This ship has a 12h watch system: 0600 to 1800, 1800 to 0600. The crew of 35 are on 6 weeks, off 6.
A front watch gets the sun. A back watch gets no sun–and no Captain down their backs.
This offshore tug has the luxury of a 3-watch system (the benefit of any voyage more than 600 nm): 4 on-8 off, 8 on-4 off. Their breakdown is 0600-1000-1400-1800. “We do it this way so whoever cooks does not end up with the pots.”
You were on watch to see the sun rising, the smell of breakfast is cooking, the engine is loud, someone is hammering: it is time to go to bed.
I am not going to touch the fatigue issue on boats. However, I will direct you to some fascinating sites. The Nautical Institute urges mariners to report issues relating to fatigue as part of their database.
Peruse the USCG’s Crew Endurance Management literature. Reactions to it are on Towmasters and by NYTugmasters, with links to studies on the matter. Good reading on the experiences are found on Kennebec Captain and on Old Salt Shaker’s ‘rest in pieces’, ‘inhuman error’, and ‘groundhog day’.
So, don’t request a tug to blow their horn as they go by: there is always someone trying to sleep. They fight constant noise, vibration, light, motion, odors; are interrupted by drills — I just cannot imagine it. As one chief mate puts it: “…bear in mind that we work aboard vessels that are essentially designed to collide with things…”
One offshore tug chief mate said, “I don’t know how harbor guys do it. I had to do it for 2 weeks, and at the end, I couldn’t remember my name.”
Another mate wrote: “It was a 2-watch system (captain, mate, two deckhands and an engineer) until the economy fell apart – and then most ship assist tugs went to “singled-up” crews (captain, engineer, and deckhand) – don’t ask how they complied with work and fatigue…!”
Knowing all this, though, it still might help to take the advice of one well-meaning journalist girlfriend should you attempt to date someone who goes to sea/incommunicado for weeks at a time:
thank you Julie, Will, Jed, Robert, Wesley and O, Linked Ones!