Originally Posted by BeejDeC
I'd also err towards early morning than flirt with dusk. We had an hour before sunset when we got back, but the tankers didn't have their lights on yet and discerning their bearing in waning light was very difficult.
Three more notes:
1. Ships in general do not have "bow lights." They have "side lights." The red and green lights are more likely to be on the "house" in the stern then anywhere near the bow. If your mindset (like mine was) is that the colored lights are in the bow you will think everyone is making sternway! Big ships have a 225 degree (112.5 on each side) masthead white light in the bow and a 225 degree white light in the stern. The stern masthead light is higher. Think of a triangle with the pointy part at the bow and the top of the triangle at the stern if that helps you remember. They also have a true stern light. When combined with the stern masthead light it means a while light in the stern from 360 degrees.
2. Carry a couple of cheap air horns and don't be afraid to use them. 5 short blasts means "I disagree with your intentions" and also can be used as an emergency or danger signal. You don't have to be sinking, burning etc. to warn that BFS that you don't have things under control - technically you are at the moment a "vessel not under command" if you don't think you can get out of the way in time. In tight quarters trying to sort out which BFS is CBDR (constant bearing decreasing range - in other words on a collision course), getting their name, calling them on the radio, and having a conversation all take time. They don't want to hit you - the paperwork is a bitch - they would rather do a crashback. You can apologize later after things are under control. Don't be afraid to broadcast in the blind "I'm the little sailboat and I am out of control." Anything so two of you are trying to avoid the problem rather than just one of you. Sure it is embarrassing but less so than being pulled out of the water with bits of your boat floating around you.
3. In unexpected strong winds dump the main, furl most of the jib, and head downwind. Your boat speed with decrease the apparent wind speed, the boat will flatten out and you will have a lot more control.
Fair winds and following seas