Night Watch Tips for Two handed Crews
Last week another relatively new-to-cruising couple stopped by for a visit. “Did you really keep watches every night at sea, even when you were out in the middle of nowhere?” In reply, I related the story of almost running down another yacht in squally weather 400 miles from New Zealand. The other yacht had no running lights and disaster was adverted when someone came out into their cockpit and lit a cigarette. When I look back through our years of voyaging, I can recall several dozen night-time incidents that could have had negative consequences if we hadn’t been keeping a watch, weather changes, squalls, ships that were on the same course as we were, a line on the foredeck that was chafing. Just as important, knowing Larry was alert and keeping watch, let me sleep soundly. A well-rested crew makes better decisions and enjoys sailing more. Herewith just a few watch keeping tips:
- We do a check on deck and around the horizon every eleven minutes. To keep us from getting too involved in the book we may be reading we have a watch-watch, a count-down alarm that flashes and sounds off every eleven minutes. (We came up with this number by timing ships coming directly toward us from the time we could just spot them, until they were abeam of us. This averaged more than eleven minutes.)
- A look around on deck means going out on deck, well clear of cockpit obstructions and dodgers.
- As tempting as it is to enjoy music or recorded books, any devise that uses ear plugs also keeps you from hearing what is going on inside and outside the boat.
- Allow time for the person coming on watch to wake fully. Give them a run down on any information that could help them assess the situation before they take over. Larry got a real fright when I didn’t inform him we’d just passed a huge oil drilling barge that was under tow 800 miles off the Brazilian coast. He went on deck, still slightly groggy and couldn’t immediately process the overwhelming wall of lights just off our stern, nor could he figure out which way the very slow tow was moving. Instead instinct made him think we were in danger. His shout brought me out of my bunk so I lost far more sleep time than I would have had I had taken the time to point out what was happening, show him my plotted course and that of the barge.
- It is the watch keeper’s job to check for and silence any sounds that could disturb the off-watch. Search out clinking bottles or shifting pots and pans. I carry a bag full of sponges to stuff between bottles, cans and pans to shut them up.
Floatation Tubes for Hard Bottomed Dinghies
In our book, The Capable Cruiser, we discuss the pros and cons of various dinghy choices (there is no perfect dinghy, that’s for sure.) plus upgrades and ways to make both inflatable and hard bottomed tenders more useful and longer lasting. Among the upgrades, we describe how we added buoyancy tubes to Cheeky our Fatty Knees 8 foot fiberglass tender, not only so she could serve as a lifeboat but also to make her a better boat for skin diving excursions. Many folks have contacted us asking for a source for similar buoyancy tubes, but the firm that made ours has gone out of business. Recently we learned of a source for a range of bouyancy tubes, a small company called Dinghy Dogs and have spoken with three satisfied customers we met at the Chicago and Toronto Boatshows. For more information take a look at their website www.dinghydogs.com