Free Time – What’s That? How Crew Spend Off-Watch Hours on Delivery

21 November 2008 By Rubi McGrory

This is the delivery time of year, when most yachts are heading south from the U.S. Eastern Seaboard or the Med. Provided the weather isn’t kicking you around and you don’t have guests on board, this can be a pretty relaxed time. Welcome to the rhythm of four hours on, eight hours off.

Once you log the first full day of sleeping, you'll find yourself with free time – an unusual commodity for yacht crew. There are a variety of different ways to spend it.

The most common method of whiling away the hours is sitting in front of a television. No matter the size of your crew, you can devour your way through multiple seasons’ worth of TV shows. Anything goes to beat off boredom: Sopranos, Lost, Gilmore Girls  or Sex and the City. S/Y Keywadin even threw a mid-Atlantic toga party to celebrate the crew finishing the series Rome.

Video games, in all their many forms, are another great indulgence, whether you have personal units, devices hooked into the TV, or you play on your computer. Note: For the comfort of those around you who aren’t playing, please turn the sound off. I once suffered through a delivery from St. Maarten to Newport, Rhode Island, on a 74-foot sailboat. The other crewmembers were playing a Bond video game, and all the way up the Atlantic I heard the same digitized theme song over and over.

If you want to go old-fashioned, books have never gone out of style.  

Don’t forget the unplugged version of gaming: Scrabble, cards, crossword puzzles and Sudoku. One yacht staged backgammon marathons. Another left port armed with New York Times crossword puzzle books, and most tea breaks and off-watches were spent coming up with a seven-letter word for “day off.”

There are a select few crewmembers who use this downtime to get some work done. This includes everything from cleaning out your computer to sorting through photos to setting up blog posts, on websites like, to keep your family and friends at home up to date on your life.

Deckhand Ken used his off-watch to get a leg up on studying constitutional law for his return to law school, as well as learning Arabic for the trip through the Suez Canal and across the Red Sea. (His watch partner didn’t love Ken’s pacing across the wheelhouse on watch muttering in Arabic, however.)

Finally, there is the growing legion of crafters who sit and knit (or crochet). This is a great way to mark long hours staring at the sea, watching inches grow on a blanket or sweater. Others embroider. A few even have made their own paper and bound it into journals. The off-watch is a perfect time to catch up on writing in your journal, handmade or not.

Provided conditions are such that the boat is mostly stable, there is exercise to be done: yoga or sit ups in your cabin, even laps on deck. Combining exercise and sleep during the off-watch is a great way to ensure you start the next busy season rested and fit.

Tell us all the odd and interesting ways you spend your time offshore and off-watch.