One of my favorite parts of the maritime lifestyle is what happens between fellow crew members at sea when it comes time to change watch.

A watch change on a boat comes with the assurance that those going off watch will be stepping back to the helm in a short while, after taking care of themselves with some food, sleep, and perhaps dry socks. 

The watch handoff centers around conveyance of essential information, and it is not always brief. On racing sailboats, two watches may sail together until a new driver has found the rhythm of the waves and new trimmers are in sync. Navigational considerations for the next watch will be discussed and resolved, along with weather trends and likely sail changes. And then, with a deep breath and equally profound mutual trust, the outgoing watch lets go of control. Still on the team, their off-watch time is their own — to rest and recover, and come back ready to sail once again.

My fellow 48° North crew members, especially fellow editor Andy Cross, and I are in the midst of a landlubberly version of this. I feel privileged and thrilled to be able to spend the next few months on a family leave to look after my five-month-old daughter, Rowan, as my wife returns to work. The 48° North team and I have been working diligently (ok, feverishly) to make sure they have everything they need to deliver 48° North in all the ways you’d expect in my absence. Heck — just like on a boat — they may drive or trim or write with more talent and skill than those of us snoozing below decks. They’re ready, and you’re in great hands. 

Andy gets the credit as the first to note the change-of-watch symbolism to what we have been doing. Here’s how he’s been thinking about it:  

When it comes time to be on watch, nothing takes the place of preparation. We chat with our crewmates about what happened over the past few hours and what the plan is for the miles ahead. A snack gets tucked in the pocket of our foul weather jackets, and maybe a hot beverage helps kickstart our time on deck so we can be alert and ready. 

After putting on my PFD and clipping in, the first thing I do when I come on watch is to note our heading. Which way are we going? Next, I scan the horizon for obstructions. Then, I check the sails to make sure we’re sailing efficiently. 

As watch captains of the good ship 48° North, Joe and I have been preparing for a comparable transition. Starting with the July issue, I’ll figuratively climb on deck, note our course, look ahead, check our sail trim, and move forward with the plan to keep our vessel running smoothly. In doing so, I’ll lean on the knowledge and experience of the team around me and will make course corrections when needed. As with any good on-watch crew, the goal is to run the boat as reliably as possible and to set the off-watch crew up for success when it’s their turn again. Indeed, when we trade watches after the September issue, I’m sure we’ll do so with the same ease as a competent crew at sea. 

We’ll see you on the water,

Andy Cross & Joe Cline