The importance of a well-coordinated and organized change of shifts is difficult to overestimate. We give simple tips to make your everyday life and watches on board a yacht easier.
Watches and their meaning
A well-functioning watchkeeping system is the basis of any cruise. In turn, the well-coordinated work of the team is necessary not only for long transitions, but also when working with a large crew. The watch system is the key to the effective management of your boat.
Alas, the system can be debugged, but not effective. It can hinder good communication as well as the exchange of knowledge with novice sailors. In order to avoid these problems, you need to know a few simple and unpretentious tricks in organizing the work of the crew.
Transfer of watches
How should the change of watch ideally take place:
- A new watch arrives on deck 5-10 minutes before the start of their shift. The watch must be appropriately dressed, with equipment, drinks and snacks for the watch. They acclimatize to the conditions, talk with the previous watch.
- There is an official transfer of the watch to each other.
- Both watch officers (heads of watches), if appropriate, agree on the conditions for awakening the skipper. This should be done even if they have not changed since the last change of watch.
- If there is a change of sail or a maneuver that was reserved before the change of watch, it may be performed by the previous officer on watch.
- A new watch takes over the watch during the 5-10-minute handover of the watch.
- Crew members leaving for watch go down, being careful and preparing for rest.
- Exchange of information received during sailing
Sometimes there is little to report between shifts, while other times there is a decent amount of information to process. It is useful to have a checklist of the most important things so that nothing is missed or forgotten. Go through the list each time and confirm that there is nothing to report on each item.
An example of a watch transfer list could be as follows:
- Safety considerations - navigation, weather, yacht movement.
- The state of the crew - illness, fatigue, morale.
- Vessel condition - any problems, damages, other issues.
- Wind report - what was the wind before the change of watch, general trend, forecast.
- Steering characteristics, autopilot settings, its operation.
- Team - the agreed parameters for awakening the skipper or awakening another watch.
- Battery status - Charging schedule.
- Routine tasks that must be completed during the watch (for example, checking the weather forecast).
Depending on the composition of your crew, a briefing may be held between crew members on various issues. Explain how you have used the instruments and what each one shows. This is especially important if you have changed the size or data set on any of the screens. Speak all the alarms that have been set.
Before starting the transition, it is important to coordinate the time of the watch with the crew. You need to make sure that everyone understands that the watch is the time spent on deck and managing the vessel. Not bedtime. Repeatedly being late to deck during a watch will quickly lead to fatigue for the other watch.
Make sure you have a realistic amount of time to get into your jersey, put on your hat, prepare food and/or drinks. Remember that for a watch with a large crew, this means sharing common areas. Therefore, working space can be a problem. Some crew members may have to go on deck earlier to make room for others.
Items such as headlamps and phones must be charged. Before going to bed, leave enough time to leave them to charge. Arrange with the outgoing watch about the time at which they can wake you up if you do not show up for your shift.
Making hot drinks can slow things down, so on smaller shifts, make sure you light the stove as soon as you get up. In large crews, a member of the outgoing watch can go down and light the stove 15 minutes before the watch is over.
If you wake up late or need more time to get on deck, inform the other watch right away so they can adjust their expectations for getting on deck, especially if the weather is bad.
Everyone on deck!
Consider that a change of watch is not a period of watch transfer, but an opportunity to sail on a yacht in full force. If you are racing, this will be a chance to take stock of the strategy. It is also possible to transmit information about how the yacht is behaving and where other participants are.
In general, watches are a good opportunity for skippers to learn about the health and well-being of crew members, as well as the condition of the ship itself. If something is not right on the yacht, the watch officers can agree on how to deal with the situation, as well as when and how it will be corrected. Of course, taking into account daylight hours and weather conditions. If one of the crew members is unwell or there are disagreements in the watch, this can also be discussed and agreed on the timing of the replacement or rest of the crews.
Regardless of whether you are with a large crew or a small one, it is not uncommon to see that the appearance of a new watch on deck leads to a surge of energy from the outgoing one. This time is not only valuable for sharing information, but can also be critical to keeping the spirits high and increasing the crew's enjoyment of the passage.
Take your time to leave the deck - a few jokes (no excesses) or a kind question about how the rest slept are no less important than technical details. If you are a skipper participating in a watch system, this may be an opportunity to check on the welfare of another watch. For nervous or novice crew members who appear on deck, an encouraging conversation is a good start to the watch.
Make sure that the place in the cabin is all clean and dry for the next watch. Dishes should be washed, wet equipment should be hung in a designated place, etc. Keep the deck in order by picking up or removing ends from where they shouldn't be.
Above all, try to maintain an atmosphere of support and goodwill between shifts. If you make sure that the crew on deck are happy and have everything they need before you give up your watch, then they will treat you the same way.
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