Sleeping at Sea

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EasyGoingPatrick
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Sleeping at Sea

Post by EasyGoingPatrick »

Hi,

I'd like to gather a few views on the subject of being at sea overnight. Solo yachts men and women - despite appearing to be almost superhuman to a mere mortal like me - must sleep sometime. When sailing solo or short handed, is it always necessary to be in a cosy marina before settling down with your coco?

It goes without saying that having a human pair of eyes on watch is always going to be prudent, but if it isn't possible, are there ways of minimising the chances of being run over by a super-tanker? I was under the impression that some modern radars have proximity alarms. Away from shipping lanes, are these not a way to avoid going into port and still grab a bit of sleep relatively safely?

Kind wishes ~ Patrick

:?
Complete sailing beginner. I welcome any help or advice anyone is able to offer.

Discus
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Post by Discus »

You can prop yourself up in the cockpit and catnap when not on watch. Lots of people who singlehand just pop below and kip for say an hour at a time, get up, look around and head back to bed. Electronic aids can help you. In no particular order,

Radar - even old ones can set up a guard zone and bleep you when something enters the zone.
AIS - you can install a class B transponder which will broadcast your position and plot the position of any 'big' ship within VHF range of your boat. Your chart plotter will even tell you if there is a risk of collision when it plots the AIS position.
Radar Detector - will sound an alarm if it detects a radar signal sent from another vessel

Once you are well offshore (>150 miles or so), the risk of coming into contact with a big ship diminishes to a very low probability. Commercial vessels tend to travel in fairly well defined shipping corridors, based on destination and operating at maximum fuel efficiency. Often, these corridors don't coincide with sailing routes which are more defined by prevailing wind direction. Lots of stories of singlehanded sailors hopping into bed and getting their 8 hours a night, whether intentionally or not.

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Post by Jeff »

AIS receiver only can be set to sound an alarm at your choice of proximity, regardless of likelihood of collision. We used this a lot on our UK circumnavigation though were rarely if ever surprised by the alarm (as in we saw it coming on the AIS screen before it triggered the alarm).

But at night, with decent(ish) visibility, if you actually can't see a single other light anywhere at all then unless you are, or you encounter a very high speed vessel it's going to be something like 15 minutes minimum before a vessel can possibly appear on the horizon and then make it's way to your position.

This in mind, when on watch on some night passages with very good vis, I set a 10 minute timer on my phone and slept on the floor of the cockpit. Woke to the alarm and snoozed it, had a VERY good look around, and then went to sleep again... unless I could see _any_ lights.

Suspect with radar and AIS proximity alarms set, when further away from shipping lanes and fishing grounds, it's probably reasonably safe to assume you could go for longer without any issue.
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EasyGoingPatrick
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Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:42 pm
Location: York, United Kingdom

What About Places Like Bay of Biscay?

Post by EasyGoingPatrick »

Hi, Jeff,

Thank you for that information.

How does your comment about being generally okay 150+ miles offshore work in areas like the Bay of Biscay? I'd have thought that a shipping lane would go directly across there, which is - I don't know - about, say, 500km offshore.

- Patrick
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Complete sailing beginner. I welcome any help or advice anyone is able to offer.

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Post by Jeff »

Twas Rob who said 150+ offshore. And of course, that is no longer true when near a shipping lane.
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Post by Discus »

Biscay, as an example is a bit of an anomaly, being the area big ships have to cross to enter the busiest shipping corridor in the world ie the English Channel. Big ship traffic is busy off Ushant in France and again off Northern Spain. The bit in between would be fairly busy as ships funnel into the English. Channel and line up to enter the traffic separation scheme. Again, the further offshore you go, the less likely you are to encounter a big ship. Again, using Biscay as an example, it would depend on how you would choose to cross it in a yacht. For me, I would head to Ireland and then down to Northern Spain, the rationale being it would maximise your time off the continental shelf which can kick up a considerable sea as the seabed shallows from over a mile deep to only a hundred metres deep or so. The further west you are, the further away from the commercial traffic you are. The other favoured route would be to stay close to the French coast as far as say La Rochelle and hop across to Northern Spain from there, minimising the time at sea in one go. Going straight from say Falmouth to Northern Spain you would likely encounter more traffic but it would thin out past Ushant. On this route, you would spend the minimum amount of time more than 150 miles offshore. Of course, all this is theoretical, not having sailed it myself, but the link below is a video of a yacht that did do it en route to the ARC.

http://youtu.be/nYL77yZMYL0

Rob

EasyGoingPatrick
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Names

Post by EasyGoingPatrick »

Not doing too well with the names on here, am I? Sorry guys. Thanks for the info and the video. (Wow! Little boat, big sea. Gives me confidence that worthwhile stuff can be done without a budget of millions.)

- Patrick
Complete sailing beginner. I welcome any help or advice anyone is able to offer.

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