Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Day On Passage

Sometimes when we tell people we live on a boat - they don’t really understand what that means.  “Like…live full time??”  “Where do you go?”, “Where do you stop at night”, “Aren’t you scared?”  Oh - and when they find out we have Kala - they always ask “Where does Kala go potty?”

Not all days are passages and not all days are easy.  So, I thought I might try to explain what an average day on a passage is like.  In another post, I’ll try to explain what an average day at anchor is like.  

With three people on board, and relatively stable weather, we each do a three hour solo watch.   That means that each person will be responsible for the boat for three hours and then they will have six hours to sleep, eat and rest before their next shift.  (If the weather gets bad and/or we need a couple people in the cockpit at a time, with three people we’ll do four hour overlapping watches= four hours on/five hours off)

First - you have to have the essentials ready to go.  These include:
Watch schedule - Know when you are supposed to be on watch - set your alarm for 15 min early.  BE ON TIME and BE READY to go.  The other person who is getting off watch is tired and waiting for you to come up and relieve them.
Podcasts - Watches mean hours of you sitting by yourself checking the chart plotter and watching the waves, so it is nice to have entertainment.  I love listening to podcasts (with one earbud so I can hear any strange boat noises with the other ear).  If you know of any good ones, let me know.  I’ll include some of our faves at the end of this post.
Headlamp - You can’t flip on bright white lights at night and wake up the whole boat, and you don’t want to lose your night vision so a headlamp with a red light is mandatory.  Also - make sure you have it before you go on watch.
Harness & tether - Baxter and I have a friend who once said “You fall off the boat, you die” which is very likely.  So one of the main objectives is to stay on the boat.  We wear a harness that is then tethered to different hard points on the boat.  If you go forward, out on deck and out of the cockpit, you clip your tether to the jacklines (described in the pics below) as an attachment point to the boat.
Warm clothes - It can be really bad if you get cold on watch - make sure you’re dressed appropriately, again before you go up.
Cozy, warm bed - Not getting sleep on a passage is more than just annoying, it’s unsafe.  A tired person is less mentally aware and has poor reflexes and agility.  A cozy bed is key to falling asleep.
Good food - In order to be healthy and happy, you have to eat well.  Sometimes you don’t feel like eating, but you still have to get something down just to keep your strength.  Good food makes it easier to eat when you’re not hungry.
Good drinks - On cold nights, hot drinks are important to staying warm and alert.  In hot climates, water is critical.  We try to drink at least two liters per day per person.
Happy dog - It’s been said before and can’t be more true, if Kala isn’t happy - nobody’s happy.  Have.to.keep.the.dog.happy!!

Next - What you need to know and pay attention to during a watch:
Wind angle  - Is the boat sailing to close to the wind?  Is the wind changing direction?  Do the sails have to change as a result?
Wind speed - Is it steady?  Do we need to reef the sails?  Do we need to increase the sail area?
Boats around us - Any boats around us?   Any lights near us that could be boats without AIS?  How close and when will they be a factor to our course?
Things In the Water - This could be fishing buoys, animals, containers - all of which can sink the boat.  If you can’t see the water at night, digital radar can help identify hazardous objects.
Sail plan - What sails do we have out (main/headsail/staysail) and how much?  Any concerns with the sails?
Power consumption - Are we generating power with wind and solar?  Are we using radar (high power consumption), auto pilot?  How low are the batteries?
Course - Are we on our course?  Would we go faster if we sail another angle or would it take us too far off our course?
Current - Is there current and is it pushing us off our intended heading towards our destination?  Do we have current with us?  Is current slowing us down that we could be delayed and then get adverse weather?

Here is an example of one of my days on our passage from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland:

From 1300 - 1700 I was on watch:  Beautiful day; Kala didn’t want to go potty; Dolphins stopped by for a visit; On my watches I listened to On the wind (Andy Schell) with John & Amanda Neal; Across the atlantic; For lunch we had a chickpea wrap; For a snack I had chocolate wafers and a smartie; Listented to another podcast:  Katie Couric interviewing Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa)

At 1700 - went to sleep

At 1800 woke up and made dinner:  freeze-dried lasagne
Back to sleep at 1845

From 2200 - 0200 - Back on watch - wind increasing; fishing boats nearby to keep an eye on how close they were; Made some coffee; Listened to a podcast:  Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin interviewing Billy Joel; 

Back to sleep at 0230

At 0400 we were going dead downwind so we need to pole out the jib.  Baxter and Dan on deck and I was in the cockpit easing out the sail.  Kala decided to go potty
Back to sleep at 0500

0700 - 1100 Back on watch - thick fog; Kept an eye on the wind angle since the pole on the jib is delicate - make sure the wind stays behind the beam; Noticed a current that is pushing our course to port; Then an hour later, a current that pushed our course to SB; With fog, turned on the radar; Made a cup of coffee; Made breakfast of toast with Nova Scotia cranberry and raspberry jam; Had a Kind bar as a snack; shook out a reef in head sail; Listened to a podcast:  Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin interviewing Lena Dunham

Went to sleep at 1100

Wake up at 1300 - idea for blog pops in my head; Kala is crying to go up to cockpit and see Baxter; try to read to go back to sleep

Back to sleep at 1400

At 1600 - 2000 Back on watch - lunch with Baxter of tomato sandwich with chips & apple; thick fog; wind has changed and we are close reaching (which means a little more uncomfortable and waves slapping the hull); take Kala on deck to go potty; rain; reef headsail; lentil soup for dinner; 

2100 - Back to sleep 

00:45  - Back on watch

Sunset watch is awesome!  Listening to a podcast but wearing my harness and tether like a good girl.

Sunrise behind the chart plotter...almost to NL!!

Watching traffic on watch.  This guy was only 800 ft away but it was ok since I could see him in daylight.

Got a little chilly on the passage and the heater was ON!

Fog, fog and more fog

Heeled over in the fog - some watches, this is the only view you get - which means you need entertainment from a good podcast

All the essentials

Tether, clipped into the hard point (other end will clip to my harness), iPod ready to go with podcasts, watching the gauges.

Another hard point at the helm, just below the cushion.

The red jacklines Baxter rigs when we go offshore.  If someone goes forward to the bow, they clip their tether to this line (and the other end to their harness).  Hopefully they won't fall overboard but if they do, they will be clipped to the boat.

Log entries at the end of every watch


Julie Castle-Smith said...

From your pictures it looks like a never ending vacation...beautiful water, inspiring skies, exotic destinations. But from your blog I learned that it's a LOT of hard work! Sleeping and watching in shifts (for some reason) was not what I imagined, although I can clearly understand the requirement. What a fascinating and admirable life you live, Capts Molly and Baxter! And what a unique girl Kala is, to thrive in such a unique lifestyle! Save travels always!

Molly Gillespie said...

Thanks Julie! It can be hard work and sometimes living on a lean (when the boat is heeled over to the side) can be tough. There are even times that are entire "house" can be destroyed in a single storm. I guess if it was easy, the rewards might not seem so wonderful. I appreciate your reading the blog - that's really nice of you. And remember - we go places so our friends and family have an excuse to come visit - even if you'd prefer to stay on land :)

Lauri Pixley said...

Hope life is grand and you stay away from terrorists. Poor Spain. You never hear anything mean come from them.

Sabrina and Tom said...

Great blog sailing sista. We do similar. However, we don't go up on deck at night without telling the other person, just in case. With all the sailing noises below at times, it would be hard to hear if the person went overboard even tethered. Actually, we do the same during the day as well. Just to be safe.

Molly Gillespie said...

So true! We never go forward offshore without two people...that could be a bad day.

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