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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
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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美国华人, 帆船
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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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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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美国华人, 帆船
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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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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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Picnic Sailor
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Fatigue management is the major factor yes. Well for us at least it certainly is.

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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Mermaid Hunter
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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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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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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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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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It is tiring and a pain in the a** cooking, peeing, sleeping and all the other small tasks you need to do when the boat is healed over and slamming over waves. And it can be exhausting and frustrating when you are in those conditions for longer than a day. Thank God for the restorative magic of sleep! Which is why getting proper rest is critical. I can sleep through the bow pounding through and falling off of waves, but I find it tough when the stern is getting whipped sideways and you are being tossed back and forth. That is when you want to wedge yourself into a corner some place.

And when I am being pelted by rain on watch in the cold early morning hours and start to think about how much this sucks, I just remember I am out sailing in the middle of the ocean and then smile, because I ain't in the office or on the couch!
 

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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?
I would agree for the most part, and think a significant percentage of those doing one of the Fall Rallies to Paradise for the first time, for instance, haven't a clue what they might be in for :) However, I think a multi-day coastal passage along the East coast of 600 miles, is generally more work than the passage out to Bermuda, due to the greater likelihood of dealing with other traffic, fishing vessels, and so on...

My take on this, however, will be something that many owners of more modern production boats - or others fond of repeating the mantra "It's not about the boat, but more about the sailor..." - will not want to hear :) Namely, that the comfort/fatigue level on most offshore trips can have a LOT to do with the boat, its inherent characteristics and overall construction quality...

I find today's lighter boats with flatter bottoms and generally sharper motion at sea considerably more tiring to sail offshore... Now, maybe that's just me, but that has unquestionably been my experience, and is the single biggest factor in distinguishing between different degrees of the amount of "work" to be done on passage. In addition, one of my gripes about some of today's 'performance cruising' boats, is how narrow the range of wind speeds can be to keeping them in the groove, and the need to either keep reefing, or shaking out a reef, with even modest variations in windspeed. That can be one of the most annoying, and exhausting, things to have to continuously deal with on a passage...

Someone has already mentioned the Noise Factor, another aspect which I think is often hugely underrated. Sorry, but many of today's production yachts can produce considerably more creaks and groans than most of the stick-built boats of yesteryear, and this is one area where quality in construction can really pay off. Anything that can be a mere 'annoyance' when sailing shorter hops along the coast - minor deck leaks, a creaking bulkhead, and so on - can quickly translate into a source of exhaustion, and concern, on a longer offshore passage. I've always thought the primary purpose of a shakedown cruise, is to try to attempt to eliminate any sources of annoyance or irritation in your boat. Trust me, during the course a longer passage, those things can morph into sources of major discomfort, which ultimately serves to increase exhaustion, or the making of poor decisions... I'll always believe, for example, that sort of cascade effect was at the root of the RULE 62 tragedy, those people had gotten to the point where they desperately wanted to get Off the Damn Boat, nothing else mattered...

Speaking of noise, one of the best arguments in favor of a windvane for passagemaking, is the fact that they're silent... Sweet dreams, if you think you're gonna get a nice restful sleep in that aft cabin centerline queen bed, with an autopilot sawing away just below your noggin... :)

More than anything else, however, I'd say it the interiors of many of today's boats that ratchet up the fatigue level offshore, relative to many more traditional interiors... If I were to lament one single thing that has essentially disappeared from modern yachts, it is the pilot berth... Anyone who has ever made a passage on a yacht with a proper pilot berth will understand what I mean, the difference they can make in comfort and the ability of the off watch to get a proper and undisturbed sleep, with little but the sound of the hull rushing through the water so close at hand, is impossible to overstate...

Most comfortable rest I've ever had on a boat offshore, was aboard the Sequin 52 FAIRWEATHER... that thing had a pair of pilot berths that were freakin' awesome, climbing up into one of them and drawing the curtain closed, it was like entering the Kingdom of Heaven... :) And with the incredible build quality from Lyman-Morse, that boat was absolutely silent, the only thing you heard was the wind and water...



The port pilot berth can be seen in this pic from Billy Black... What, you mean to say your pilot berth does not contain a 27" flat screen TV? :)

 

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Over Hill Sailing Club
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Maybe it's just me but I have found that rigging noise, both in sailing and when I was commercial fishing, raises the level of tension. When the wind is singing in the rigging, I believe it can actually cause fatigue.
+1 on a windvane of some sort, absolutely essential.
Books, crosswords, guitar are all good for the boredom factor.
 
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snake charmer, cat herder
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my boat doesnt heel as much as roll a little in quartering seas.... but it isnt a bad feeling..i have been able to cook and sleep..... i dont use earplugs as i enjoy hearing the sounds of my boat going thru water......and the sounds of speeed in a barge are awesome.. yes i leave my berth to go above to know the boat speeed and wind speeed and such.. i also want to hear the sounds of breakage whil eunderway. yes stuff breaks. broke my taff runing at 8.4 kts, only .1 under max goten by a formosa ct hardin..lol while reefed mizzen an d jib in 60 kt chubasco..i found my self laughing and making wise ass remarks...hell. when i got there, the old preventer was hanging over water and we were prevented thru the hawse.. so if it broke we'd-a been hurtin..lol but it was fun.. and fixable...
there was a notoriety of late with families who sail off shore without experience or ......

i think ATTITUDE, as well as flexibility and teamwork are most important to keep and maintain during the hard parts....make the trip more of a pleasure despite the hard parts, whereas bullyng the family or crew into submission and making folks ill and iller is not the way to go
 

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Crazy Woman Boat Driver
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We just finished a 3 day passage from GA to NC all offshore. We saw a little of everything in the wind ( light, on the nose, on the stern and 30+), no seas to big seas and lots of traffic. We sailed 42 hours and motored 12 hours. We had a crew of 3. Our watch schedule was 3 on, 3 on standby, 3 off. Everyone got at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep a day. It was a very relaxing sail until we got past Frying Pan Shoals when wind and waves got a little crazy.
I agree on the noise level. Need earplugs. Sea berths are a must for good rest. At least one hot meal a day. Does the body and mind good. If it is too rough in the boat we either slowed it down or heave-too to let the cook make meals; all meals. Boat comfort level and ride will depend on the boat. Boats that heel excessively (over 20 degrees) will be exhausting on long passages. Boats that bash into on coming waves and boats that roll excessively on a following seas will also be tiring if not dangerous to crew and boat.
We had a great passage and everyone was rested when got to Beaufort. We went exploring, shopping and made dinner that day.
 

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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.
Exactly. That's one reason why I think that when newbies come on here with romantic notions about sailing around the world, we do them no favors at all if we white-wash it. Despite the fact that a lot of people will accuse you of being a "naysayer" or trying to "destroy their dreams," I think the newbies are much better served by hearing the cold, hard truth.

That truth being that it is not all idyllic sunsets and rum punches. Some times it is back-breaking work and uncomfortable right through to the bones.

The good news is that the freedom, independence, wonderful experiences, wonderful people, and, yes, even the idyllic sunsets and rum punches, serve to more than make up for the hard work and discomfort.
 

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An offshore passage is not The Love Boat. You need to be prepared mentally and physically for what is coming. It takes time to adjust to watches, and you will probably "hit the wall" at some point. Things that are done easily during the day take 5x as long as night. Cruisers have the opportunity to avoid bad weather while racers tend to race unless it is dangerous. I agree that sleep, nutrition and hydration are essential.
Yes, Smack, there is the dream of cruising and the reality. Sometimes reality bites, sometimes it is spectacular!
 
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