I Learned About Boating From This: Combating Fatigue

Stay awake and alert at the helm!
Captain asleep at the wheel
One way to combat fatigue and the failing judgment it brings is to boat with another person capable of taking the helm. Tim Bower

Special deliverySign up for the free Boating email newsletter. Subscribe to Boating magazine for $14 for 1 year and receive 4 bonus digital issues.

Recently, a Southern California commercial passenger fishing boat pilot crashed into the shore rocks upon arriving at one of the Channel Islands. He fell asleep at the wheel. The nautical noctambulist blamed a lot of overtime shifts—overworked with a lack of sleep.

If this can happen to a professional mariner supported by a professional crew, it can happen to one of us. Whether you’re the cruiser trying to make the end destination before the crowd grabs all the good moorings, the angler going from a half-night’s sleep and a day’s work right to running hard to reach a distant bite, or simply any boater who heads out in the middle of burning the candle at both ends, the risk of maritime misadventure rises in step with our lack of sleep. A rested captain is a more patient captain, a more relaxed captain and a safer captain.

One way to combat fatigue and the failing judgment it brings is to boat with another person capable of taking the helm. Hand over the helm and take a nap. I’ve found life jackets make great pillows when I’m shot. Teach family, friends and regular crew how to run the boat.

Read Next: Lessons for Boating in the Fog

Another thing: Don’t put a narrow window on your fishing or cruising. The desire to get somewhere by X time can be strong, especially if X marks the tuna schools or that choice slip a short walk from the marina pool, showers and ship’s store. Consider taking a day off work at each end of a trip so you can head out rested.

Finally, take a break if you feel fatigue coming on. Wash your face. Stand up if you feel tired and don’t sit back down. Drop anchor. Visit a new marina. Any and all of that beats making the news like the poor guy in California.

Wanted: Your Stories
Share your boating mistakes and mishaps so that your fellow boaters might learn from your experience. Send us your first-person accounts, including what went wrong, what you’d do differently, your name and your city, to [email protected] and use “ILAB” in the subject line. If your story is selected for publication, we’ll send you a $100 West Marine Gift Card!”

Email Newsletters and Special Offers

Sign up for Boating emails to receive features on travel destinations, event listings and product reviews as well as special offers on behalf of Boating’s partners.

By signing up you agree to receive communications from Boating and select partners in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You may opt out of email messages/withdraw consent at any time.