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Old 05-01-2014
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Multi-Day Offshores: The Elephant In The Salon

We all like to focus on the romantic notions of sailing. But there is an elephant sitting on the settee - hoping no one notices it soiling the cushions.

That elephant?

Multi-day offshore runs are hard. They are work. They are tiring. They are stressful. They can really suck.

Maintaining a watch 24/7 for several days on end, especially if you have a relatively small crew - and ESPECIALLY if there is bad weather or hazards around - is exhausting. Throw in some sea sickness - and it can be freakin' brutal.

An auto-pilot helps immensely (since most of the off-shores I've done have been races, we always hand-steer) - but it still takes a lot out of you.

I don't think most people understand this fact that sailing off-shore is, many times, actually very hard work. It's not that fun. And I think this may be a serious factor in why we see so many rescues for cruising boats. They just get too tired, scared, and beat up to want to continue WORKING that hard.

I still love being out there - but I'm under no illusion that it's always easy and relaxing...at least if you're doing it right.

What do you guys think?
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Last edited by smackdaddy; 05-01-2014 at 11:23 AM.
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Old 05-01-2014
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Re: Multi-Day Offshores: The Elephant In The Salon

It will get easier the next time. When you reach landfall, you have a sense of accomplishment. Ability to taste the awesome of the sea, it humbles you and makes you a better man, priceless. I can't wait to go back to the sea.

Congrats Sailor.
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Old 05-01-2014
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Re: Multi-Day Offshores: The Elephant In The Salon

I would love to hear what some of the actual experienced people have to say.

I've thought about this because I have one "passage" on my CV which was a 350-mile trip on Lake Superior. But... We stopped twice, so really it was three trips of 150 miles or less.

Anyway, on one segment we hit weather and the boat took on water in both cabins and anyone in the cockpit got wet repeatedly. It was OK though, the v-birth I was sleeping in got pretty soggy, but I just woke up, made some coffee (with great difficulty), and then ended up on the helm. By the time we pulled in almost everything I brought was wet. We stacked the cushions on edge and dried them with an electric heater and I dried my clothes in the laundromat at the marina.

But if that had been a 10 day cruise instead of an overnight jaunt? It's one thing to be wet and cold and not have anyplace decent to sleep for ONE DAY, and then be able to shower and dry out and get a beer on land, but if we had had to deal with all that wet for a week or more? Oog.....

(Oh, btw, it was a Hunter. As soon as we hit a 10-foot wave the boat broke up and we all died. True story.)
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Old 05-01-2014
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Re: Multi-Day Offshores: The Elephant In The Salon

Sailing in Great Lakes is often tougher than sailing in the big pond. Yes, having a dry boat is important and at least be prepared and have waterproof bag for dry clothes.
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Old 05-01-2014
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Re: Multi-Day Offshores: The Elephant In The Salon

Bring ear plugs so you can sleep! It's amazing how noisy it can be, especially if the boat is really moving and even more so if you are beating.

Smaller passages are much nicer, if you have the time.
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Re: Multi-Day Offshores: The Elephant In The Salon

Fatigue management is the major factor yes. Well for us at least it certainly is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smackdaddy View Post
They just get too tired, scared, and beat up to want to continue WORKING that hard.

I still love being out there - but I'm under no illusion that it's easy and relaxing...at least if you're doing it right.

What do you guys think?
I disagree. While fatiguing, if your doing it right it should be easy and relaxing the last thing that should be going on unless the elephant poo hits the cabin fan is lots of hard work on an offshore cruising passage.

We were racers in a former life. My wife a big boat offshore bow chick. We know how to push a boat hard and yell and scream and sail fast. However cruising on our boat on a multiday passage we do the opposite of that. Offshore passages should be chilled and relaxed.

50% I believe is not asking for trouble. Don't head out into a bad forecast wondering whether you should of changed that dodgy fuel pump before you left. I know guys that do that, they tend unsurprisingly to have hard, eventful passages time and time again.

The other half is just good passage management.

We prepare yummy food in advance.
We stay warm and dry, we make sure we have berths that are real offshore comfy.
If we get sea sick( and we do) we have proven tested management strategies and medication.
We only hand steer when we feel sea sick, or are bored. Our autopilot is a major tool in our fatigue management arsenel.
Our watch keeping 'regime' is thorough but relaxed.
We try to always have something left in the tank, in case there is hard work to come.

Sure if your rudder falls off, if your in 40+ knots for 4 days things can get prickly. They should be rare occurrences not your normal passage making though.

By and large I love being on passage. I get tired yes, but nothing beats being on watch on a moonlit night in a well found sailboat.
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Last edited by chall03; 05-01-2014 at 05:13 AM.
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Old 05-01-2014
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Re: Multi-Day Offshores: The Elephant In The Salon

People lose sight of the reality that it takes time to get in a rhythm that is a change from our normal lives. It's the first day or two that are hard.

By day three just about everyone has adapted, the crew knows what to expect of one another, informal roles are in place over the formal ones, and everything pretty much works.

It helps to have a plan for keeping clothes and spare bedding dry (I'm a fan of SealLine dry bags). It helps to keep your belongings together. It helps to spend all your off-watch resting. It helps to have confidence in the skipper and the boat. It helps to keep people fed. It helps to keep people warm and dry. It helps to have crew that truly look out for one another.

Too many people do an overnight or two and think it's too hard. A nice run from Norfolk or Newport to Bermuda is a better first experience for most people. Give yourself a chance to be out long enough to enjoy yourself.

Oh - an autopilot is my favorite crew member. *grin*
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Old 05-01-2014
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Re: Multi-Day Offshores: The Elephant In The Salon

repeat after me - I love and trust my autopilot
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Re: Multi-Day Offshores: The Elephant In The Salon

My idea of an excellent cruise:

Wake up in a nice anchorage. Make a leisurely breakfast. Hook up at 9 to 10AM. On the hook next anchorage at 4PM at the latest. Setup the grill. Sundowners then dinner. Repeat.

We'll do a few nights offshore to get there if we have to. Many view this as the highlight, we view it as just what you need to do to get to the excellent cruise part.
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Old 05-01-2014
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Re: Multi-Day Offshores: The Elephant In The Salon

Quote:
Originally Posted by smackdaddy View Post
We all like to focus on the romantic notions of sailing. But there is an elephant sitting on the settee - hoping no one notices it soiling the cushions.

That elephant?

Multi-day offshore runs are hard. They are work. They are tiring. They are stressful. They can really suck.

Maintaining a watch 24/7 for several days on end, especially if you have a relatively small crew - and ESPECIALLY if there is bad weather or hazards around - is exhausting. Throw in some sea sickness - and it can be freakin' brutal.

An auto-pilot helps immensely (since most of the off-shores I've done have been races, we always hand-steer) - but it still takes a lot out of you.

I don't think most people understand this fact that sailing off-shore is, many times, actually very hard work. It's not that fun. And I think this may be a serious factor in why we see so many rescues for cruising boats. They just get too tired, scared, and beat up to want to continue WORKING that hard.

I still love being out there - but I'm under no illusion that it's easy and relaxing...at least if you're doing it right.

What do you guys think?
In general I would disagree with your thoughts on this. Some comments:
  • Experience really matters. My first several offshore passages where NYC to/from Bermuda. It seemed like a huge distance at the time. Now, not so much - it is less than 700 miles after all. At this stage of my development a long passage is anything over 2000 miles. It is all relevant.
  • The length of trip matters. Going something like 300 miles is about the worst because you are not out long enough to settle into a routine. You just have a couple of nights of bad sleep. By the third night you start to get into a routine and it is easier.
  • It helps to be at least reasonably fit. If you are not in decent shape (not cardio but having some strength and flexibility) it makes it easier. If you are carrying extra weight or have bad hips or knees it will not be easy at sea when the boat is heeling and moving all the time.
  • Having reliable self-steering is not nice, it is an essential. You really need two independent systems - perhaps a vane and an autopilot.
  • The size and competence of the crew matters. Two is fine if you both know what you are doing and can reef and unreef without help at 0345. Three is pretty relaxed with all that sleep available. Four is almost too many.
  • The boat matters - it should not be leaking all time. We will get the occasional leak (the boat is 1982 vintage) - we fix it. Also some boats have much easier, more comfortable motion than others. Lastly the boat should be easy to handle. Our boat is about 40,000 lbs loaded with a big rig and we use an asymmetric. To make it doable, even for my wife who is not very big, we have reliable furling (main and jib) and big winches (primaries are Lewmar 65s).
  • Someone mentioned ear plugs. I think that is a bad idea because you need to hear the boat. Pretty soon you are able to tune out the normal noises and only hear the abnormal noises. If you need silence to sleep, perhaps passage making isn't for you.
  • Final comment - most of the time it very easy and relaxing. On a long passage (>10 days) I find the biggest problem can be boredom. You need distractions - a dolphin visit, a ship, catching a fish, having an interesting meal.

Edit: You also mentioned bad weather and stress. Depends on what you view as bad weather and the confidence you have in your boat. We went 1000+ miles from Norfolk towards the USVI and never had winds less than 25 (most of the time 30 to 35). If you have a solid boat and are confident in it (and yourself) it may be physically uncomfortable but it should not be too stressful (are you reefed enough is a good way to avoid stress). We are quite comfortable to 40 knots (going off the wind). After that it becomes work and uncomfortable - but not particularly dangerous and should not be stressful.

Most traffic is not a problem, AIS really helps. Three or four times in 30,000+ miles we have had seriously stress - generally with fishing boats working in fleets.
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Last edited by killarney_sailor; 05-01-2014 at 07:45 AM.
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