When we were at sea, the three of us divided the nights into watches. We found for us three hour watches were the best. Watches were the length of time we were responsible for steering the boat, managing the sail trim and avoiding other ships, floating containers and sleeping whales. Four hours was too long for our 14 year old to remain at watch in the middle of the night, and two hours made for too little sleep for his cranky mother.
Amazingly, after a night or two, our bodies adapted to the routine. Tim’s watch went from 9 pm to midnight. Erick’s was from midnight to three a.m. and my watch was from three to six. When one of us was on watch, the next scheduled person slept in the main salon ready to help with sail changes or to operate the radio. The person relieved from watch slept in their own berth to be awakened only for an emergency. Each of us got three hours deep sleep, three hours on call, and three hours awake.
We found that keeping to that routine insured that we each got enough sleep and were able to remain awake while in the cockpit. The secret is maintaining a routine. Our brains were able to drift swiftly into their sleep cycles to insure that we got the types of sleep we needed and we were able to wake swiftly when needed.
With no scheduled times to leave for work or school, it is easy to get out of our daily routines. We might find ourselves taking more naps or staying up binging TV. While cruising at sea, regular routine kept us healthy and insured our ability to respond to whatever the ocean might throw at us. It couldn’t hurt while fighting the emotional roller coaster of being home-bound in this pandemic.