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23feet

Solo night watch

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Just spent a solo overnight drifting around the Gulf of the Farallones. I used the channel 12 traffic updates to wake me every half hour to check AIS and visual scan then tried to go back to sleep. The problem is that I'm getting too old for trying to sleep in half hour increments, and it leaves me too tired in the morning to enjoy my sailing.

The question is, has new AIS technology made the 20-minute safe sleep period redundant? I know the risk is higher, but perhaps I can trust my AIS approach alarm more and get a relatively good nights sleep. How many ships or fishing boats are really sailing around at night with their AIS off?

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That's a risk assessment you have to make for yourself, you can't expect a forum to tell you what level of risk you're comfortable with.

And every sailing area is different. But if you need an answer then from me its a no, even in a well regulated place like the UK there are lots of small boats that don't have AIS & fishing vessels that seem to be running in silent mode even if they have the equipment installed.
Of course if you were mid-atlantic in a relatively quiet area then it might be different.

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Quote

 “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 of the risk of collision.”

COLREGS Rule 5 

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3 hours ago, 23feet said:

How many ships or fishing boats are really sailing around at night with their AIS off?

Plenty. Off, silent, broken or ignored.

Whatever does "Gulf of the Farallones" mean? Out by the Lightship roundabout? In fog? You could anchor in some cove, depending on weather. A full watch is still required...but largely unnecessary. I get plenty sleep singlehanding offshore. But I get far far offshore before the first nap. Like 50 miles or more and away from traffic. The California coast is problematic because the Asian shipping is thick for a long ways out.

Are you sure your AIS is really transmitting? Always something to think about while nodding off.

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I've sailed down the coast from Seattle several times. Fish boats don't use AIS reliably. I would not count on an AIS alarm. I did that on my first trip, and woke up to a fish boat captain frantically hailing me on VHF. When they're towing nets you need to give them a wide berth. That was years ago. Now when I go down the coast I go way out. There's a lot of deep draft traffic around 125-128-ish. El Boracho is right. Get way out there if you're alone, and make sure your AIS is transmitting. 

FWIW, I've done watches on a container ship. If you don't have AIS they probably won't see you. Don't count on them seeing you on radar in messy seas unless you have one of those powered radar signal return things. Your small boat may look just like a large wave. They do horizon scans, but don't count on them seeing your nav lights. A ship's bridge is a lonely place at night, and they have work to do. No one is standing there staring at the radar screens full time. Horizon scans are not continuous. Their watches are careful, but they're not constantly looking for small craft at night while steaming at eighteen knots into a dark, wet void.

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You are sleeping too long.   More than 10-15 minutes will put you into N2 sleep and you will wake up tired. If you can't hack that you shouldn't be sailing singlehanded at night. 

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Quite a tough crowd here. My question was rhetorical - does new technology make it inevitable that the 20 minute rule will go the way of paper charts? I know that not using paper charts has led to accidents - but nonetheless very few people use paper charts and NOAA have stopped printing them. Will the prevalence of AIS inevitably lead to singlehanders increasingly depending on it while sleeping. I'm guessing that in reality people already are using their AIS in this way.

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6 hours ago, 23feet said:

Quite a tough crowd here. My question was rhetorical - does new technology make it inevitable that the 20 minute rule will go the way of paper charts? I know that not using paper charts has led to accidents - but nonetheless very few people use paper charts and NOAA have stopped printing them. Will the prevalence of AIS inevitably lead to singlehanders increasingly depending on it while sleeping. I'm guessing that in reality people already are using their AIS in this way.

Not sure about tough, if you read your first post, you specifically said 'perhaps I can trust my AIS alarm' so it seemed you were asking for advice rather than asking a general question.

In my opinion AIS has already reduced peoples reliance on a proper lookout, it shouldn't be used for collision avoidance but people do already, even commercially. It seems logical to assume that some people will extend their sleep pattern when solo offshore even when it isn't advisable.

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On 8/5/2020 at 5:15 AM, 23feet said:

How many ships or fishing boats are really sailing around at night with their AIS off?

image.png.6e4358e50e550120837a57dc918d46a9.png

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On 8/6/2020 at 5:37 AM, astro said:

image.png.6e4358e50e550120837a57dc918d46a9.png

Ok... that was fucking funny.  

 

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On 8/5/2020 at 6:30 PM, 23feet said:

Quite a tough crowd here. My question was rhetorical - does new technology make it inevitable that the 20 minute rule will go the way of paper charts?

There is no 20 minute rule.

Nothing special about night watches vs. day.

I’ve singlehanded across oceans. Never set an AIS alarm. Seems like a reasonable thing to do though. It better be loud. I’m a professional-level sleeper.

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On 8/6/2020 at 11:30 AM, 23feet said:

My question was rhetorical -

There is your problem right there.

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On 8/4/2020 at 12:15 PM, 23feet said:

How many ships or fishing boats are really sailing around at night with their AIS off?

The trouble is they filter out the recreational AIS type (Class B ) a lot of the time and don't see you at all.

Read Foolish's book. It's got a lot of info on sleep and keeping watch.

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It's all a matter of risk tolerance.  You're in a 23 foot fiberglass sailboat.  That container ship won't even notice they've run you down. Neither will that 90 foot reefer offshore tuna fisherman.  Nobody on those boats will die if they run you down, but YOU will. 

The guy out there in his 24 foot Bayliner Trophy, fishing for salmon will notice  that you've collided, at least.

You could die.

Sometimes figuring out your sleep requirements takes some training, but I think you need to be able to snooze/wake every 20-25 minutes for one night, to seriously consider sailing solo in the Gulf of the Farallones. If you literally cannot do that....and some people can't, then doublehanding might be the thing.

 

The only other option IMHO is a very robust electrical system, an active radar transponder like the SeaMe, AND an AIS transponder.  Cha-chingggg $$$ and can you say "battery drain"?

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On 8/5/2020 at 9:30 PM, 23feet said:

My question was rhetorical - does new technology make it inevitable that the 20 minute rule will go the way of paper charts?

Short question, short answer-  No, it does not.

There will be boats or objects that do not squawk AIS. There will be objects that are not detected by radar. Even the Mk I Eyeball is not infallible. All of these electronics are tools to add extra layers of safety to your watch standing, not replace it.

Let's be realistic. There are many singlehanding sailors out there sailing the world.  Are they only sleeping in 15 minute increments for weeks on end? No. They're making a risk assessment regarding how long they're willing to violate Rule #5.  Only you can make that assessment.

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Having soloed at night many times, NO, AIS is NOT sufficient.  I've seen way too many fishing and rec boats without an AIS signal.  Perhaps a good, reliable radar with an alert zone properly set driving a loud alarm might help, but don't forget that (for example) a 10-mile zone coupled with an oncoming 25 knot vessel and you doing 5 knots gives you only a 20-minute warning, well shorter than your nap.

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especially when it comes to electronics on a yacht, always have plan B ready to go (and a plan C)

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I wouldn't trust the AIS on its own with my life and I'd probably never be able to fall asleep if that was my only warning...  A radar alarm would probably be the most reliable if you have to run just 1 electronic item.  I'd probably go with both and make sure the alarms are LOUD.  

Just like many have already said- it depends where you are in the world, your particular risk tolerance, the type of boat you're in and probably how lucky you are.  

 

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Paraphrasing Webb Chiles reflecting his experiences after swamping his Drascombe Lugger in the Pacific, and a few years later, spending Quality Time floating along in the Gulf Stream for 24 plus hours  ...

"Two things your body must have. One is water. The other is sleep."

Your body -will- make you sleep eventually.  Manage your fatigue wisely.

Case in point:

https://www.lasolitaire.com/en/news/view/fright-for-robin-marais

Fright For Robin Marais

Published on 07/09/2020

French skipper Robin Marais got a fright this morning after falling asleep and running his Ma Chance Moi Aussi aground near Start Point at 11:40 am French time this morning. Fortunately he managed to get off almost immediately using the engine of his Figaro Bénéteau 3 and was able to carry on sailing eastwards, under the supervision of Kriter VIII, one of the three guard boats of La Solitaire du Figaro, and the local Coast Guard. The skipper is fine, the keel does not appear damaged, there is some delamination in a few places and so he is heading directly towards Dunkirk and is out of the stage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solitaire 2020-09-12 144731.jpg

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There is no requirement for US commercial vessels <65' to carry AIS.  That's a lot of fishing boats.

For international ships, <500 Gross Tons, no requirement to carry (that's about a 32m tug or a 40m dive support vessel for example)

 

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A lot of fishing boats carry RDF gear to get a bearing on the competition, see who might be sitting on a biting school or bait ball with tuna under it, etc. Considering that, I kind of doubt a lot of active fisherman are going to advertise their location with AIS B.

I like that Ciel-et-Marine receiver.

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AIS doesn't do all that much good, as a lot of boats don't run theirs. But it is certainly better than nothing. 

 

I do a lot of solo sailing. Outside the Gate can be a very stressful place, especially when you are new and just drifting. 

 

The further you get offshore, the longer you can sleep. When way offshore, you can just send it and get a full night's sleep. There is nothing to hit.  Any solo sailor who has crossed an ocean, especially in cruising mode will agree. When coastal however, you are in danger literally the entire time. One missed alarm can spell out disaster. Sleep is a weapon, the more short naps you take the easier it is to wake up. You spend all your time just taking short naps and managing the boat. After a while, you would be surprised how much you can get into a rhythm with waking up every 20 minutes, making a quick check and then going back down for 20. It can become quite normal. 

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On 9/29/2020 at 4:35 AM, ronnie_simpson said:

AIS doesn't do all that much good, as a lot of boats don't run theirs. But it is certainly better than nothing. 

 

I do a lot of solo sailing. Outside the Gate can be a very stressful place, especially when you are new and just drifting. 

 

The further you get offshore, the longer you can sleep. When way offshore, you can just send it and get a full night's sleep. There is nothing to hit.  Any solo sailor who has crossed an ocean, especially in cruising mode will agree. When coastal however, you are in danger literally the entire time. One missed alarm can spell out disaster. Sleep is a weapon, the more short naps you take the easier it is to wake up. You spend all your time just taking short naps and managing the boat. After a while, you would be surprised how much you can get into a rhythm with waking up every 20 minutes, making a quick check and then going back down for 20. It can become quite normal. 

Singlehanded sailing has a long and storied history, from Joshua Slocum onward, and for eons before that by sailors unknown to us. 
 

But if you get into a collision, and end up as a party in a maritime lawsuit or investigation, you’ll get nailed.  Maybe the other guy will also at least in part, for failing to see you by eye or electronically, but you will be the primary problem child.

Some old-school stuff: get a good radar reflector and definitely test it real-life, ask friends or anyone with radar whether you make a good target. 

And recognize that you’re more invisible when end-on to that approaching ship, you make a smaller radar target.

And don’t relax on a sunny day.  There was a situation where a ship on open ocean approaching a wood-hull sailboat dead ahead and on same course, Andy whose watch mate did not pick up a radar target and didn’t see it visually in the bright sun ahead and its reflection off the water.  Singlehanded sailor was below decks.

 

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