Let’s talk a bit about the trip to San Diego. We did a lot of planning this past weekend and I thought it might be nice to put that planning into words.
There are many things that need to be decided amongst the crew of a boat on a long cruise. Although we will be well within reach of land at all times in case of emergency or needing (as opposed to wanting) something, this trip down is a trial run for the longer trip across the S. Pacific.
One thing we talked about was duty watches. Although some boats might allow the auto pilot to guide the boat when out in the deep ocean with no one awake, that’s a really bad idea in coastal or near-coastal waters where there might be fishing nets, buoys, crab pots, and a lot of other boats. As such, it’s critical that someone be watching at all times (though late at night, it’s unlikely that you’ll see any of the itsy bitsy floats at night before you hit it anyway - but at least you’ll be able to stop the boat almost immediately).
There are many different watch schedules possible depending on how many crew you have and preferences. We have four crew, so you would think we could do something like 2 hours on and then 6 hours off. However, that has some negatives to balance out the long times off.
For example, who is preparing the meals and doing the dishes? Who is cleaning the decks of accumulated salt spray (and bird poop)? Engine maintenance? Is it really a good idea to be on duty alone during the night?
After a lot of discussion, we decided on a schedule that looks like this:
Off duty for 3 hours...Assistant for 3 hours...Helm for 3 hours...Repeat. As you might imagine, the fatigue can build up on this sort of schedule. It’s not something I would recommend for, say the race. Getting by with less than 3 hours of sleep at a stretch plus assorted catnaps is really rough on a person.
Where the helm person is responsible for the safety and operation of the boat. The eagle eyed amongst you will realize that only accounts for three people, so what is the fourth person doing?
They are on “motherwatch” meaning they are doing the cooking and cleaning from 6am to midnight. While that may sound bad, the reality is that it’s a relatively easy day where they can catch up on sleep, mostly, since motherwatch is preceded by 3 hours of sleep, then you only have cooking and light cleaning to do, which should be minimal since it’s being done every day. Motherwatch goes off duty at midnight and gets 6 hours of sleep (plus whatever napping they got during the day).
If you are not on motherwatch, then you are doing what seems to be 6 hours of duty then 3 hours of sleep. However, the assistant position is to be there for the helm to assist with sail trimming and such, as well as fetching a drink or snack. Between those duties they can nap or read or write or whatever - so they should arrive at their helm duty reasonably refreshed.