Fatigue — It'll Bite You

Updated: May 14


Operating your boat while fatigued can lead to very bad outcomes. But, don't take our word for for it. Listen to Capt. Russ Eager. He ran his boat, the F/V Tamara, aground on the coast of Washington in 2015 and he has a story to tell.

Fatigue is no stranger to commercial fishermen and other mariners. Fishing long hours in a short seasons, mechanical breakdowns, noise, and bad weather can all conspire to prevent you from getting enough sleep. Even moderate sleep deprivation leads to impairments of cognitive and motor function that is equivalent to being legally drunk. The result is that fatigue is often cited as a leading cause of marine accidents.

The State of Washington Department of Ecology has recently launched a web page linking to the video interview with Capt. Eager and offering tips on combating fatigue. Titled, Fatigue Bites, the page also want you to know that Capt. Eager estimates that running the Tamara aground has cost him in the neighborhood of $70,000. That's a significant loss for any fishing operation.

From the web page:

Tips for crew

  • Make quality sleep time a priority.

  • Make your sleep space as dark and quiet as possible.

  • Get as close to 7-8 hours of sleep a day as you can. Use down-time to take a nap.

  • Avoid using drugs and alcohol that can hurt sleep quality and quantity.

Tips for owners and captains

  • Make thoughtful and informed decisions about scheduling. Understand how improper scheduling can fatigue your crew.

  • When possible, consider requiring a minimum of two persons on watch in the wheelhouse at night.

  • Provide a good sleeping environment for crew members.

  • Listen to and address crew member concerns of inadequate rest. Regularly re-evaluate staffing and scheduling decisions based on conditions.

Learn more about the effects of fatigue what you can do to combat it in our Fall 2016 newsletter, Marine Safety Updates.


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