Week 3 - Day 5 - 882 days to go

Posted on: Fri, 2019/04/26 - 18:06 By: kevin.klop

The next two weeks are the "Around Vancouver Island" trip. I leave on Sunday to board around 4PM and then we slip our lines bright upon Monday morning. Though we'll be stopping a few places, we won't return until 2 weeks from Sunday after having gone, well, around Vancouver Island.

So today was a lot of time spent over (electronic) charts and re-familiarizing myself with the route. All told, there will be 8 of us (I think) on the boat, which will make for a bit of a snug fit. We'll end up with two people sleeping in the Salon (the table and banquette there convert into a bed) and there are three cabins as well. So two people each in the cabins plus two in the salon.

Learning to SCUBA dive, something we impress upon our students is "Plan the dive, dive the plan." That same philosophy, with suitable alteration to convert it to the sailing world, applies to sailing.  Plan the sail, sail the plan.  However, it's difficult at the moment as information about the trip has been scant.  Where are the stops?  What is the philosophy?  If there are multiple paths, do we prefer the faster route or the more circuitous but open path?

If I were the skipper, I'd be the one to make those decisions and communicate it to the crew.  But as I'm one of the crew, those decisions are up to someone else.  What frustrates me is that it wasn't until today that I was told where our first three stops are.  Maybe I'm just picky or something, but I don't like to leave the planning to the last second, and 2 days before a 14 day trip feels like last second to me.

Let's talk about planning philosophy for a moment.  One of the first things that a person needs to be careful about when sailing is the maritime version of "Get There-itis."  This is the condition where time pressure to get to some place presses upon the decision maker and can lead to bad decisions being made.  For instance, assume a storm is coming in.  You have a pair of choices.  You can sit in the safe harbour and wait for the storm to pass, which might be a couple of days.  Or you can go now and possibly get caught out in the open by the storm.  Get There-itis will push you to set out now and you start to convince yourself that the storm isn't really all that bad, or that you can make the next harbour before the storm hits, and besides, even if you get hit by the edge of the storm, it's really the center you have to worry about, right?

So it's important to set boundaries and rules for your planning.  Make them when you are not under pressure to do something.

Another thing I've been thinking about is watch schedules.  Some of the next two weeks will be multi-day sails where we're out of sight of land and sailing for 36 or even more hours without a stop.  To do this, you need to set a watch so that someone is awake and ensuring the safety of the boat and crew at all times.  If you have a short crew, say three people, then it's going to be solo watches a lot of times, especially at night.  With 7 people (the instructor isn't going to be standing a watch) on board, it becomes potentially a little more complex. 

Possible Watch Schedule #1
Shift # Duration Start Time End Time
1. 4 hours 06:00 10:00
2. 4 hours 10:00 14:00
3. 4 hours 14:00 18:00
4. 4 hours 18:00 22:00
5. 3 hours 22:00 01:00
6. 3 hours 01:00 04:00
7. 3 hours 04:00 07:00

On this one, the watches slowly move around the clock.  The dawn watch started at 6am on the first day, but it's at 7am on the second day.  So even if you have the same watch every day, it will slowly work its way around the clock.  The bad part of this is that if you know you're working "third watch" that's not enough to tell you when you have to be on duty.  You have to refer to some calendar or something to figure out when third watch starts.  "Oh, we're on the third day out, and I'm on fourth watch.  The first day, fourth watchwas at 18:00 but it's three days later, so it has slipped three hours.  Now it's starting at 21:00.  Oh, and because it's at night now, it's only 3 hours long instead of 4 hours long."  That's just too much complexity.  Ideally, you want watches to start at the same time every day so that all you need to know is which watch number you're on.

Possible Watch Schedule #2
Shift # Duration Start Time End Time
1. 4 hours 06:00 10:00
2. 4 hours 10:00 14:00
3. 4 hours 14:00 18:00
4. 4 hours 18:00 22:00
5. 2 hours 22:00 24:00
6. 2 hours 00:00 02:00
7. 2 hours 02:00 04:00
8. 2 hours 04:00 06:00

This is a bit easier to deal with.  Watches are always at the same time and are always the same duration.  Further, the night watches are only 2 hours long which is a lot easier to do.  Let's see how this goes in our current planned crew.

On each day one person is the "Mother watch" - meaning they're the one that takes care of the crew.  That mostly means they're the cook, but they also help out with other things as well.  They don't stand a watch as they're on duty all day long.  Another person that is not in the watch rotation is the navigator.  They are busy plotting positions, laying out our course, getting weather (and wind and wave) forcasts, taking sightings.  They are also the sous-chef and helping out in the galley.  Their duty day is 6am to 6pm.

That leaves 5 people for 8 watches.  If you take the first (6 am) watch, you'll be up for the midnight watch, then the 2pm watch, then the 4am watch, etc.  That gives you anywhere from 12 to 16 hours between watches.  The negative aspect is that your watch time is wildly swinging from day to day and that can cause sleep problems for some people.  There's no perfect system.  It's a compromise.

We could shorten the watches, I suppose to something like:

Possible Watch Schedule #3
Shift # Duration Start Time End Time
1. 3 hours 06:00 09:00
2. 3 hours 09:00 12:00
3. 3 hours 12:00 15:00
4. 3 hours 15:00 18:00
5. 2 hours 18:00 20:00
6. 2 hours 20:00 22:00
7. 2 hours 22:00 24:00
8. 2 hours 00:00 02:00
9. 2 hours 02:00 04:00
10. 2 hours 04:00 06:00

Unfortunately, with this schedule and only 5 watch standers, you end up doing the same watches every day.  Also the person doing watch #5 does watch #10 as well - so only 4 hours of watch per day instead of the 5 that everyone else does.  Also, the person on Watch #5 rarely, if ever, gets to eat with the others and so is missing out on one of the prime social times.

Oh, and the watch that comes off duty as dinner is being served also does the dishes, so the ones coming off at 18:00 will always be doing the dinner dishes, etc..  Others will have duties as well such as maintenance on the mechanical or electrical items on the boat, filling in the ship log, taking inventory of consumables, ensuring that the head holding tanks don't overflow (or cleaning up if they do), etc.  There's always something to do.  And, if not, there's always reading, studying, playing music, chatting, etc.

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