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Old 01-21-2009
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Whats with the three hour shifts?

Hi all,

I have been doing a lot of reading and it seems that for passages a lot of people go with 3 hours on/off. I don't know but that seems just painful to me. It takes me 30mins-1hour to fall asleep. Having come off an active (assuming rough weather) shift, it would definitely be closer to that one hour mark (assuming that means a bit of chop/movement as well).

So, is it just me but wouldn't longer ships make things a heck of a lot more bearable? For instance, I am a night person, my wife is a morning person. I have no problem with the idea of me taking the 11pm-5am shift and her picking up the 5am-11am shift. We would both get decent sleep time, could share time together during the day and alternate naps if needed.

Take this plan of course with a huge grain of salt given my total lack of passage experience but that would be what my intuition would have me gunning for if I were heading out on one today.

Thoughts?

Regards.
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Keeping alert on watch for longer than that can be difficult. Of course, the three-hour watches works much better if you have more than two people, since that means you can get SIX HOURS of sleep.
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Old 01-21-2009
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I thought the same thing until my first passage of 4 days. We had 3 on board and as SD stated it made for a 6 hour rest between shifts. I also found that 3 hours was about right for a watch based on boredom setting in especially at night with nothing to occupy your mind. You learn to listen to the sounds of night which can easily test your ability to stay awake. The importance is to stay alert as a passing freighter can appear quickly out of nowhere. All and all though it was quit enjoyable and when you make land fall you are rested.
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With only two people aboard, I would advise against using a three-hour watch schedule. Four or six hour watch schedules make far more sense.
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Old 01-21-2009
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I do deliveries and always have 2 other crew members with me. We do 4 hour watches. the person coming on watch is awaken 1 hour early for house hold duties. Cook, pick up, wake up etc. So the way it works is 4 hour watch and 7 off and 1 hour for the boat as I say.

For just a husband and wife it is a whole different thing. With my wife and I it is much more of a loose arrangement. No set hours. The way it seems to work out for us is it is 6 hours on for me then 4 hours on watch for her. This may sound unfair but, I do not rest well with my wife on deck alone. Usually I am up a least once to check that she is still there and the boat is not sailing under the autopilot alone.
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Last edited by bubb2; 01-21-2009 at 08:47 AM.
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Don't you mean you check to see that the boat is NOT sailing under autopilot alone???
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Originally Posted by bubb2 View Post
Usually I am up a least once to check that she is still there and the boat is sailing under the autopilot alone.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog View Post
Don't you mean you check to see that the boat is NOT sailing under autopilot alone???
Thanks Dog! lol
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Can we call them watches and keep within the seafaring tradition? Shifts is fine if you're in the army or maybe a factory.

There are many different watch systems in use, depending on the situation/crew size/purpose of the voyage. The traditional way from the square rigger days is four-on (hours) four-off with the watch from four in the afternoon to eight at night split into two two hour watches and thus "dogged" (those are the dog watches - not the middle of the night watch which is often and incorrectly called the dog watch) so that the crew alternates the watches and if you have the mid watch one night you don't have it the following night. That's where the the system of bells came from. The end of the first half hour of a watch was marked by ringing one bell, the end of the first hour by two bells etc, till the blessed arrival of eight bells when your four hour watch ended and you could go below. Watch changes take place at 4, 8 and 12 - AM and PM with the dogged watch noted above. Breakfast is at the morning 8 watch change, lunch is at the noon watch change and dinner at the dogged change at 6 PM.

The problem with short - three hour watches - is that in cold or inclement weather struggling in and out of many layers of clothes and foulies in a pitching boat is a chore that takes a lot out of you. In the tropics, where you just roll out of your bunk, put your shoes on and go on deck it works fine. On the other hand, the fourth hour of a four hour watch, especially at night, can be really rough.

My favorite system is one that has 3 four hour watches at night and two 6 hour watches during the day. Watch changes take place at 7 in the morning (breakfast), one o'clock in the afternoon (lunch) and 7 at night (dinner) and then at 11PM, 3AM and so back to 7AM. That way you get a shot a decent sleep to catch up during the day and your night watches are split so that if you get the mid watch (11 to 3AM) you get four hours before that and four hours after. I you get the 7 to 11 in the evening and 3 to 7 in the morning, you have just had six hour off before starting and six more hours off after ending. Six hour watches during the day aren't too bad. This system, having an odd number of watches, automatically "dogs", or alternates from one night to the next.

Of course, these watch systems work well on a fully crewed boat, weather racing or cruising. On a boat that has just a couple or just a couple of people, the need for such formal systems is much less and the individual strengths and weaknesses of the crew plays a bigger role than the tyranny of the hourglass. That can only be determined by experimentation and practice.
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Last edited by genieskip; 01-21-2009 at 09:06 AM.
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My wife and I generally kept 4 hour watches when double-handing...at night, by the end of a watch it was all I could do to keep my eyes open. During the day...we would often allow each other to sleep a bit longer and not abide by a formal watch schedule unless we felt the need for sleep. It is tough to mess with the natural body rhythms for long!
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Old 01-21-2009
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In practical application, I think you have to adjust your schedule to the personnel and/or conditions. For instance, when I left Texas with two crew, in the oil rig areas, we staggered the night watches so there were always two people in the cockpit. One to handle the boat, the other to keep an eye out for unlit rigs. From Destin to Tampa though we only had one atop.
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