Sixes, a quick way to a deep six

from the interwebs
Is there anything worse than working “sixes”? I would submit that there is not.

“Sixes” is a watch standing routine common to Canada. It is a brutal watch system where two people share the oversight responsibility amongst themselves, in particular on smaller vessels, like tugs. In the engine room the Chief Engineer stands the 6-12 watch, while the Second Engineer stands the 12-6 watch. These watches last the length of the time on board, which in my particular case, now is targeted to six weeks.

Typically, larger vessels have a 4 hrs on 8 hrs off watch routine, where three engineer manned the engine room, with a Chief Engineer usually doing “day work”. Although you still need a second nap while working 4 on 8 off, it offers a bit more flexibility in your rest patterns. The down side to 4 on 8 off is also a higher rate of overtime, spent doing additional maintenance and such.

from the interwebs
Some people, principally the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), do twelve hours days, but they do it in a straight time, 12 to 12. Although this presents its own challenges, it is actually a better watch system for twelve hours days. Your rest is unbroken, less time is wasted in “preparatory routines”, and meals end up on watch. However the CCG also has more crew in the engine room.

Working sixes are usually grueling as the opportunities for rest are so tight. Spend a little too much time working, reading, or watching TV and your next couple of days drag on, as your body deals with the fatigue.  

Rest time is taken up by waking / falling asleep routines, watch handover, meals, throw in some paperwork or a phone call. Your actual effective rest opportunity is reduced to about 4 hrs per off-watch. In addition, your time off watch is never really time-off on a small ship, as all its operations are felt throughout, and impact your rest quality. “Sixes” result in a very regimented day and a very tiring contract.

from the interwebs
Fatigue builds pretty quick with sixes, and within two weeks, any minutes of lost sleep are easily noticed. One good side of fatigue, it forces you to “sleep on command”. Within minutes of hitting the pillow, you are in deep sleep mode. This skill is generally found to be quite frustrating by partners ashore.

My spouse is envious of my ability to fall asleep within second of having an interactive conversation with her – literally within 10-30 seconds of saying good night, I will be snoring.

Watch out for fatigue; learn more from Wikipedia.

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