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post #180 of Old 09-27-2012
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Re: Is sleeping OK?

Regarding the GRANHOLM case that Jack linked to, the the strategy some here prefer to employ, I would disagree with this assessment:


In the case at bar, Granholm's decision to go below during the nighttime was negligent.His own testimony reflects an awareness that this was so. I have previously quoted the relevant portion; Granholm said that "as a rule I made it a habit to take my resting periods during daytime and when the conditions were such that I could afford having some rest." The reasons are obvious. At night a sailboat, even displaying the proper lights, is not nearly as visible as she is in the daytime, when underway under sail. Granholm was sailing near a recognized transatlantic route for large vessels. He should have adhered to his own practice and rested only during the daytime. It may seem unfeeling to condemn single handed transatlantic sailors for sleeping at night. But they pursue this hazardous avocation voluntarily, and are not exempt from the requirements of prudent seamanship.
Different approaches work for different individuals, of course... But the routine of stopping or heaving-to during daylight hours to rest (setting aside a circumstance involving total exhaustion or sickness, of course) really seems counterproductive, to me... Daylight is obviously the safest time to be making miles. Not only might it offer the best chance of seeing and being seen by other traffic, or avoiding debris - but it is also when one is best attuned with the boat, and is most likely to notice the sort of little things going on with the rig, or on deck, that might lead to a problem or gear failure on down the road...

In my experience, the effort sometimes required to stay awake through an entire night becomes far more exhausting, than breaking the night up with a routine of catnaps (which are generally more productive physiologically during the nighttime, anyway)... I think you're far better off continuing to make miles, minimizing the potential for exposure to weather by completing the passage as quickly as possible... One simply has to accept the risk involved in sailing offshore at night, and the realization that something like a collision with debris might be just as likely whether one is standing watch in the cockpit, or snatching some sleep below...

Also, re visibilty, it's not necessarily a given that daylight is always superior... Depending upon the conditions, nighttime can often offer equal or better ability to spot other vessels at a distance... Cruise ships in particular, or even large commercial fishing vessels, the loom of their deck lights can often be first detected long before they appear over the horizon, or would become visible in daylight...
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