What is a watch?
|30 March 2016||Posted by Alex from Lagoon under Technical world|
A watch designates a period of time during which a part of the crew is active or resting. The purpose of a watch system is to organise each crewmember’s activity on board in order to ensure the smooth operation of the boat.
According to Rule 5 of IRPCS (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea – “ColRegs”), “every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and or the risk of collision”.
Two watch elements can vary:
The watch length is left to the discretion of each crew. There are no rules about it.
Each of us is subject to a biological rhythm, based on a 24-hour day (circadian rhythm) cycle. We live by day and sleep by night. The most difficult watches to undertake are generally between 2:00 am and 5:00 am.
Moreover, the watch system disrupts our internal clock and requires that a new rhythm be imposed on our body. So in the case of short trips, it is always a little more complicated to get into the rhythm of a watch system.
A watch system can operate in various ways: either with fixed watches or with rotating watches.
In the case of fixed watches, the crew keep the same watch members for the duration of the voyage.
It is also possible to rotate watches, in other words to move crew between watches. This watch system has the advantage of spending time with different crewmembers and breaking the monotony of a night watch, for example.
Here is a table that will help you organise a watch system:
Click on the table to extend it.
But be careful to form watches based on each crewmember’s skills and affinities.
As you can see above, there are different types of watches:
– Washing up
– Resting/sleeping (off watch)
How to optimise your watch system?
• The handover period
At each change of watch, you need to allow a sufficiently long handover period (at least 15 minutes) to be able to brief the new watch. In fact, it is important to devote some time to passing on certain information, such as:
– important events that occurred during the previous watch,
– weather conditions,
– the geographic location,
– the next courses to sail,
– upcoming events.
• Night watches
Night sailing requires special attention to watch organisation. Here, we have collected together a few recommendations:
– Prepare some food within easy reach (no one is ever safe from a pang of hunger). In this way, you won’t need to leave the deck to go below to the galley.
– You should also be well equipped:
o warm, waterproof clothing,
o a head torch and/or flashlight (to avoid unpleasant surprises, remember to check the batteries!)
o a life jacket,
o a harness line to attach yourself (even if in practice not everyone does, it is advisable to clip on when moving about the boat),
o possibly binoculars and a good knife.
– Tidy the deck and the sheets so as to be as unencumbered as possible while under way.
– And last but not least, prepare your route: locate the various marks on the chart, look at what the headings will be, input waypoints on your GPS, obtain weather information.
During: while under way
– Remember to adjust your sailplan for better manoeuvrability. It is not necessary to sail under spinnaker at night when cruising.
– The eyes need time to adapt, to get used to the dark. There can be many sources of light at sea (stars, lighthouses, etc.) and they can be confusing. So beware of illusions. It is also important to stay in the dark on deck. So ensure that you turn off lights below and favour the use of a red light.
– As when driving, alcohol should be avoided.
– If you are alone during your watch, it should not last more than 3 hours.
Afterwards: after daybreak…
– To make life on board as pleasant as possible, it is good to arrange a daily meal together.
– If necessary, debrief between crewmembers so as not to repeat any errors that occurred during the night.
So now you’re ready. It’s all yours!