Introduction to sailing

Welcome aboard.  I am sure if you haven’t sailed with us before, the following notes will help to explain some of the things ‘first timers’ find a little bewildering.

By necessity, we operate a fairly tight routine.  We have no idea of your experience or skills, strengths or weaknesses so we treat and explain to all the same.  Sometimes this may lead you to think “ Do they think I’m stupid?.”  Of course not, not straight away anyway – just kidding!.

Anyway, I’m Jim your watch leader.  I hope to guide you through the next 7 – 10 days to the “experience of a lifetime.”  You have paid good money for my time and help so please feel free to make use of it!.

You have been assigned to a watch and given a number within that watch.  We operate a 3 watch system, red, white and blue and this enables us to operate 24 hours.  The routine starts with this allocation.  Each watch has 2 watch cabins containing your bunks 1-8 starboard side (right hand side looking forward) and 9-16 portside (left hand side looking forward). Furthest forward red, middle white, furthest aft blue.  The watches also rotate in this order.  White follows red, blue follows white, red follows blue.  You each have a numbered bunk, a numbered locker and a floor box under the bottom bunk. It is important to stick with your allocated bunk for safety and organisational reasons.  If for some reason you need to change, please let me know.


Please bear with me, it often takes a couple of days for me to learn your names so I allocate duties by number.  From a personal viewpoint, this also avoids the possibility of discrimination in any form.  In a MUSTER situation, which may be an emergency, I will ask you to ‘Number off’ i.e. Blue1, Blue 2 etc.  This enables me to quickly identify anyone missing.

On the wall outside your mess cabin is a notice board.  Each evening I will post a notice of the next day’s watches, meal times and ‘special duties’.


The bridge has to be manned 24 hours at sea.  The duty watch will man the open bridge and be required to helm, keep a good lookout, and do any sail handling required.  Sail handling above the capability of 1 watch normally happens at change of watch, giving double the numbers.  To tack the vessel requires “ all hands to bracing stations”. Yes, whatever you are doing this means YOU.  You will learn your bracing station, amongst other things, in the first 24 hours.  You will quickly learn how the watches rotate and the complete watch rotation is posted on the notice board.  Day 1 is the day you join the vessel.  Due to the fact that we operate R.N. ‘Dog Watches’ of 2 hours each between 16.00 and 20.00 hours, you move forward 1 watch every 24 hours.  It is the responsibility of the duty watch to call you with sufficient time to prepare to take the watch. Please ensure you muster in time to relieve the duty watch on time.  They should have warned you if the weather is inclement.  They will not thank you for being a few minutes late if they have been on the open bridge for 4 hours in the cold, rain and wind in the middle of the night.  (They may well have friends on the watch that relieves us)! Yes, you will need your harness.



Each evening I will post notice of your meal times for the following day.  They do vary.  Normally there are two sittings for each meal.  There are two reasons for this, these being the numbers involved and someone has to steer the vessel!  Simply put, if you are a day worker (explained later), or the watch about to take over after the meal, you will be 1st sitting. All others will be 2nd sitting.  Please be prompt when called.  Please wait until called.  Please don’t sit around in the mess room after you’ve eaten discussing the state of the world.  The galley staff need to clear up.  After the Captain, the worst person to annoy is the cook!!  You will be one of the people waiting to ‘get finished’ sometime during the voyage.

I know….you’re thinking “ What the @**@** have I let myself in for”. I thought exactly the same thing first voyage. All I can say is that it is the ultimate application of common law. Not legislated but evolved over several hundred years to be the best overall system.  Fair to all!  Allow yourself to be drawn in and you are going to have the time of your life.



As we are, to most intents and purposes, self contained and self generating whilst at sea, if we want something doing we have to do it ourselves.  A major part of this is maintenance of the vessel and maintenance of the crew, you.  To this end, each watch has to provide 2 people ‘dayworkers’, to assist the Bosun, and 1 person to help in the galley (messman).  Dayworkers and messman take duty from midnight to midnight.  To enable this they are not required to stand watch in that period.  They do, however, react to bracing stations.  They also have to get up a bit earlier.  Deck staff and galley staff will explain duties.

Enough for now.  You are about to undergo some fairly intensive training in the next 24 hours.  It is unlikely that you will remember it all at first, or even second, that’s why I’m here.




1.           Do I have to go climbing in the rig?

We actively encourage all to take part in the sail handling, but going aloft is only a minor part of setting sail, not as you are led to believe in the movies!  There are usually ample willing climbers to cope, so the answer is no, you don’t have to climb.  In fact, it helps to have people who don’t want to climb, as there is always so much to do on deck.

2.           The toilet is blocked, what can I do?

The toilets often get blocked, please inform the 2nd Engineer or me.

3.            Should I take anything for sea sickness?

Sorry, I am not trained to give medical advice of any sort. I take Stugeron myself, following the instructions on the packet.

Contact the F.A.P. (First Aid Purser).

4.            One of the permanent crew told us something different to you, which do we do?

I am just a well-meaning amateur, albeit with a fair amount of experience on these machines.  The permanent crew are professionals and any instruction by them will supersede mine !

5.            Can I go in the engine room?

Only if accompanied by an Engineer, who is usually only too willing to show you around.

6.             Do I tuck you up and tell you bedtime stories or do I bring you breakfast in bed?


7.             Will I get a chance to steer?


8.             Can I go to bed if I’m not required on the open bridge for the rest or the watch ?

No.  You will be stood down but need to be available either on the open bridge or in the mess room.  At the end of each watch I have to do a muster to ensure all are accounted for.

9.              Do I have to wear the harness if I’m not climbing?

Harnesses have to be worn at all times on deck, on watch, except when helming.  This includes bracing stations. Exception to this would be “Man Overboard” bracing stations.

10.             Red doesn’t suit me, are their any other colours of oilies ?


11.              Where do we keep our oilies and harnesses ?

White and blue watch have individual pegs in the aft lobby, and red watch in the forward lobby.  If you are not wearing your harness this is the only place it should be.  Never on the deck or pin rail. Remember, they are your own personal safety kit; your life may depend on it.  Check it regularly for damage and if you have it on make sure it is properly fastened !

12.              My oilies/harness have gone missing, can you find it for me?

In practice, no!  It happens a lot; people pick up others by mistake, especially in the rush to bracing stations or at night.  Remember the number and tie a coloured lace or something onto it to help identify it.  If you can’t find your own please just don’t take the next one knowing it isn’t yours, this just compounds the problem.  I will issue you another.

13.              Amongst the do’s and don’ts, is there any time for fun?.

Yes, between 10.00 and 10.30 hours and 16.00 hours and 16.30 hours we hold fun sessions, usually attended by the Captain in a pink grass hula skirt and the bosun in a lime green leotard !!!!



- Be nice to the F.A.P.

- Tie something on your harness that you will recognise.

- Get to the cleaning locker first.

- Sit at the furthest seat away from the galley.

- Don’t pick your nose when working aloft – I don’t want bits in my tea !!.

- Shower before going to bed as it’s less busy than in the morning.

- Check your pockets thoroughly before handing back your oilies.

- Lastly, have a good time and enjoy your trip !.