hell who seeks Paradise." Go figger ... . Apparently, the inner Self needed assurance about pursuit of a dangerous adventure.
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Old 23-10-2016, 10:41   #14
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

I wonder if you have considered this simple solution to your worries about what might happen while you are peacefully slumbering, and your doubts about whether you are really maintaining "...a proper lookout by sight and hearing..." - a good crew!
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Old 23-10-2016, 11:14   #15
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Re: Transitioning to longer solo trips

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... I am curious to hear how you built yourself up to the longer durations. Did you slowly increase the length of journey you undertook or did you simply tackle the longer trip and trusted in yourself and the boat to get there? Do you have suggestions for conditioning yourself beforehand? ...
A thoughtful and important question. As I saw already in the responses above, you've received quite good info. My comment only pertains to the value of such a trip. It's quite high.

For example consider that very few individuals ever have the opportunity to experience solitude over an extended period. Quite an experience that our modern world does not usually allow. Consider also that when things go south (as they must), you cannot make a mobile phone call and await service. You must fix it now, and no arguments.

The way to do it (with due allowances for preparation, study, gear acquisition and tuning, etc.) is just to do it and expect the unexpected.
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