During a crossing, many imagine crew watching lots of movies, reading good books, eating good food, and spending beaucoup hours on social media, interspersed with watchkeeping in between all the tough stuff. The truth of watches is that there is far more to learn and do than you can imagine.
Have a chat with your bosun or mate and see what projects they are looking at next and see what you can do as you cross. This may include learning how to use a sextant, servicing outboards, cleaning and sealing the lights, canvas work, or anything that was not completed or addressed in the yard or on the last charter before you let go of the lines to cross another piece of water.
These watches will likely be three or four hours at a time, and unless you have so many crew that you can do your day work and hide behind a screen the rest of the night, there is plenty to do. Usually, if you don’t suggest something, someone will assign you tasks, so think about it and take control. Regarding inventory, get ready to create a spreadsheet. You should also count, clean, and organize everything in your lockers and lay it all out intelligently so as to ensure easy access when you need it. Detailing is always a good idea, as you may not have the time to do as much as you would like during the season. Familiarize yourself intimately with your deck and equipment. Be sure to detail every nook and cranny on deck, inside your lockers, and lazarette.
You should also count, clean, and organize everything in your lockers and lay it all out intelligently so as to ensure easy access when you need it.
The lazarette has likely been awaiting your tender touch the whole season and may look like a workshop/garage, so grab your amigos on deck and get to it. Move everything on deck or to one side, then wash, dry, and perhaps chip, sand, and paint — whatever it needs to make it look like your mama’s living room again. Be sure that all the gear you store is in an orderly fashion and that it has been checked for functionality, has been catalogued for your inventory, and is put away in a clean and secure manner with ready access. Lines that are on and off the docks and dragged through port waters all season will likely need attention. Pull them out, uncoil and prep them to soak and rinse, and pressure wash if possible so as to leave them clean and free of oils and grit. Be careful of your decks as you do this, because you never know what a nasty old line may have. Check their condition, lay them out to dry, coil them perfectly, and store them below — again, all with ready and secure access.
The same applies to your extra sails or canvas, whether on a stinker or a sailboat. Choose your weather window and perhaps you can take these monsters out on deck to wash, dry, and again store them securely. Oftentimes, these trusty friends do not receive the attention they deserve, so make sure they are pretty for the next time you pull them out for your guests.
Old sailors, remember there is always something to do on a boat — rather like caring for a woman you love; you never tire of it.
This article originally ran in the June 2020 issue of Dockwalk.