What does it mean to stand watch? Well, before we leave on any passage, we have studied the paper charts for the area and read any guide books available. We have decided what our course will be and how long it will take, on paper. Then we go to Zeus (our electronic chart plotter, aka, my boyfriend!) and set the course and waypoints. While on watch, we are on the lookout for anything or anyone in our way (both visually and via the radar overlay on Zeus) and to make sure we are on course.
We have a system called AIS, required equipment for commercial vessels and optional for recreational boats. AIS tracks vessels with AIS and displays on our Zeus the name, description, size, whether they are under way (sometimes these huge cargo ships are anchored in what seems like the middle of nowhere!), and speed and course, if they are under way. The system then calculates, given their speed and heading, when and how close the closest point of approach (CPA) will be. There are two types of AIS—receive only, which allows recreational boaters to see the ‘big guys’ and transmit/receive, which allows them to see us as well. We opted for the transmit/receive version, which means not only do we know who is nearby, but they also know where—and who—we are, as well. And having a name comes in quite handy if you need to call the bridge of a commercial vessel on the VHF!
Speaking of the VHF, we also monitor the VHF radio (tuned to Channel 16), fuel levels and engine temperature, as well as depth, wind speed and direction, and our speed. We wear a life jacket with a safety bag and a harness attached. Any time we leave the cockpit, we clip our harness to the Jack Lines, lines which are tied to the boat.
Up and ready for my watch at 11:30—who’s excited??!! Heeelloooo Atlantic City! It look so pretty from the water on a clear night. Color me crazy, but I actually love standing watch in the middle of the night! The stars are AMAZING with very little ambient light and it is easier to see what is around since they are lit up.
The next day is not so fun, however! Wasn’t it just a few years ago that we could party like rock stars all night and then get up and actually be productive on a few hours’ sleep??!! OK, so maybe it was more like 25 years ago…