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Old 02-04-2005
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Safety on Long Passages

I am a beginner with a lot of questions, but this one keeps nagging me. When making a long passage (e.g. 7+ days) a 24 hour watch schedule should be set-up among crew. I am just a beginner, and not considering doing this, but how does one sail single-handed on a long passage when it''s time to go to sleep? Does the person just throw a sea anchor out, hit the anchor lights, and go to sleep? Or, keep cruising with the autopilot and rely on the radar waking them up if a boat or object is picked up?
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Old 02-04-2005
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Safety on Long Passages

There are books, essays and university studies on the answers to this. But the short version is that some people trust their elctronics enough to go to sleep for several hours at a time. Some train their circadian rythms (sleep patterns) to work differently and take to sea being able to catch fifteen minute cat-naps that seem to be as valuable as full deep sleep.
Some seem to have decided that it is safer to sleep during the day when passing ships can see them more easily and thus keep most of their active watch during night-time.
Yet other swear by simply steering well clear of all shipping lanes and having huge chunks of ocean to what they hope is purely themselves.

I guess it is about putting together the many years of experience needed to contemplate a long solo passage seriously and deciding what works best for you, the expected conditions and the area you will be sailing through.

I have seen quite a few comfy beanbags and loud egg-timers more or less mounted into cockpits for just standard watchkeeping, when the rest of the crew is asleep and you only need to take a good look around and trim sails and stuff every half hour to an hour. You can convince yourself you are just going to read a book and drink coffee....but having that alarm to wake you up whenever it is time to look around is sure useful.


You can find dozens of books on single-handed passages, nearly all of them devote some time to discussing the watch-keeping methods selected.


Sasha
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Old 02-05-2005
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Safety on Long Passages

I highly subscribe to the ''beanbag/egg timer'' thing, but recommend 20 minute bits. And do not fear, there is an old saying: When you''re tired enough, you''ll sleep. A modern supertanker or container ship can be on you, from the horizon, in twenty minutes, and contrary to the warm and fuzzy thoughts of some folks, they will not stop to look for survivors even if they do realize they hit you. You are a problem of monumental dimensions if you survive, a blink in the eye of misfortune if you don''t. You are responsible in all ways at all times to avoid collision, and taking that to your heart helps you adjust to the overnighters. Do not dread it, it''s not nearly as bad as you might think. Practice at home. Do it for a whole night. And get up, walk outside and look around, then go back to bed and set it for another twenty minutes. You''ll see. You can adapt and adjust, and actually get plenty of sleep. Then do it durung the daytime and stay up all night. It can be easier to blink out during daylight when it doesn''t seem so lonely or scary. Of course, on a clear, moonless or slim phase night, the stars are unbelievable and it''s great to use a starfinder and get familiar with the heavens. I personally love Orion, nebula and all, the Pleiadies (sp), and the Andromeda galaxy, M31. You can see the whole milkyway, the other planets and the space station. It''s a pretty good show.

You will still be exhausted after seven days, but that has more to do with the endless motion of the boat than a lack of sleep. The only way to combat that, is conditioning. Eat well, drink plenty of good water, avoid alcohol and drugs of any sort, stay active and fit, and try to make your position in the cockpit as truly restful as possible. I have a tendency to get lazy and start eating cold Dinty Moore beef stew out of the can. True, it provides nourishment, but it''s better to heat it up and have water with it, as well as maybe a cup of coffee or tea. Treat yourself as though your enjoying the trip, not enduring it. And keep busy: read, listen to music, sew, splice lines, wash laundry in a bucket, check and mark your position on a chart, record position, speed and other things. Don''t sing - distance from land doesn''t improve your voice and provides a startling dimension to your remoteness that you might want to avoid. I used to roadrace motorcycles and we knew to never look at the walls to see how fast we were going. At sea, I never test to see how alone I am. Niether of those bits of information have anything good to offer.

A single handed sailor has to confront and adapt to a few special aspects of thier chosen lifestyle that will either make or break the dream. I suggest small bites at the apple. A seven day over-nighter for a first passage sounds a little daunting to me. I would think a single, then a double or triple, then more. Enjoy the learning curve. Be truly prepared both mentally and physically for that first seven day passage. Get there with a broad smile on your face, not like a desperate survivor of a grueling ordeal.

Just a thought.
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Safety on Long Passages

Sasha,

Thanks for the reply. In a nut shell, it sounds a bit dangerous. I know this will depend on how sophisticated your equipment is, but wonder how often would a boat or large object be picked up on a visual watch and not on radar in calm seas? I am just trying to understand how reliable your radar really is.

Nick
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Safety on Long Passages

Nick, you are asking about the dirty little detail related to singlehanding: it''s very difficult to ASSURE a good watch per the ROR and common sense. There are a variety of tools available to help detect the presence of other ships, and which can be useful to singlehanders: radar transponders, radars with guard zones & alarms, and the new line of AIS receivers made possible by the GMDSS rules. Unfortunately, all these devices are electronic (aka: mortal), alarms may but may not wake one from a deep sleep, two of them rely on the other vessel using their radar, none of them necessarily protect a singlehander from a fishing vessel or other, smaller vessel (especially in rough conditions), and each of them costs money whereas singlehanders are often on smaller boats with smaller budgets.

Jack
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Safety on Long Passages

Falcon,

Thanks for sharing the words of wisdom. I give you (and any other single-hander) huge kudos for being able to do this. I know with enough practice it might be "possible" for someone like me, but I think I''ll stick to at least 1 other crew member when I make my first extended passage. 20 minute sleep bites, wheeww... I guess you get used to it, and the human body has a way to adapt to any condition. I find all of this truly incredible.
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Safety on Long Passages

Jack,

Thanks for info. Are the "transponders" suppose to send out a signal from you to other boats within your radar range that you are there? And are the "receivers" for you to pick-up objects or boats on your end?

Nick
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Safety on Long Passages

A few months ago I was going to make a crossing from Florida to the Gulf Coast and I looked into this device cald the C.A.R.D. I had a flyer and all the information on this radar detection device it looked like a small SAT dome and was rail mounted and had an alarm. When the radar siginal hit it it went off and had warning lights and a buzzer. I did not get it because I ran out of time to get it delivered in time befour I sailed but it looked to be ok. I am looking for the information on this and I will post it if I find it.I had contacted the company and they sent me some very good information on it.
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Safety on Long Passages

Thanks for the input.
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Safety on Long Passages

Ok I got ahold of someone and they were kind enough to give me the web address.
http://www.survivalsafety.com/The C.A.R.D. seems like the ticket at not to high of a price it is a little insurance. I am still going to get one and mount it on the arch I am having built for solar and my GPS antenna ect.I think you want a clear line of sight on it so you catch the siginal as clean as you can. You will see it also gives you some bearing on the incoming target.
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