Dear Alexandra: Over many years and many miles at sea, I’ve learned that if you are sleeping and then woken up by something happening with the boat (it’s heeling over more,or not heeling, sails slatting, etc.) that if you don’t attend to it right away, there might be damage to the boat or things cascade out of control and then really bad things can happen. So when the boat calls you, you must go.
That said, it’s incredibly tiring to not sleep much, and your thinking and decision-making will suffer too. Sleep is not something that you can just say – oh, I’ll just gut it out. I’ve mentioned how I’ve fallen asleep while calling in to record my audio report, while talking with Expert Captain Murray Lister on Skype, and while eating a piece of bread at the chart table. The one that I haven’t reported until now – you get it first! – is falling asleep while standing up on the foredeck. That one was really dangerous, but I woke up before falling, and came back to the cockpit right away.
I had a long conversation with our Expert Dr. Brien Barnewolt, about nutrition and about sleep. He recommended specifically setting up the boat so that it was calmed down, to get 90 minutes of sleep, even if it meant losing a few miles. I tried it when I had the solent up and full mainsail, and bore off a few degrees to let things settle and not heel so much. It helped and I got about an hour’s nap in.
Question submitted by Alexandra, West Newbury MA, USA