Two's company
Sailing Today|March 2021
Many couples have been learning about living in close proximity recently but a long voyage as a couple is in some ways the ultimate test as Rod Heikell narrates
Rod Heikell

I had an email the other day from an old friend who was getting ready to set off across the Pacific. ‘What do you do for a watch system?’ he asked, ‘when there are only two of you.’ A lot of yachts making ocean passages are crewed by just two people, usually a couple and often not youngsters, to put it delicately.

Across the Atlantic and on any overnight passages it all comes down to the crew. On one of our earlier yacht, Tetranora which we took across the Indian Ocean we were initially three though illness forced one to fly home from Yemen. Cousin Frank and I fell into a comfortable three on and three off rhythm for the rest of the trip to SE Asia. Another of our yachts, Seven Tenths sometimes had three crew though often it was just me and Lu, my wife. On our current yacht Skylax, we originally planned for a friend to make the crew numbers up but this all fell through at the last minute. With two onboard we were on three hours on/three hours off rota. On seven-tenths with just one extra person, you get three hours on and a wonderful six hours off. This added rest means you are better prepared for bad weather or any other problems and that you can drive the boat harder. For the two of us, you tend to keep the boat throttled back so that everything is easy and this cuts into your daily runs.

You do of course need a reliable autopilot or wind vane self-steering. On Seven Tenths we had a fairly useless wheel driven autopilot. She would steer herself to windward with the wheel tied off and a bungee on the opposite side to stop any excess movement – in fact, she steered herself like that for five days from the Azores to Gibraltar in the Portuguese Trades.

On Skylax we went around the world and some with a below deck linear drive unit and I still the spare drive unit I bought as a spare. Of course that autopilot has a name often mentioned affectionately by us.

Fear and falling in love again

The psychology of relationships on board is seldom talked about and the fears and shared love of sailing are taboo subjects for those, mostly couples, sailing together. Yet any thinking sailor will experience moments of fear, of imagining ‘what if ’ scenarios. I’m often asked by those on the land whether I get scared at all. Oh yes, even after all these years there are butterflies and more at the beginning of a passage, moments of self-doubt and mild panic when things go wrong at sea, and that sheer hanging on as the boat buckets along under half a gale or more.

On my first foray offshore in the 20ftRoulette I wrote some years ago as follows:

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM SAILING TODAYView All

Spirited performer

Choosing a traditional-looking boat doesn’t mean going low-tech, as Sam Fortescue discovered when he sailed the Spirit Yachts’ new 44E

7 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Foul language

It won’t be long before boatyards around the coast are humming with the noise of sanders and the chip-chip-chip of owners removing old flakes of antifouling. Sam Fortescue looks at the latest products

9 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

It ain't over til it's over

An edge-of-your-seat Vendée Globe thriller came down to the final hours, with a last minute drama that shocked millions

10 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Fitness from home

There has never been a better time to train from home than now. Even in normal times, just think how much time you would save. Jon Emmett provides some pointers on best technique

6 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Can they be beaten?

Emirates Team New Zealand is lying in wait in the America’s Cup, due to take place from 6-15 March. We take a closer look at the team to beat

6 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Jess Lloyd-Mostyn

Rats and sailors share an uneasy relationship going back almost to the beginning of time. When Jess and crew received an unwelcome visitor, drastic action was required

3 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Tea on the Nile

When you’re living in the middle of the Sahara desert and the government is a military dictatorship it can be a challenge to find fun things to do

7 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Fjord Focus

Nick Huxford narrates a voyage that took him from Southampton to Norway’s Lofoten Islands

6 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Tom Cunliffe

Night watch on a long offshore passage is a real test of will and concentration but a memorable night encounter underlined the need for vigilance to Tom

6 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Andi Robertson

As the Vendée Globe wraps up, skippers are alreadly looking to the future and the next race. So what are the prospects for the class of 2021

4 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021
RELATED STORIES

MATT SHEAHAN

WAS AN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE ‘BOT’ THE SECRET TO EMIRATES TEAM NEW ZEALAND’S AMERICA’S CUP SUCCESS?

3 mins read
Yachting World
May 2021

THE DISRUPTORS

AFTER AN UNPREDICTABLE MATCH, EMIRATES TEAM NEW ZEALAND DEFENDED THE 36TH AMERICA’S CUP – AND COULD ALREADY BE SHAKING THINGS UP FOR THE 37TH. MATTHEW SHEAHAN REPORTS FROM AUCKLAND

7 mins read
Yachting World
May 2021

CRUISING IN THE FAST LANE

NOT ONLY THE FIRST FOIL-ASSISTED SUPERYACHT, BUT THE FIRST CRUISING YACHT WITH A FOIL, THE 142FT CANOVA IS A GROUNDBREAKING PROJECT IN SO MANY WAYS, SAYS TOBY HODGES

10+ mins read
Yachting World
April 2021

This One's on Her

A melancholy farce is nearly capsized by its star.

4 mins read
New York magazine
April 12-25, 2021

How to Grow Better Space Lettuce

NASA is funding research on a technique that could increase the yields of extraterrestrial crops

3 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
March 29 - April 05, 2021

Headphones

Headphones

1 min read
Sound & Vision
February - March 2021

SWISS POLICE RAID OVER HACK ON U.S. SECURITY-CAMERA COMPANY

Swiss authorities confirmed a police raid at the home of a Swiss software engineer who took credit for helping to break into a U.S. security-camera company’s online networks, part of what the activist hacker cited as an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of mass surveillance.

2 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #490

E6 Try Making a Living on TikTok If You're Not White

Marketers are underpaying Black social media influencers even as they push Black Lives Matter

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
March 15, 2021

A People on the Brink

Over the past century, the ancient people known as the Votes has been exiled twice, has seen its language banned, and has faced the threat of having its villages razed. Today, although teetering on the verge of extinction, it holds fast to one of the last rights it enjoys – the right to bear and to say its own name.

10+ mins read
Russian Life
March/April 2021

China, Russia Agree To Build Lunar Research Station

China and Russia said they will build a lunar research station, possibly on the moon’s surface, marking the start of a new era in space cooperation between the two countries.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
March 12, 2021