Originally Posted by sailhog
Four months ago I bought a 27-year-old Catalina 30, and I have to say that it's been a life-changing experience. Anyway, I've been going out twice a week on protected waters and the open Atlantic, and I'd like to try an overnight sail on the open ocean later this spring. The plan is to wait for a good weather windown, and then sail from Hilton Head Island to Charleston. I'm confident that my boat is structurally sound, and I've got my reefing method down cold. I have a GPS with Chartplotter, but I'll need an EPIRB. My question to everyone is: does this sound like a reasonable jaunt for an old boat and a fairly new sailor? Any comments would be appreciated.
If you are going over the horizon or transiting shipping lanes, I would consider a radar reflector or even AIS, which is getting cheap (sub $300 for a Chinese model and sub $700 for an English model). The reason for this is that while it can't warn you like radar when you are approaching land, and while it can't keep you safe from fishing boats or other rec sailors, it can warn you quite readily when something like a container ship is bearing down on you. Then it's up to you to take action...because you WILL be keeping a watch, right?
I would also make sure your nav lights are in order, and your flares are many and fresh. I would also rig jacklines and wear harness/PFD all the time on deck. Even in a relative calm, night decks can be wet with spray or dew and you can trip in the dark, of course.
Will you be alone? If so, file a sail plan with the Coast Guard. In fact, do so anyway. I do this regularly now and it's a good practice when leaving local waters.
Lastly, study your charts (paper). Familiarize yourself with the subtle affects of set and drift and other tidal-type effects. Your "offing" may be nowhere near where you think, and the nav table becomes an essential workplace at night when you are wondering whether a dim light is someone's nav light, a fairway buoy or a reef marker...Point being that the ocean at night isn't without information, but it's presented in a different and possibly confusing form.
Good luck. A Catalina 30 is a decent and easily driven coastal boat, but I hate that huge companionway! Bring decent dropboards in case you get pooped, and remember to clip on.