Initially, when contemplating sailing in one of our events, the focus is understandably on the boat, the weather and the skipper/mate. What ends up often being the highlight of the trip is the amazing experience of being part of the crew, part of a team participating in either a race or a regatta or an incredible ‘bucket-list’ voyage. In our experience, it is the comradeship and simplicity of life on board that lures people back to sea time and time again.
Organizing your time- The Watch system.
Life onboard a sea-going vessel is regulated first and foremost by the watch system. Although several watch systems are possible such as the Military 4 hr system, the Rolling Watch & the Swedish System.
On Spartan Ocean Racing’s vessels, we use a very simple 3 hr system which we have found is easily understood and adapted to.
What this means for you as a new crew member joining any event that includes overnight sailing is that once we have left port and the vessel is starting to settle down into normal sea-going operations, the skipper will divide the crew into two separate operational groups or ‘watches’. One group will then be ‘on watch’ and will man the deck, helm the boat, perform deck work as required and their ‘watch leader’ (either the skipper or the mate) will be responsible for safe navigation and safe lookout.
While the deck is looked after by the ‘on watch’ team and the other watch sleeps one crew member will act as ‘quartermaster’.
Quartermaster – the ‘Master of Quarters’
The Quartermaster looks after the inside of the boat on a daily cycling responsibility that passes from crew member to crew member during the voyage. The Quartermaster will prepare meals with the assistance of the crew, look after basic cleaning and organization inside the boat and will be excused from all deck work. In exchange for this day of service to the other crew, the Quartermaster does not need to stand watch and will have a full nights sleep after arranging the evening meal before handing over to the next in-coming quartermaster the next morning.
Once on board the boat, you will be assigned a bunk and a storage area. This will give you a dry area to store your equipment and a comfy place to lay your head in smooth conditions. If the weather starts to get a little rougher or if we are racing and need to keep weight on the high side of the boat we will start ‘hot bunking’.
On each vessel some of the bunks are up forward in the bows of the boat- in rough weather we deem these bunks to be hazardous to use and so those who have those bunks will start sharing a bunk in the middle of the boat with someone from the opposite watch group. This may seem a little difficult to accept at first, but for those who have ever had to deal with a bunk in the front of a boat in a seaway, you will appreciate that we have made provision to get you out of there! The other occasion when we will ‘hot bunk’ is when we are racing, and we want to keep the boat as flat as possible- to assist with this we will fill the windward ballast tank with water and have all those crewmembers who are off watch and sleeping sleep on the bunks on the windward side of the boat. The combined weight of 7 crew may top 500kg and can add up to a winning advantage on a long race.
Cleanliness and Health
If you are coming with us for a regatta, it will probably work out that we are alongside a dock each night and all you have to do is take your toiletries and your towel with you along to the washrooms at the yacht club and voila you have the ingredients for a decent wash and brush up. If however, you are joining us for a multi-day trip where we will not be alongside or anchored each night certain consideration needs to be given to how to keep clean and have good hygiene during your trip.
The answer, of course, is wet wipes. My goodness is there anything you can’t clean with a wet wipe? We will have on board the boat a large supply of wet wipes that you can make good use of at the end of each watch. It is our experience that even in the hottest conditions, a regular wet wipe bath can keep skin clean, relatively sweet-smelling and free from rashes and other discomforts. While freshwater is at a premium on an ocean-going race boat, we will always have enough to provide a quick shower once in a while to top up the wet wipes. As a tip to the wise – not wearing polyester or polypropylene thermal wear when sleeping is a positive move if it can be achieved. Donning cotton garments – although not a good idea as part of layering system (because cotton can hold nine times its weight in water) IS a good idea when sleeping to give the skin some relief from synthetic fibres that can cause rashes and irritation if worn 24/7.
We have a full array of satellite communications equipment on board each of our boats, and we can use these to send and receive information at any time. If you wish to use the satellite phone to call loved ones, you will need to pay for the airtime you use. This will be tallied in a log on board for our records and yours. Airtime for incoming and outgoing calls will be charged at USD 2 per minute. Texts, both incoming and outgoing, will be charged at USD 1.
We also have a text-only service available through our onboard Delorme tracker unit. Reasonable unlimited use of this system can be made at any time with the prepayment of USD 25 at the start of the journey. Texts are limited to 160 characters and will not be exclusively private as they are sent and received on a system in regular use by the skipper, mate and crew.
At the time of writing- April 2016- we do not yet have the ability to send photos or video off the boat – we hope to upgrade to this option in the coming months which will be good news for those doing Trans Atlantic trips in the Autumn.