Whether you are just hatching a plan for your first crossing or setting off tomorrow on your 20th, our experts Chris Tibbs, James Anderson, Mike Kopman, Jeremy Wyatt and Dan Bower will provide you with solid constructive advice on sailing across the Atlantic.
30 expert tips for crossing the Atlantic: 16-20
16. Do a dry run with all your comms
Again it sounds so obvious, but make sure all your communications gear is working before you leave. Compatibility issues are legion and among the commonest and most aggravating problems we see when we do our Great Atlantic Gear Test.
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“Get one e-mail address from every crewmember to put on a recipients’ list for updates,” Mike Kopman recommends.
17. Give the watchkeeping rota plenty of thought
Life at sea revolves round the watchkeeping system and any sense of unfairness or fatigue will have big consequences, so give it a lot of thought and let your crew know what will be expected of them. There are many different permutations. Chris Tibbs says: “If fully crewed, I have two watches of six hours on six off during the day and four hours at night gives everyone the chance to catch up on sleep and rotates the times of the night watches.”
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Mike Kopman prefers running three hours on and six off, but having a watch change every one-and-a-half hours, “so you’re on with one person for the first half of your watch and another for the second half,” he explains. “This really makes watches go faster and you always have one fresh crew, plus one that has already been on deck for half the watch and is familiar with what’s going on.”
Another way of varying things if you have a crew of four or more who are experienced enough to stand single watches is to run two hours on, six off, etc, and taking a different person out of the watch system every 24 hours so they can do galley and domestic duties (they get a night off in reward). That keeps the domestic side of life running smoothly and refreshes the watch bill.
Otherwise, make sure you share cooking and cleaning duties round fairly, display the watch roster so there are no disputes. “And don’t be afraid to change things around at sea if it’s not working out,” warns Kopman. Crossing time zones is a good time to make changes to the watch system.
18. Take a spare computer
“Cheap laptop computers are far more robust than you think,” says James Anderson. “My £200 Dell lasted for two Atlantic crossings and a circumnavigation, and despite flying across the cabin on at least three occasions, it never gave a problem.
If you have a built-in desktop computer on board, don’t forget to take a spare keyboard, if only one of those flexible roll-up ones.
19. Organise some back-up shore support
This is particularly relevant if you’re continuing cruising after the crossing, as sourcing spares, organising your finances and coordinating crew leaving and joining takes a lot of time. “Support from home is vital,” advises James Anderson. “Tasks include coordinating the supply and movement of crew and equipment, and managing communications.”
20. Consult crew when victualling
Every crew you have on board will eat differently and enjoy cooking different things, so as far as possible involve them in making a shopping list and in the shopping itself – that makes sure you’ll have what they like, and what they can cook.
As with the watch system, have a rota for cooking, washing up and cleaning so that there’s no ill-feeling about people not quite pulling their weight.