Come Stand Night Watch with Me


I've talked lots about night watch and lots of people have asked what it's like to stand night watch alone. Quite honestly, it can be glorious or it can be miserable. Why not join me for one night and see for yourself? It will definitely disturb your usual sleep pattern, but it's only for one night. You've got the advantage of bailing at any point if you don't like it. Set your alarm for midnight and meet me in the cockpit. Dress warmly … it gets chilly out there, even in the tropics.

Midnight … I was sleeping oh so soundly when David woke me. He climbed into the sea berth rather quickly after briefing me (very briefly) on what was happening … nothing. Good news … perhaps it'll be an easy watch for us. Most of them are when we're this far out to sea. Are you awake? First, we'll check the AIS … no ships around. Let's make a cup of tea and head topside. Prepare yourself … the tradewinds are really blowing tonight.

David has logged for the past three hours and I'm always interested in how well we did and how much progress we've made. We've been averaging over 6 knots, it looks like. Check the iPad … you can see our course and our position. We're right on the course line and there's nothing in the way for a thousand miles. We're not anticipating any sea monsters at all, so nothing to fear in that category.

Mostly night watch is just that … “watching” - staying awake and alert and making sure we're on course, the sails are trimmed and there are no other vessels aimed at running us over. Stand up and take a good look around … all around, even behind us. Nothing out there, but blackness, although now that your eyes are adjusting to the dark, you can make out the horizon. I check the AIS every 15 minutes or so … ships travel fast. Nothing going on. Look up … have you ever, ever seen so many stars?


southern cross


Take a look at this app on the iPad. It's the southern sky constellations. Just hold it up and it names and outlines the constellations for you. The Southern Cross is easy to pick out and so is the upside down Orion. It's all the others that I wasn't familiar with, like the Pegasus.

No, that's not a ship to the east nor anything to be alarmed about. I've been fooled many times by that very thing. It's the moon rising and it's pretty dramatic, isn't it?


moon path


Well, we've been chatting and it's already log time. It's probably not really necessary to log hourly. Some folks we know only log at the end of each watch or once a day even, but we've always done it this way and prefer to have an hourly record of our progress. Go ahead … you can log. Take a look at the instruments. The GPS will give you our position, course, and speed. You can get the apparent wind direction and wind speed off the other instruments. I also check and log the voltage each hour to make sure we've still got plenty of power. The voltage is 12.58 … plenty to last till morning. Logging is pretty easy and it's a mental tick mark … one hour of the watch has been completed.


cockpit instruments


How about a snack? I'm always hungry during my second watch hour. Granola bar? Some water? The snacks are in the swinging hammock over the port settee. I'll check the AIS while you get us something to munch on. The AIS shows a ship about 15 miles away with a CPA of 2 miles. We'll keep checking on him. In the meantime, I've got some books loaded on the iPad as well as some games. You're welcome to read or play a game as long as you don't get too distracted. Remember, we're keeping track of that ship out there.

So, do you know any show tunes? The reason I'm asking is that I usually sing on my watch. David can't hear me below (or at least he doesn't complain) and I can sing to my heart's content without bothering the neighbors. Singing is good for the soul. Ah, you're not a singer. No worries. You can play on the iPad again if you'd like. I'm going to read for awhile. Go ahead and check the AIS again and make sure our friend is still far enough away. Hey, take a look at the moon. It's waxing and will be full soon. Isn't she a beauty?


log time


Time to log again … time flies, huh? Same info, different line. One hour to go. We did nearly 7 knots last hour … good progress. The sails are fine. The voltage is good. The wind gen is keeping the power topped up. I just checked the barometer and it's steady … looks like more of the same weather ahead.

Can you see that light in the distance? That's the ship we've been tracking … he's about 7 miles away now. The AIS indicates that his CPA is just under 2 miles … a good safe distance away, but we'll still keep an eye on him. If he gets any closer, we can hail him and ask his intentions.


ship on horizon


During my last watch hour, I usually tick off the minutes in my head, especially if I'm really tired. Only 28 minutes left. Check out the ship. Looks like that's the closest he's going to come. Good view, not too close. We'll make sure to tell David that he's already passed us and heading east.

I've really enjoyed having company on watch. Hope you're not too tired. You get used to the different sleep pattern after a few nights and it's really not too bad. Rainy, cold nights aren't very pleasant. I usually sit at the nav station then and watch the radar and just pop my head up a few times each hour to see what I can see … usually not much. Tonight, though, was just beautiful. Time for the final log. 0259 … time to wake David and get some sleep. Join me again some other time?