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billyruffn 02-27-2013 06:22 PM

Tips on Watch Standing
 
I'm taking BR across the Atlantic in June and I've been reviewing my Ops Manual, SOPs, etc in preparation for the trip. Today, I wrote up "Tips on Watch Standing" based on somethings I found a while back on a website of s/v Moonshadow and elsewhere on the internet.

Some of the specifics of the text are particular to my boat and would need to be adapted / changed if used elsewhere.

I offer it up here for the review, consideration and critique of those who frequent this neighborhood in hopes that you might be able to improve on it.

I'd appreciate any additions you think I should make.

Feel free to use it if you like, but if used for publication elsewhere attribution would be appreciated. :rolleyes:

Here goes:

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Quote:

Tips on Watch Standing


“He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands……”
Traditional American Spiritual

And so it is for watch standers on small boats at sea. You need to stay alert. You need to pay attention. Your shipmates sleeping below deck are counting on you to keep them safe and alert them to any dangers.

Remember, five things are very important:
  • Keep the water on the outside
  • Keep the people on the inside
  • Keep the mast pointed up
  • Keep the keel pointed down
  • Keep the rudder in the boat and steering in good order

Everything else is secondary. That said, you will be expected to keep the boat headed in the direction we want to go, keep it moving at a speed appropriate for the wind and sea conditions, and keep us away from hazards that might impact any of the “five things” highlighted above.

Coming on watch:

When you come on watch and before going topside, check the bilges (“water on the outside”). Review the log entries from the time you were last on watch. Check any “standing orders” from the skipper. If it’s night time, run through the radar scans. Note the barometric pressure. Has it changed in the last few log entries?

Check the electrical distribution panel. At night, lights on? Bilge pump to “AUTO”? Day tank on “AUTO FILL”? Check the voltage level in the battery banks. Is a charge needed? If the engine is running, check the operating gauges and fuel level in the day tank.

If you’re hungry, grab something to eat or drink before going up. Do you need to use the head?

Before you go on deck, get fully dressed -- and dress as if you were going to go stand your watch outside fully exposed to the weather. Assemble your diversions: iPod, book, etc.

Don your PFD. Before climbing into the cockpit (in rough weather) or going aft of the wheel (in any kind of weather), clip on with a lanyard. (“people on the inside”)

Get a briefing from the off-going watch stander as to what’s going on with the boat, the weather, ships in the neighborhood, anything noteworthy.

Before letting the off-going watch go below, do a visual inspection of the deck, sails, rigging and the mast. Is there anything that needs changing or fixing before the watch is relieved? Better to do it now than to have to awaken someone later.

When you’re satisfied that all is well and you understand what’s happening, tell the off-going watch: “You are relieved.”

Every few minutes:

Have a look at the chart plotter. Any new AIS targets? Are we on course? Speed holding up?

If the engine is running, glance at the instruments. Everything normal? The following are considered “normal”:
  • Cruising RMP should be in the range of 2200 – 2600
  • Oil pressure: 50-60 psi
  • Engine temperature: 180-185 deg F

If we’re sailing, what’s the angle of heel? As it begins to approach and hold near 20 degrees, it’s probably time to reef.

Check the steering / handling. How hard is the autopilot working? Is the boat holding course? Where is the braided knot on wheel? Anything greater than 90 deg either side of center is an indication that it’s time to reef.

Every 20 Minutes:

Stand up and scan horizon for other vessels, hard objects, land or breaking seas. Use binoculars or the night vision scope at night, if you think it will help. Lanyard on the binoculars goes around your neck before you stand up.

Is the weather changing? If it starts to rain, or the seas get up and are putting water on the deck, you will need to check that the hatches and ports are closed and dogged down. (“water on the outside”)

At night after the horizon scan, go below and check radar for targets. At night, the radar is kept “ON” but in “STAND-BY”. Once every 20 minutes or so you should hit “TRANSMIT” and let the system do 4-5 sweeps at each of the range settings from 16 mile to 1 mile. Monitor anything with constant bearing and decreasing range (“CBDR” and the best indicator of a collision course). Use the EBL (electronic bearing line) and VRM (variable range marker) to track target motion. Correlate radar with AIS information on the chart plotter. If the target is holding a CBDR over a ten – twelve minute period and is within 5 nm, and is not on AIS, wake the skipper. If a target gets within 3 nm and is not visible on AIS wake the skipper. If it is visible on AIS, check the CPA (closest point of approach). If the CPA is less than 1.5 nm, wake the skipper. If greater than 1.5 nm continue to monitor the target on radar. When you’re not actively using the radar, put it in “STAND-BY” to conserve electrons.

Every Hour:

Repeat all above items.

Check the barometer. Has it changed?

If motoring, check the fuel level in the day tank. Lift the top step and use a flashlight to check the engine room for smoke, oil or coolant in the bilge.

Every two hours:

Repeat above items.

If within 50 miles of land, make the log entry and plot your position on the chart. Draw the course line heading out from the plotted position.

As you change the watch:

All the above.

Wake the next watch 10-15 minutes their scheduled time to relieve you.

When the watch stander comes up, ask them if they checked the bilge. Observe that they have done what you did when you came on – e.g. had a look around, checked the radar, etc.

Brief them on events of your watch.

Ask if they need any help with anything before you go below. Offer to make coffee or a sandwich for them.

When relieved, go below and make the final log entry of your watch and, as necessary, plot the boat’s position.

Check the level of charge in the batteries. Is a charge needed?


When to Advise (Wake) the Skipper:

Average wind speed increases by more than ten knots or consistently exceeds 25 knots.

You need to change course by more than 20 degrees for more than a few minutes.

Need arises for a sail change or reefing.

The barometer drops by more than one mm in an hour or two mm in four or fewer hours.

Any vessel / object or other target with constant bearing and decreasing range (CBDR) closes to with 5 nm and not showing on AIS

Any vessel / object that comes within 3 nm and is not showing on AIS

Any vessel on AIS that shows a CPA of less than 1.5 nm.

When the boat comes within ten miles of any land, reef or shoal water, or is projected to come within ten miles of anything in the next two hours.

Any engine gauge readings change significantly from normal settings.

Any system or gear is breaks or malfunctions.

When the boat is not holding course or the autopilot is laboring or veers off course suddenly.

You become disoriented, fatigued, seasick or are unable to stay alert, think clearly, concentrate or see clearly. We do not need heroic watch standers.

You see any smoke, oil or coolant in the engine room or anywhere else on the boat.

You smell anything distinctly out of the ordinary.

You discover more than 3” of water in the bilge sump.

Boat speed falls below four knots when sailing.

You are unable to sail the assigned course due to wind shifts or sea conditions.

Battery charge drops below 12.3 V in any of the three battery banks.

Anytime you need to chat about something you consider important or you are concerned about.


T37Chef 02-28-2013 01:39 PM

awesome write up...thanks for sharing

pcarlson 02-28-2013 02:41 PM

Re: Tips on Watch Standing
 
Well thought out and through. I assume this is for large-ish vessel but looks like it will work for most all. Perhaps a check list of items that are covered to be used once the rutin is established to be gone over at change of watch. I like check lists, helps avoid missing things.

ottos 02-28-2013 03:10 PM

Re: Tips on Watch Standing
 
I don't have enough miles under the keel to presume to make changes to what you've prepared, other than a thought at to format. You could make a great deal of your SOP into a checklist...using a new one for each watch. Going beyond that, with items that aren't logged, you could have a 'fill in the blank' and an acceptable range, i.e. RPMs...
These would help engage the brain. After people have read anything multiple times, they tend to just scan and gloss over them.

Brezzin 02-28-2013 03:29 PM

Tips on Watch Standing
 
Can you post up a copy of the log pages and/or format of the log that your comfortable with?

I've done a few passages as crew and have never really loved the log formats the skippers were using.

SteveInMD 02-28-2013 04:25 PM

Re: Tips on Watch Standing
 
Very nice write up. I like to stay busy on watch; it just helps keep me alert. A few minor things you may possibly want to consider...

I'd like to see a few more checks regarding sail trim. It's easy to neglect checking for proper sheet trim, traveler position, backstay tension, halyard tension, vang, cunningham, leach lines. (Perhaps modify - If the wheel is over 90 degrees or more can you drop the traveler or do you need to reef?)

Do you monitor the VHF? If so check for proper adjustments periodically. Unless there is an electrical storm near by you should hear nothing out there. If you do hear someone, you know you have traffic nearby!

Are there any minor repair jobs that can be done while on watch? Whipping line ends, etc.

Occasionally ask your what you might do in an emergency. This could be anything from a squall line to a man overboard. You don't have to drive yourself nuts with these but it's worth some forethought. If you have SOPs for these, do remember what they are?

And lastly - Do I have any tips to add to the watch standing tips sheet!

billyruffn 03-02-2013 09:47 PM

Re: Tips on Watch Standing
 
3 Attachment(s)
Quote:

Originally Posted by SteveInMD (Post 996503)
Very nice write up. I like to stay busy on watch; it just helps keep me alert. A few minor things you may possibly want to consider...

I'd like to see a few more checks regarding sail trim. It's easy to neglect checking for proper sheet trim, traveler position, backstay tension, halyard tension, vang, cunningham, leach lines. (Perhaps modify - If the wheel is over 90 degrees or more can you drop the traveler or do you need to reef?)!

Good points on sail trim...I'll add them. We aren't a race boat and so I am not a fanatic about sail trim....but, I do like to keep the boat going.

Quote:

Do you monitor the VHF? If so check for proper adjustments periodically. Unless there is an electrical storm near by you should hear nothing out there. If you do hear someone, you know you have traffic nearby!!
VHF 16 is always on....and sometimes at night it can get spooky. Two sea stories involving traffic you really don't want to know about and some that you shouldn't be able to hear. 1/. Middle of the night....100 miles off the Columbia/Venezuela coast bound for Panama ...loud and clear over the VHF in a Spanish accent comes, "I know you're there! I know you're there!" ---- What do you say to that? Another time 1800 or so nm at sea on passage from Costa Rica to Hawaii, again middle of the night and loud and clear over Ch 16 comes, "Vessel in distress off the breakwater, this is US Coast Guard, San Diego Sector", and it went on... but only one side of the conversation.

Quote:

Are there any minor repair jobs that can be done while on watch? Whipping line ends, etc.!
Yes, but that's normally handled during the day. When I wrote this I was thinking more of the night watches when there is really no one else around.

Quote:

Occasionally ask your what you might do in an emergency. This could be anything from a squall line to a man overboard. You don't have to drive yourself nuts with these but it's worth some forethought. If you have SOPs for these, do remember what they are?!
I do have these for MoB, Fire, and Flooding...and I'm going to update them. I'll post them when they're done.

Today I worked on several diagrams which I will use in these sections. They are attached below.

Quote:

PCarlson wrote:
Perhaps a check list of items that are covered to be used once the rutin is established to be gone over at change of watch. I like check lists, helps avoid missing things.
I have a checklist for "Predeparture" which I can post if anyone's interested. It's long and I don't want to get too far OT here.

billyruffn 03-02-2013 10:17 PM

Re: Tips on Watch Standing
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Brezzin (Post 996475)
Can you post up a copy of the log pages and/or format of the log that your comfortable with?

I've done a few passages as crew and have never really loved the log formats the skippers were using.

I use a hard-bound, ruled, page-numbered "Record" book that I get at Staples for a log. I usually get one with 100-150 pages which lasts for several years.

When coastal day sailing, I just make casual entries: "Departed X @ 0900. Weather Y, sailing or motoring, events of note, arrived Z at 1800, anchored in 20 ft at low tide on 100 ft rode." and the like. I'll use a page for multiple days. There's no set format. Some days will be a couple of lines, while others might run a page or more.

Offshore it's a bit more detailed. Usually I will dedicate one "two page" spread of the open log to each day. On the top above the lines I'll record the date and the number of days we've been at sea, and any other critical information that people should notice, like how much fuel we have remaining in various tanks. Then using a pen and ruler in the ruled part of the page I'll make rows and columns for the log entries. Across the top of the page there's a column for the following:

Time
Event
Position (Lat/Long)
COG
SOG
Log (cum distance on GPS)
Steering for waypoint #
- range
- bearing
Weather
- wind direction/velocity
- cloud cover
- baro pressure
Seas (swell direction/height)
Sail Config. / Engine RPM
Remarks (lots of room for this entry)

At the bottom of the page I use rule off part of the page for space to note water / fuel consumption, changes in tanks used, maintenance tasks, and other relevant or, for that matter, irrelevant info. E.g., I once had a shipmate who was an Anglican priest and he used to write a brief "Homily" (a thought for the day of usually no more than 25-30 words) at the bottom of the page during his night watch. All subsequent watch standers were free to reply to his missives and it got pretty interesting at times.

dacap06 03-03-2013 07:41 AM

Re: Tips on Watch Standing
 
There are two things I would change for offshore work:

If you keep the interior of your boat lighted at night (even with just red light), night watchstanders should wake their reliefs 1/2 hour before the change of watch. The oncoming watchstander should spend 15 minutes in the cockpit in the dark before the watch to adapt vision to night levels. Yeah, most folks don't do this. Call me a fanatic if you like, but I trust the mark I mod 0 eyeball above all else, so it has to be able to see well.

I always use paper charts, which comes in handy with electronics failure. Record your position in the log every hour, and if out of sight of land plot your position on the chart. Compare your position to your intended track and compute set and drift. record it in the log. If you are "significantly off track" (the definition of significant depends on where you are, traffic, and distance to nearest hazard) notify the skipper. If it is an unexpected amount or direction or is greatly changed, notify the skipper.

And finally, I have something I always add no matter where you are or what you are doing:

If you don't understand what you are seeing -- weather, lights, equipment, objects in the water, anything at all! Wake/notify the skipper.

Tempest 03-03-2013 08:13 AM

Re: Tips on Watch Standing
 
Nice Write-up. I like the diagrams, good idea.

I've always felt that it was the next watch's responsibility to wake themselves and report to the bridge; clearly, each captain/crew can set their own practice in that regard, though.


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