Passage Safety II: Fatigue

Fatigue is perhaps not something you prep for, except to think through how you will manage it and get rested before a passage… but we think it’s really important for safety.

1. GET SLEEP. Being overly tired results in making bad choices. Under normal passage conditions getting enough sleep can be difficult. During rough weather or during stressful situations, sleeping is harder to get. Think through how your berths will accommodate different situations, and how you can adjust your location, position, whatever… to get sleep. Consider earplugs. The counterargument is that you need to hear what’s going on, but at some point, sleep prevails. Seasickness, of course, compounds fatigue.

Catching Zzzs
Jamie catches ZZZs underway

2. Watch schedule: this is different for everyone. Cruising World had an interesting article a few years back that compared the watch schedules of a half dozen circumnavigating couples. NONE of them were the same! Between Mexico and the Marquesas, we were joined by the wonderful Ty Anderson from back home on Bainbridge Island. The difference between a 2-person schedule and a 3-person schedule is very positive for sleeping. In general, our approach is not to have a strict schedule, but instead, use practical rules.

  • generally 3 to 5 hours per watch 
  • Plan for a basic routine that matches to each person’s natural biorhythm (for example, don’t make your night owl start watch at 6 a.m. Jamie is great in the wee hours; I tend to lose it if I wake up for watch at 1am) 
  • Based on adverse or cold conditions, shorten the length of time on watch 
  • Don’t miss sleep opportunities, especially during the day. You need more sleep than you think, since the quality of your sleep is reduced 
  • If you feel over tired (rubbery legs, dozing off, etc), just make a watch change. Don’t be a hero, 
  • Our kids help, too. At night, Niall would join the watch because it was fun for him- it was great for the adult crew on watch, too, because talking together made it easier to stay awake and alert. During the day he would stand 1 hour watches solo, so that we could sleep or manage boat chores. 

3. Being rested helps keep a positive attitude. Feeling tired, queasy, bored, scared make some people less pleasant, and then there otherwise chipper self. Being 1000 miles from land can enhance all of this and rub off on the other crewmembers. In general, and especially with kids that pick up on things, a whole passage can go from being ok or uncomfortable, to downright miserable… and potentially lead to bad decisions. There were boats out there in such a state, so I put this in as one of those mental prep things.