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In some of the log pages I have referred to our “policies,” that is, guiding rules of seamanship we have imposed upon ourselves. This page is an attempt to put them down in a coherent form. Requirements imposed by COLREGS are interpolated.


Uber policies. Sea room is a good thing. Deep water is a good thing.


1)      In preparation for passage. The governing policy is: be able to navigate safely in case of an electrical or electronic failure.

a)      If paper charts are not in hand, print relevant sections of electronic charts to paper.

b)      Function of the watermaker is verified and all water tanks are full.

c)      The dinghy is on deck. We never tow the dinghy.

d)      The seacock for the head sink is closed.

2)      Under way.

a)      Position management. The governing policy is: be able to navigate safely in case of an electrical or electronic failure.

i)               Between sunset and dawn, the latitude and longitude are to be recorded by the person on watch in the paper log every hour. This policy gives the ability to begin a Dead Reckoning plot from a position that is no more than one hour old. It also gives a paper trail that the person on watch was performing his duties at least every hour.

ii)              At each change of watch, the person coming on watch must review the tactical situation on the chart/chartplotter, then make the position location in the paper log. This policy works to cause the oncoming watchstander to be aware of dangers, shipping, and navigational constraints. The offgoing watchstander will conduct a briefing for the person coming on watch, and will not go off watch until comfortable that the new watch is fully awake and ready to assume his responsibilities.

b)      Sail management. The governing policies are:

i)               Avoid danger to the crew or ship due to engine failure.

(1)   Main and Jib will be uncovered and rigged (sail covers removed, halyards and sheets attached and ready to run) any time the ship is in motion.

(2)   Anchor will be ready to drop any time the ship is in motion.

ii)              Avoid danger to the crew or ship due to excessive sail area or dangerous direction.

(1)   When the wind is abaft the beam, the port and starboard preventers will be rigged and the downwind preventer will be tensioned.

(2)   At sunset, douse the spinnaker.

c)      Collision prevention. The governing policy is COLREGS Rule 7.

i)               Radar will be in operation at all times. If the display is clear at both maximum and minimum range, Radar may be placed in “standby” for periods not to exceed 10 minutes.

ii)              When traffic is sighted, evaluate potential for collision, and alter course if appropriate.

iii)            If there is any question that the other vessel will not pass well clear, start MARPA record and place radar “marks” periodically until the situation is resolved.

iv)            If any traffic approaches within 3 miles, call The Captain.

v)             Proper navigation lights will be shown after dark or in reduced visibilty exactly as required by COLREGS. There is no excuse for showing illegal combinations of lights.

d)      Waste management. The governing policy is MARPOL.

i)               We do not carry “dunnage.”

ii)              We do not dump plastic anywhere, nor any refuse within 3 miles of shore.

iii)            Between 3-12 miles offshore, we may dump refuse (other than plastic or dunnage) if ground to less than one inch.

e)      Watchstanding. The governing policy is to provide rest for the crew and avoid collision with fixed or floating objects. Some of these points may duplicate policies under other headings.

i)               Sleep

(1)   To avoid disturbing sleep-cycles, no alcohol or caffeine will be consumed while under way.

(2)   The crew off watch will be in a berth and resting, and preferably sleeping.

ii)              Every 10 minutes (more frequently if traffic is visible):

(1)   Check horizon and radar.

(2)   If engine in use, check gauges.

(3)   Check Course Over Ground against Bearing To Waypoint and adjust self-steering if necessary.

iii)            Hourly (less frequently if off soundings):

(1)   Note position in (paper) log, check position on chart vs any hazards near track.

iv)            At change of watch:

(1)   Oncoming crew is to review tactical situation on chart and enter latitude/longitude in (paper) log.

(2)   Offgoing crew will review situation with respect to weather and traffic and ensure that oncoming crew is awake and ready to assume responsibilities.

3)      Entering port. We do not enter an unfamiliar port at night.

4)      At anchor. The governing policy is: be prepared to “bug out.” That is, when the shit hits the fan, what could one previously have done to minimize what must yet be done before one can defend the ship, including getting under way? Except in the most secure and protected anchorages:

a)      Upon anchoring,

i)               Set the anchor alarm on the GPS, to provide an alert if dragging.

ii)              Mount the anchor ball forward as required by Rule 30.a.i and anchor light “where it can best be seen” (in our case, end of boom) as required by Rule 30.b of COLREGS.

iii)            Avoid using a stern anchor, unless necessary for reasons of swinging room (for contraindications, see for example, the Pardey or Roth writeups on the Cabo San Lucas disaster). If rolling is a problem, use a flopper-stopper or anchoring bridle and be prepared to cut it loose. If a stern anchor is necessary for reasons of swinging room, put a weight on the line to sink it clear of the prop, and be prepared to cut it loose.

(1)   <insert links>

b)      At sunset,

i)               The dinghy is on deck, stowed, ready for sea.

ii)              All sun awnings are stowed. (Note: this policy allows the sail covers [main and staysail] to remain in place at anchor in settled weather.)

c)      After dinner, all galley items are dried and stowed, ready for getting under way.




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The Log of Moira by Laurence & Susan Shick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.