Sailing watches are a source of endless debates and discussions of the benefits and disadvantages of different watch systems, worst and best times for watches, most liked and disliked watch duties and so on. On board Europa we operate in three different watch systems.
The voyage crew does 4-8 watch, which means they are divided in three watches who are on for four hours and off for following eight hours. The voyage crew gets to do the famous dog watch from midnight till 4 am. There are perks of this watch, such as the midnight snack leftover sandwich buffet (who doesn't love midnight snacks!) and the general feeling of being up when no one else is up making sure the ship is safe and moving. Also, Antarctica is one of the best areas to do this watch: the further south we sail, the more light there will be for the dog watch.
The next watch from 4am till 8am is the favourite of many because you generally get to wake up for the sunrise (depending on the latitude of course) and when the watch is over, there is a long and relaxing breakfast waiting at the table. Also, after breakfast you get to go to straight to sleep with full stomach, which is about as lovely as it gets! Daytime watches are nice, bringing structure to the long days at sea and keeping us occupied. One more benefit of this watch system is that the times of the watches change so that everyone gets to experience being on watch at all times of the day. That makes the watches less monotonous, although in the Drake passage every watch seems to be different anyway. The waves, wind, snow, rain, temperature, sunrises and sunsets, dramatic clouds, sails: everything can change from one watch to the next one so it's hard to get bored although certain tasks like ice watch and steering remain more or less the same.
The professional crew on board works on a 6 hours on-6 hours off schedule. The change of watch is always at 2am, 8am, 2pm and 8pm. In this way all crew is always up for the meal times: either waking up to a lovely dinner or finishing off after it. Of course, life on board is not all about meal times but they do become awaited moments because not only you get food but also there is the watch hand over where all crew gathers together to discuss, laugh, catch up, hand over jobs and share information. In this watch system the watches remain the same from one day to the next one: in the middle of longer trips we sometimes switch the watches so that the tasks change. For example, currently our starboard watch from 8pm till 2am is baking the bread every single night and the port watch makes preparations for breakfast from 2am till 8am. It's hard to decide which watch is better, the 2am till 8am is very enjoyable because of the sunrise and breakfast and the relaxing atmosphere on board during night time but baking bread is a lot of fun as well: you can tune into your favourite music and dive into the flour buckets.
But it's always nice to get some change after doing the same watch and tasks for some weeks. There is also a few professional crew members on day watch, such as our wonderful galley crew who wake up at dawn to make breakfast and finish after dinner. Also our engineer is working on day watch, although we hardly see him as his working field is largely down below in the "Dungeons" of Europa. He is making sure we have drinking water, electricity, heating, hot water in the showers, working toilets and all
sorts of other nice comforting things on board. Our Bosun Emma is on day watch making sure everything is in order above deck level and dividing the tasks for the sailing crew to do necessary maintenance on our rigging. Doctor Bob is restlessly taking care of us on day watch, handing out plasters, advice, compassion and seasickness tablets to the ones suffering the most.
When we get to Antarctica also the guides Jordi and Annukka will jump over to day watch because the landings in Antarctica are always done between 6am and 10pm. During the crossings of the Drake the guides are in the normal sailing watches, learning their ropes, doing whatever the sailing crew is doing and giving lectures. Only one left: our Barman Zeze is working on day watch but not the same as the other day watchers. Nights at bar maybe short in the Drake but in Antarctica the sharing of experiences, photos, stories and drinks may go on for long in the morning hours. Therefore the barman is there for us in the night and sleeps a bit later during the day. This is how we keep Europa sailing 24/7! Writing at the lovely 2am to 8am watch, waiting for breakfast!