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Old 09-14-2008, 12:30 PM   #15
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On the subject of waking on passage, has anyone tried one of these, watch commander? It seems to me to be an interesting bit of kit irrespective if you sail alone or have crew.
We've never tried it, but its description sounds like a great tool to carry on board. Their comment that ships will find it more difficult to see a small yacht during the day is so accurate, yet everybody tends to relax their vigilance during the day. Clearly made by a cruiser for a cruiser. I'd get one.
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Old 09-14-2008, 12:36 PM   #16
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I'd get one.
My ex wife in an electronics engineer. I am trying to get her to make a circuit diagram for me so I can build one myself. It just isn't easy going cap in hand to her. If I ever get it I will share it here.

aye // Stephen
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:14 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Nausikaa View Post
My ex wife in an electronics engineer. I am trying to get her to make a circuit diagram for me so I can build one myself. It just isn't easy going cap in hand to her. If I ever get it I will share it here.

aye // Stephen
This type of device has been proven (yes, strong word "proven") not to work.

How do I know this? I used to be involved in railroad accident investigation for the US Department of Transportation (DOT). Both DOT and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTS have investigated countless train accidents/incidents with one of the causes being train operator error. No locomotive engineer is going to admit he's asleep at the controls...when an accident just occurred...but, union officials and locomotive engineers have told DOT that falling asleep is a problem which isn't fixed by devices like this.

Following up on that information, human factors research performed by the US government at a leading research university with cooperation of the railroads and employee unions (in a full-scale locomotive simulator) show that engineers can be asleep sitting at the control station and push a reset button on a device like this IN THEIR SLEEP. Such devices are at control stations in trains and the engineers do sleep while shutting off the buzzer every few minutes. Similar studies have been performed with pilots in aircraft simulators simulating long trans-oceanic flights and found the same results--the pilot is doing his job, even responding to a warning light/buzzer by flipping a switch, etc, but actually asleep and unable to react to an unexpected event. In both cases, very long shifts and very little sleep contribute to the problem.

A device such as this, IMO, is entirely useless. Conversely, if you engineer a device that requires you to perform a non-routine non-motor set of tasks combined with motor tasks (e.g. perform calculations on a computer, answer a random question on a computer PLUS perform a non-repetitive motor task or tasks, you might have a chance of it doing something for you).

Hubby and I own a company together...That company has a computer-run PBX system which we sometimes use as an alarm clock--if requested, it will give us or our employees a wake-up call which includes a mathematics question--if you answer incorrectly, the PBX keeps calling you back until you get the math right (and are presumably "awake")
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Old 09-15-2008, 05:03 AM   #18
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Hubby and I own a company together...That company has a computer-run PBX system which we sometimes use as an alarm clock--if requested, it will give us or our employees a wake-up call which includes a mathematics question--if you answer incorrectly, the PBX keeps calling you back until you get the math right (and are presumably "awake")
Too complex an installation for s.y. NAUSIKAA

You are right about people being able to shut off alarms in their sleep though. How many people don't shut off an alarm clock automatically?

I do not say that this device is the ultimate sollution but it must be better than the egg-timer used by so many solo sailors.´Also, if placed in the right position then it should, being sufficiently akward to get to, require more than a simple outstretched arm from a bunk to reset it.

I am not sold on this kind of device but, on the other hand, I know of none better for use in a small vessel where a computer run PBX system is not practical.

Anyone out there ever used the watch commander?

Aye // Stephen
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Old 09-15-2008, 04:07 PM   #19
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Too complex an installation for s.y. NAUSIKAA

You are right about people being able to shut off alarms in their sleep though. How many people don't shut off an alarm clock automatically?

I do not say that this device is the ultimate sollution but it must be better than the egg-timer used by so many solo sailors.´Also, if placed in the right position then it should, being sufficiently akward to get to, require more than a simple outstretched arm from a bunk to reset it.

I am not sold on this kind of device but, on the other hand, I know of none better for use in a small vessel where a computer run PBX system is not practical.

Anyone out there ever used the watch commander?

Aye // Stephen
har, har, I didn't mean one should run a pbx onboard

However, it wouldn't be too difficult to program something like a palm pilot to do what you want--they can be used to control all kinds of things, you know. I really think this type of device is a waste of money though. No true substitute for crew, good watches, and good rest.
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Old 09-16-2008, 03:16 AM   #20
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Some things haunt me.

Sometime around eight or ten years ago a sailboat headed for NZ was hit by a freighter and sunk. One of two children on board was lost immediately, the husband, wife, and other young child, a daughter, clambered into their inflatable dinghy. When the dinghy reached land, only the woman was still in the dinghy and alive.

The woman recounted that she was on watch, the weather was the usual gale and nasty weather, poor visibility as they closed with NZ. She had gone below to check position, make a log entry, and get her husband up to take the watch. They were both below and chatting when the freighter took the bow off their boat.

I've learned the hard way that time has a way of speeding up when you are distracted or your attention is occupied by something as trivial as discussing the change of watch. A few times when I came back into the cockpit after a quick trip below I would be surprised to see a ship quite close to us. Obviously I had been below longer than I had thought. Even though I used a kitchen timer most of the time to keep me aware of the time that passed, it was easy to forget to reset it and lose track of the time below.

I would welcome any device that could jolt me or nag me into staying alert. No matter how disciplined one may be, it's difficult to maintain vigilance consistently on long passages, and I'll take any help I can get.
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Old 09-16-2008, 08:58 AM   #21
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I think the important thing here is to treat this, or any other device, purely as an AID.

When I was a very young cadet I had hammered into me the fact that RADAR, LORAN, Decca, OMEGA, RDF and so on were simply AIDS to navigation. None of these was to be relied upon 100%. The reliability of navigational aids has increased, especially since the introduction of GPS but they still remain as aids to navigation. The same can be said for the Watch Commander. It is not going to keep a lookout for you and as an indicator to the skipper that the watch on deck is not asleep it is not a cast iron garantee but I would think it a good aid.

The formula for good seamanship is:

GOOD SEAMANSHIP = Common sense + Experience + Caution

Aye // Stephen
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Old 09-16-2008, 07:51 PM   #22
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I'm fairly lucky in that I've never been a really big sleeper. It's difficult for me to sleep more than 6 hours in a stretch, even if I'm dog tired. I'll usually awaken from a headache when I'm horizontal for 7 hours. It's also difficult for me to get to sleep much before midnite - 1am and IMPOSSIBLE for me to sleep during daylight hours no matter how tired. When the sun comes up, I'm wide awake, even if I've just pulled an all nighter (although my overall energy level will be lacking usually resulting in an absence of motivation to do anything more than sit around). So I take the majority of watch time (just NEVER between the hours of 3am-7am) which usually works well for all concerned. The downside of requiring such little sleep is that practically nothing can wake me once I'm asleep. Kick me, hit me, and I'm still not budging. Slept through a car wreck in the back seat of a car back in high school and the buddy who was driving still ribs me to this day about how I was there in the mangled heap still snoring after the other 3 had exited the wreck. I awakened next too the car after they'd pulled me out unaware of exactly what had occured and was instantly upset with my buddies as I thought they'd ruined my new shirt as a joke. So if someone was lax on a pre dawn watch and we collided with a ship - I'd likely drown before ever being aware of what happened. The joke is that I don't sleep, but rather die nightly...
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Old 12-17-2008, 09:04 PM   #23
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Lately I've been having to do some solo passages of 1 or 2 days (140- 250 miles). I bought a clockwork kitchen timer and set it at 10 mins for short nano naps, if still tired have a good look about and go below for another 10 mins. This system of getting some sleep is very dependent on weather and sea conditions being considered safe at any particular time before going below.

Cheers,

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Old 12-18-2008, 04:40 AM   #24
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I missed the beginning of this interesting discussion. So, belatedly here is my contribution.

I have been long distance sailing either with another crew member or solo for the past 25 years and so far I have been fortunate enough to avoid any mishap. Here is what I do:

When we are two on board, we keep regular watches at night. It seems that one gets sleepy after the evening meal so we alternate watches every other day: first watch, an hour after dinner, 2 hours, second and third watch 3 hours, fourth and fifth watch 2 hors. No formal watches during the day. The longest we have used this system comfortably, that is without getting sleep deprived, was for 17 days.

When singlehanded I use two approaches. On one night passages in relative congested waters (mostly in Aegean) I do not sleep at all. Next day I anchor in a nice quiet anchorage and catch up on my sleep. I find that this is great fun as I love sailing alone at night.

On long passages, in not crowded waters, I do a number of things. First I have equipped my boat with a very loud buzzer which is triggered by an alarm condition form either the radar, the autopilot, or the GPS. No one can sleep when that buzzer goes. I set the radar to raise an alarm whenever a target enters its 16 mile range. I have also found a rather old fashioned alarm clock that makes a lot of noise. When I feel sleepy, I set this clock for 20 minutes, put the clock next to my head, and go to sleep. When the alarm goes I get up, while half asleep half awake, scan the horizon and check the radar, autopilot etc. If all is well I set the alarm for another 20 minutes and go back to sleep. I have no problem going back as I am still half asleep. Of course, if I see anything I wake up instantly. I can keep this process going all night and well into the morning. The longest I have used this system is for 5 days and I felt fine. Most of the times that we had an encounter with another ship the radar had raised the alarm but there were a few times that it had missed but I have always been lucky to see the ship when checking visually.

I have arrived at the 20 minute interval by assuming that my boat is sailing at 6 knots and a ship is moving head on at 20 knots, 26 knots closing speed, and it is 25 m tall including her masts superstructures etc. The approximate range, in nM, along the earth's curvature is given by 0.54 x SQRT (13 x h) where h is the sum of the observer's height plus the target's height in meters. In my case I assume that I scan the horizon from a 2.7 elevation (my height plus the cockpit's height) so we have a range of 10.2 nM. This means that a ship just beyond this range will take to reach me 23.6 minutes. The same ship moving at 25 knots will reach me in 19 minutes, so there is a risk but any sleep period shorter than 20 minutes will be very hard to take.
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Old 12-31-2009, 03:23 AM   #25
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I am a someday cruiser so I am not sure about this but I saw a video of a solo navigator that used a device that sounded an alarm when it detected ANOTHER ships radar signal. It was a small box with some type of wire antenna. Granted, this would not be useful for detecting other ships not running radar, but it seems that you could increase your nap time using this device assuming that most other smaller sailing craft will likely only travel at 10 knots or less whereas a cargo ship will run much faster and always runs radar signals?

Maybe with this method you could increase your naps to 35 mins?

Counting down the next 9 years when the last kid leaves, and so do we.....

Jason and Patty
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Old 01-01-2010, 07:17 AM   #26
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Sailing from Brisbane to Vanuatu and then back down to New Caledonia we did the 2 -3 hr watches with the proximity alarm on the radar set and used my mobile phone's alarm for the occasional 15min nap in the cockpit after checking up top and below. It worked ok for the long passages but on stopping off at Chesterfield Reef (midway between Noumea and Mackay, Oz) we met up with a Brisbane based yacht owned by an electrical engineer. He installed a 'watch alarm' they were selling back in Oz. Man! - it worked a treat! you can set it for 5min, 10, 15, 20 or up to 35min. We had ours set on 15min.

It worked on the 'dead man switch' principal i.e : press once to start - after 15min an alarm and flashing light is activated in the cockpit - press to resett or 60 secs later 2 alarms and flashes will go off - miss this and in another 60 sec 3 alarm blasts and flashes will go off. If this is missed, 60 sec later a massive siren goes off below decks guaranteed to wake anyone unfortunate to be down there.

While we always wear harnesses on watch and never go on deck without waking the other person up - it was good to know that there was a fallback in place and it did enable us to reclaim some much needed shut eye on the 5 day return trip.

Mind you, I agree totally with everyone about the importance about keeping good watches but on long passages with just a single or two up - its not always possible to keep an eye out 24/7. For our coastal sailing we'll never use the 'watch alarm' - too many vessels and reefs around but for our next long blue water? you betcha!

Fair winds
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Old 11-27-2010, 10:36 PM   #27
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Just as aside, you might want to check out the "triple bell", by 'Shakeawake.

Dinky little thing that can be clipped inside a jacket, can buzz (vibrate), sound a loud beeping and flash a red light (or any combination)

I doubt it's waterproof but as an exta backup, for cooking, or even when ashore as a reminder of something, very handy and portable. Super-easy to set too, just shove a little switch on the back to change between minutes and seconds or hours and minutes.

Roughtly the size of a box of matches and dirt cheap - I bought 2 of 'em for mediation but have found them handy for all sorts of things.

http://www.amazon.com/Alarm-Clock-Ti.../dp/B000M1UI1I

W.
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Old 04-27-2012, 04:17 AM   #28
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As a long term single-hander I would like to put a plug in for the "Watch Commander". I have used one for years now and would say it is my most important piece of safety equipment, especially when coastal. More recently I have also installed an AIS which is great to reduce the risk of being run down by something big (which might not even notice that it has done so). With the aid of the "Watch Commander" I have found I can go for very long periods on 20 minutes of sleep, and shorter if necessary for limited periods.
I also accept that in sailing solo I am very much taking a calculated risk and am in fact breaking the COLREGs as one cannot maintain a proper and effective lookout long term. I am therefore grateful that the authorities concerned, while labeling single-handed sailing as irresponsible, have not yet made it illegal. So I sail as responsibly as I can, balancing fatigue management with the risk of collision and other hazards.
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