|Not me... this time!
Tired is stupid. Go to bed.
Cold, Tired, Hungry and Stupid
We've all been there...
End of a long day at the helm. Fires burning low. Getting dusky or dark and temps dropping as we approach our anchorage. Just when we need to be at our best, we're starting to fade.
So here's a ragtag bag of tricks that help. Some along the way. Some for our personal low ebb. I'll phrase these in the imperative for brevity, but please consider them as suggestions.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Dress for Conditions - Don't allow your core temp to drop. Don't overheat. Don't get wet (or if you do, don't stay wet). Shoot for a comfortable balance, and adjust as conditions change. And for cooler climes and times, remember that cotton kills (hangs on to moisture which wicks away body heat).
Hydrate and Eat Well- Consider smaller amounts, more often to keep fuel and fluids fresh and topped off without bogging down on a heavy meal. Some snacks can be prepared ahead of time. Thermoses and Retained Heat Cookers keep piping hot food and drink at hand through the day. Remember that man (nor woman) lives on sugar, alone.
Trade Watches - No one can focus for too long. Develop crew competencies, trade off and trust. Don't hover, or you'll forgo your rest. Work out methods to let the boat sail herself, for the most part, so the watch only has to keep an eye on things.
Avoid Marathons - Plan your routes in manageable legs, with ample R&R between.
Protect your Most Vulnerable Crew - Plan around low tolerance, rather than high. Not that reserves will never be called upon, but only when plans have gone agley.
Maintain Safety Margins - Sailing near the edge is fun, but brinksmanship invites trouble. If cold, tired, hungry and stupid rear their ugly head, you'll want a margin for reaction time between yourself and disaster.
Fear is useful... an adaptive response that focuses our attention wonderfully, and initiates physiological responses that can be coping tools.
But fear is exhausting.
Adrenaline spikes for short-term fight or flight, burning reserves at high speed. Blood pumps, radiating precious heat. Muscles tense, burning energy. Sooner or later, unchecked fear uses up what you've got. Converting fear to confidence is a big part of conserving energy.
Acquire Knowledge, and Practice - Ignorance makes novelty of everything; novelty invokes our fear response; knowledge informs practice; practice relieves novelty.
Neurolinguistic Programming - The narrative we use conditions our responses. Positive, confident assessments ("A is occurring, what are our options?" and "If A, then we B" vs "Oh no... A!" and "But what if A???") and affirmative assertions ("Confidence is high!" vs "This is terrible!").
Mantras - A mantra or 'fear song' can help soothe and calm the mind, keeping us from spinning our wheels. They're highly individual... look around for what works for you.
'Rose-tinted Goggles' - Well... amber works for me. When we put these on, a dark and glowering day suddenly seems a brighter place. Physically, they cut out distraction and effort from seeing through wind or rain in the eyes.
Treaters - Stimulant laced treaters - coffee nips, chocolate, a spoot (nut butter/flour/honey/spiced 'truffle' ball) - give us a physical and emotional kick. Used in moderation, they can provide a much needed lift.
Contact - Talk. An embrace. A kiss. A hand held. Reminds us we're not alone.
Simplifying systems and procedures increase the likelyhood that our flagging abilities will suffice. A lot of this focuses on anchoring, as it's the last thing we usually do before relaxing for the evening.
KISS Gear - A simple rig and gear is easier to handle when impaired. Easy reefing. Self-launching anchors ready to drop with lines free to run, preferably with little or no set-up. Ample working space. Fluke-less, resetting anchors requiring less attention.
Fathomized Calculations - Tidal range/depth/scope calculations are tough at the end of the day. If we're tired, we convert everything to fathoms and stay in the safe-and-simple zone. Thus, if max tide range is 3ftms, we stay in 3+ftms, and calculate scope for depth-in-ftms + 3ftms. Can't go dry; can't go short. Keeps us in deeper water than need be, but the math is simple.
Farmer's Loop - We often set a second anchor to limit swing in a tight anchorage. To keep twist manageable, we'll attach the second line to a loop in the primary rode, and let down clear of the hull. The secondary anchor's rode feeds from a spool that can be passed around the primary to untwist. To keep things simple, we use the following steps, adapted for your cleat/post system:
- Set the primary and secondary anchors, haul to center and make each fast.
- Haul back 2 ftms on the primary and make fast (it's now double tied, with a 2ftm bight on board).
- Tie a farmers loop on the inboard side of that primary bight, close to the holdfast.
- Tie the secondary rode to the farmers loop using a sheet bend (if not at the bitter end, form a bight inboard of its holdfast and tie it doubled).
- Let the 2ftms back out.
- Slack the bitter end of the secondary (if still aboard) and make fast. There should be no tension on its inboard end.
The KISS part is the Farmer's Loop / Sheet Bend. Both are knots that can be tied in the dark by the walking dead, with practice. If even these are too much, skip this whole Y drill and figure out the twist in the morning. It won't be that much more difficult.
So there's a small handful of approaches that help us get through when we're not at our best-and-brightest.
Our abilities and reserves ebb and flow, like all living things. The trick is not to macha/o them out, but to help ourselves along. To stack the deck in our favor.
To ease on down the road.