Q & A
13 July 2018 | 1410 Miles East of Mataiva
3:00pm Friday 13th July 2018 ( UTC-8 )
Over the last 24 hours the breeze has freshened that little bit so now we are doing around the six knot mark and that early morning row on the 21st is a distinct possibility. I have been asked about watchkeeping and sailing the Pacific so here goes.
It may not sound very seamanlike at first when I describe my watchkeeping but bear with me. I totally rely on being seen by my bright Tricolour at the mast head and being detected from my AIS transmission and the enhanced radar echo from my Echomax. In this regard I rely on detecting other vessels from the audio and visual alarms from the Echomax and the audio and visual alarms from the Onwa AIS. I also maintain constant listening watch on VHF Channel 16. Naturally when any of these alert me I get up and have a good look around and rarely if ever do I see anything so I then set the timer for 30 minutes. If the other vessel is going to get closer it usually comes up at about 14 miles with details of its CPA ( Closest Point of Approach ) and TCP ( Time to Closest Approach ). I keep an eye on things and in the rare instances where a converging course is shown I establish communications with the vessel at around 6 miles by which time I have itâs full information - name, call sign, nationality etc. In all instances to date they are quite happy to alter course by about ten degrees and pass by the proverbial country mile. Now back to that much over rated instrument the Mk 1 Eyeball. Without all these aids the visual confirmation can only be guaranteed from about two miles. Probably the biggest difficulty comes from a swell once it gets over 3 metres. You would then have to look in one direction steadily for ten seconds, and so on for the next seven sectors. Although most tankers and bulk carriers are pretty slow nowadays at 9 to 12 knots you occasionally come across a ship doing 18 knots so if you add your own speed to that the two miles could be covered in five minutes. Add rain showers fog or atmospheric refraction into the equation and the answer becomes obvious - you cannot visually maintain an effective 24 hour watch. Young and highly motivated skippers have been able to train themselves to sleep for 20 minute periods and then get up and visually scan the horizon for months on end but I am afraid this is beyond my capabilities. As a corollary to this in the Golden Globe retro race just begun the organisers have had the good sense to ensure that each vessel is equiped with an AIS, an Echomax XS, LED navigation lights, VHF a tracking system and have available on board, though with severe race penalties, GPS, electronic chart plotters EPIRBs and Satphones. That was the long answer about me keeping watch. The short answer - I donât.
And yes I have sailed these waters before. Barbara and I crossed the Pacific West to East from Brisbane via Lord Howe, Norfolk, Whangarehi, Rapa,Pitcairn, Easter Island and Robison Crusoe to Valparaiso. We then went South to Puerto Montt and then through the channels to Punta Arenas Ushuaia Cape Horn and on to Stanley where we spent the winter waiting for a replacement for the rudder which fell off as we passed South of the Straits of Lemaire . We returned via Montevideo Rio the Caribbean and Panama, Cocos, Easter, Pitcairn Mangareva, The Marquesas, Ahe and Tahiti, Suvorov and on to Fiji where our eldest daughter Katherine Ann was born. The three of us then continued on to Vila, Tanna, Noumea and back to Barbaraâs home town, Bundaberg. Without being too specific I must by now have crossed the track of Raconteur, our Triton 24, half a dozen times.