Getting enough sleep

You may have seen the recent TV coverage of Bill Turnbull the presenter who was taking part in a sleep deprivation exercise.

He was restriced to 3 hours sleep a day, this 3 hours to be spread out in intervals of no more than 30 minutes at a time.

The obvious outcome was that his abilities were degraded to the extent where the researchers estimate that he could only perform at half his normal level of effectivness.

As a safety measure he was not even allowed to drive a car during the experiment.

This is exactly what many inexperienced skippers do when they first start to make longer passages. Because they are not confident to leave the vessel in the control of the crew they remain awake during the whole passage.

The result is that they become exhausted and incapable of making safe decisions. This situation is exacerbated if some incident or change causes the passage to take much longer than expected.

Just when clear thinking and observation are required the skipper is at their least effective.

This is the reason the skipper should always be looking for the opportunity to rest and to hand over responsibility to the crew. As part of the passage plan the skipper should have identified when it will be safe to rest, the remainder of the crew need to work around these times.

Ideal times to rest are:

  • When in open water.
  • Clear of shipping.
  • When no weather changes are expected.

Even during these times the skipper will leave a detailed list of when they expect to be called by the duty watch.

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