Sleeping On Long Crossongs

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Moderator Emeritus
Jul 30, 2009
Vessel Name
Skinny Dippin'
Vessel Make
Navigator 4200 Classic
Pardon the noob-rookie question, but it's only been six weeks since we've been boaters and we're already trying to figure out how to leave the land behind and move to the sea. We have friends in Jamaica and might like to someday (no time soon however) take our 34' CHB trawler down there for a few months. But one point escapes us. to make the jump from Mexico to the Cayman Islands or from Turks and Caicos to Jamaica is a few hundred miles. If we can only cruise about eight miles per hour, that gets us less than 100 miles per day... At best! How, and when, do you sleep? Is it in shifts or throw out a sea anchor and hope for the best? How far would you drift overnight? I'd hate to take three steps forward and two steps back. That would make for a LONG trip. Or do we have to stay close to land and seek anchorage? It will just be the two of us.

Just work in shifts. If you have three people, you can be on watch for 4 hrs., off for 8. Two folks can do it too, just depends on how you sleep.

Sounds like you're getting into trawlering fast. You need the book "Voyaging Under Power" by captain Robert P Beebe. Your question and countless others will be answered.

Eric Henning
First. your math is off a bit. 8 knots at 24 hours will give you 192 miles. We have done many multi day crossings and we usually have a very flexible schedule during the day and at about sunset we do 3 hours on and 3 hours off. If the weather is bad we do 2 on and 2 off. But you really need to install a good dependable autopilot. Even in short shifts, having to constantly steer for hundreds of miles is extremely difficult. Chuck

-- Edited by Capn Chuck on Monday 31st of August 2009 01:42:06 PM
So you just marathon it for 24 hours straight? That seems crazy to me. But what to I know? Yes, an auto pilot is in our future before we attempt anything like this. I'll look at the books. Maybe I should start with the coastal cruising book. I mean, this is years in the future. I have a lot to learn before we even get out of NC waters. I'm really just trying to get my head around all of this. The idea of doing 24+ hours with just naps during a crossing seems less appealing and more treacherous. I guess I'll be working up to it. ;o)
I second the recommendation for Voyaging Under Power. You really need an autopilot for trips like that.

I've taken little cat naps while underway in daylight. Set the radar and off-course alarms, and take little 20-30 minute naps at the helm when in completely open water. But you've gotta get a few hours sleep somewhere in there. Some people do these passages single handed, but I sure don't recommend it.

For that matter, your insurance may be invalid if you don't carry the crew they specify for certain passages, usually based on time underway. Check into it.
Gonzo, it might take a day or two but your body will get into the rhythm of things. You will get to a point where you sleep very well during your off watch periods. Make sure you are well hydrated and eating well and a good watch schedule works quite well. I have always done 4 hour watches and keep them going thru the day as well....that way there is no misunderstanding of whose watch it is when night falls. As Captain, you structure the schedule for the best benefit of the operation.
Thanks y'all.

Suppose you HAVE to settle down for a few hours. Do you throw out a sea anchor? How far would you drift in, say, four hours?
Just drifting around out there is not a good idea and even if you stop the boat you must maintain a watch because you are not the only vessel out there and you are responsible for avoiding a collision. If the boat and crew are not up to the task of a long voyage that can be done safely then you need to stay in protected waters where you can anchor and rest each night. Asking how far you will drift is like asking how long is a piece of string. It will be dependent on hull configuration, speed of wind, strength and direction of currents. Chuck

-- Edited by Capn Chuck on Tuesday 1st of September 2009 07:14:44 AM
Gotcha... Just curious is all. Thanks!
Gonzo - As a newbie, there are many issues to learn about before you worry about sleeping.* It is essential for you and the boat have the right navigation systems/skills*and you know the boat inside out. A good 3 to 4 hour sleep is easy when you know all is well. As previously stated, read Beebe and go to Dashew's setsail website.

Take a lot of day trips, anchor out, learn the boat's system's*and after awhile it will start to come together. You may want to consider a Power Squadron course. ANd yes, get an AP.
All stuff I have planned, for sure. I tend to think pretty far ahead sometimes.
As to the auto-pilot. Chris and I decided we could do without. We had a Simrad on our other boat and used it much of the time but on the Willard we put the money elsewhere** ...* like new engine, new fuel tanks, Aquamet PS, Nibral propeller, AGM batteries and so on. With the old cable steering the boat sorta tended to wander here and there but w the new HD hydraulic system the rudder never moves after I set the helm. The large rudder also helps directional stability and when all is said** ..* we don't really miss the AP much at all. With an unlimited bank roll I certainly would have the AP back, however, I would lean toward not recommending it for single cable steering systems. Old style open cable and pulley systems may be even better than anything but for sure the most expensive** ..* too much bronze. Of course I view joy stick steer by wire systems to be in the gas turbine engine category * ..* fun to read about but not on the drawing board of the real world** ..* no offense to those on the forum that may have such Buck Rogers equipment. We almost bought a fridge too but retained the ice box. Good move** ..* the old ice box is great.
My edit is that the "auto pilot stuff" was not aimed at Gonzo. For what he intends to do the AP is almost a total necessity.

Eric Henning

-- Edited by nomadwilly on Wednesday 2nd of September 2009 09:58:16 AM
Any buying tips for auto pilots?

(Already have hydraulic steering)

-- Edited by GonzoF1 on Wednesday 2nd of September 2009 12:00:57 PM
In my opinion, one the absolute best autopilots available, used by the Dashew's to cruise around the world, is the units built by WH Autopilots, , Chuck

-- Edited by Capn Chuck on Wednesday 2nd of September 2009 03:03:37 PM

-- Edited by Capn Chuck on Wednesday 2nd of September 2009 03:03:55 PM
I'm not sure if you're looking for an autopilot with all the bells and whistles or one that just gives great service day in and day out. So I'll just second Chucks recommendation of WH and attach a picture of a now 29 year old autopilot on my boat. I haven't used mine since noon today. 104 hours use in the last 6 weeks. I haven't found a sea condition that my wife would stay in, that the WH autopilot couldn't steer a better course than what I could do by hand. (40 trawler, semi-planing hull, hydraulic steering)

Wood Freeman has been around forever also. I understand they are making new units*again from their new shop in University Place WA.



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It is an oldie, and still fully supported. After I bought the boat I wanted a remote for the bridge so I emailed the company to see if such a thing could be made. The owner of the company called and advised it would be no problem. Just give him the serial number and the length of cable and he'd make it up. Oh, and if I wasn't sure how to install it, if I'd bring the boat up to Winslow, 10 miles or so for me, he'd stop by on his way home and give me a hand. He had looked up the number of units they had made of that model, knew the original owner of the boat, (verified by the paperwork onboard) and all the particulars.

Charles has had pretty good luck with his Simrad, but I doubt the owner would stop by and help install the parts. If he would, good for him.

Ken, That has been typical of response and support from Wil Hamm which is why I so highly recommend the product. Ours withstood some serious cruising for 12 years without a hicup and handled the boat in conditions the crew did do well with. Chuck.
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