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Safe, Easy, Relaxing Passages

Checking the horizon frequently is important.  On an offshore passage, it is easy to forget or get distracted.  The Watch Commander won’t let you.  Connect to the ships batteries, select your desired time interval and it is on duty for the entire passage.  There is no danger that you will forget to set it like a kitchen timer or sleep through it like a watch.  Every time you check the horizon, push the button to restart the timing cycle.  If you forget, are hurt or have fallen overboard,  the Watch Commander will beep, gently at first so as not to wake up the off watch, but after 30 seconds, a siren sounds loud enough to wake up everyone on board. 

On Watch

You are more relaxed knowing that the Watch Commander will remind you to check the horizon.  You are free to get involved in a project, catch up on email or relax and enjoy a good book.  Some people even catnap on watch, especially the singlehanders.   

The Watch Commander will keep you honest even if you get distracted.

Off Watch

The off duty crew will sleep better, getting the proper rest for safe passage making, when they know that a proper watch is being kept.  It is especially comforting, whether sailing with your regular crew or those you barely know, that the Watch Commander will wake you up if the person on watch has fallen overboard or been hurt/disabled somewhere on the boat.  

Watch Commander coordinates Horizon Checks

There are times during the day when we don’t have an official watch.  We both feel free to get involved in projects, email, cooking or just fixing something.  We don’t have to rush because we know that the Watch Commander will call one of us to look around and check the horizon


We've sailed Sea Witch 60,000 nm since 1991.  At a women’s offshore sailing seminar, Gail noted that 80% of the women expressed fears about not being able to stay awake on night watch.  The Watch Commander was born out of this concern.  We found out that their male partners had the same concern.

We have tried kitchen timers. They worked OK but we never slept well when catnapping.  I kept jumping up to make sure I had set the timer.  And, I didn’t sleep well off watch wondering if Gail remembered to set it.

We built the first Watch Commander – originally called Blinky – in the Galapagos and first tested it on the run to the Marquesas in 1999.  With it, we slept better off watch, catnapped better on watch, relaxed more while reading and had time to do projects always knowing that Blinky  - now the Watch Commander – kept us safe.

So many friends asked us to build them one – they actually got a bit pushy – that we decided to manufacturer them.  It has now been passage tested for over 5 years and millions of miles by hundreds of boats - sail and power.  Numerous boats on the recent ARC rally carried the  Watch Commander .  The were even carried by Nordhaven trawlers on their Trans-Atlantic Rally.

Kitchen timers are loud but don't always get set

They will wake you up – and sometimes the off watch -  IF YOU REMEMBER TO SET THEM.  It is very easy to forget to reset them, especially the new digital ones.   The egg timer goes off, you duck below for a cup of coffee or to check email and forget to set the timer.  Many other cruisers have told us they forget to set their egg timers a few times during a passage.  

The Watch Commander is always on watch.   You can't forget to set it.

Wrist Watches are unsafe

2 boats hit Australia in 2000 when they didn’t hear their wrist watch.  Get a group of cruisers together at a potluck or in the bar and quite a few will admit that there have been times they didn’t hear their watch go off. 

Wrist watches are a pain to reset.  Sure, if you let them go off, the time period will repeat.  But, they are a pain to reset in the middle of time period.  Many people wait until the watch goes off to look around.  This encourages you to look around less.

The Watch Commander  takes only one button.  Press it any time you look around.  Pop up from below, look around, hit the button and head back down.

Daytime is more dangerous than night

Since we built the first Watch Commander in 1999, we've been talking with cruisers about watch keeping and near misses.  We were surprised to hear that 97% of the near misses - ships or boats that got too close before they were ever noticed - occurred during the day.   We've talked with hundreds of cruisers about this and came to the following conclusions:

bulletMany people are more complacent during the day, believing that night is the more dangerous time.
bulletMany keep a more relaxed watch during the day.
bulletMost people only use their kitchen timers or wrist watches only at night.  They are too much trouble to use during the day
bulletIt is very easy to get distracted during the day with projects, meals, a good book, etc.
bulletAt night, a ship's lights are continuously visible from the time they break the horizon.  During the day, a ship is visible when the vessel outline is on the horizon but it may be much less visible once it is closer and no longer breaking the horizon. 
bulletSmaller vessels such as work boats, large and small fishing boats, etc. may get lost in waves and spray during the day. 

We run our Watch Commander  continuously from the time we start a passage to the time we arrive.  If you are not using the Watch Commander , please do something to remind yourself to keep a good watch during the day.  Don't get complacent or distracted.

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