Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Wilmington, DE
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While singlehanding, I take 15 minute naps and then take a visual to see what's around me. Roughly speaking, this should give me time to prepare for the ship that was over the horizon and is now in my sights and steaming my way. i found that for 4-5 day cruises, this was pretty good sleep and that I could take catnaps during the day and still maintain good vigilance.
I think, in general, visibility at night is as good or better for spotting ships as it is in the day. Other objects, like sunken containers, and increasing wave size or rogue waves are much more difficult during a black night.
With regard to heaving-to, I would rather keep moving and get to my destination. Isn't a slow-moving boat as much a target as a faster-moving one? And you've made no progress while heaving-to. I don't like the idea of going down below at all when sailing alone and I don't sleep for any length of time.
I also don't count on radar to alert me to possible collisions. I use it, don't get me wrong, I just prefer to count on my eyes and other senses with radar as a good back-up.
A final note: I always have a trusty companion along with me. At least one dog comes along for any long distance cruising and although I don't count on him to keep guard without interruption, each one has done just that. Even the smallest changes to the environment, bigger waves, dolphins, fish, have always created a need to bark and howl. And they are really great company.