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post #21 of Old 02-15-2012
S/V Lilo, Islander 32
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Lafayette, Oregon
Posts: 249
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Or first time sailing in the dark was interesting, and uplanned. We had just purchased our new, old boat and where moving it down the Puget Sound from Port Townsend to Olympia in October. We planned to spend the fist night in Kingston, which we should have gotten to just before dark. A few hours out, the engine over heated and died. This was my first inboard engine, so it had a lot of systems I was new to. We put up the sails and beat into a 20+ knot head wind in a bit of a chop and let the engine cool.

As the sun went down, we where sailing at night for the first time on a new to us boat in waters we weren't familiar with in conditions that where as bad as we had ever been in (although they weren't really bad, just unfamiliar) and with our 2 young daughters on board.

At first we were a bit terrified, but after sailing for a while we stopped (mentally) and took stock. We could see just fine due to the moon, stars, and/or city lights. We could see all the ships and ferries around just fine. We had charts and knew where we were. We could sail just fine and could easily maneuver out of anyone's way. We found a spot on the chart we could sail into and set anchor if needed, and we had a radio if things got way to out of control. Sure, it wasn't as planned, wasn't as comfy as we hoped. Sure it was cold and miserable in October in the PNW, with no dodger, lots of wind and spray coming over the bow. But we where safe, making progress and had a plan whether the engine worked or not.

After this mental break, we both really looked around and enjoyed the unique experience we had never had before. It was beautiful,the city lights, the moon and stars, the ships slipping by in night, the wind pushing the boat along to a safe place for the night. Life was good. I'll never forget that night.

As we neared Kingston, we fired up the engine as I had not been able to find anything wrong, and figured we could at least get into the harbor before the engine overheated again. We made it in just fine, the engine never overheated again, I suspect we sucked some kelp or something up against the water intake, which came off as we sailed.

We got into port about 11pm, found a slip and tied up of the night. The girls where both asleep down below and as my wife and I hugged on the dock, we felt like conquerors, heroes, on top of the world, like we could do anything. We had faced adversity, overcome obstacles and brought our boat, and our family safe into port. That's a feeling that isn't unique to sailing alone, but is not common in most people's lives these days and like someone said before, it's not something you can explain to someone who doesn't sail or at least who doesn't do something similarly as crazy. Normal people just don't get it when we tell the story. All they can say is "Wow, you call that fun?!?" Yes, yes I do.

The next day we sailed from Kingston to Gig Harbor. We stopped on the way at Blake Island to let the girls run and stretch our legs. As we where leaving, we where talking to some folks there who couldn't believe we where going on that day, as we wouldn't get in until after dark. "It's OK" I said, "We enjoy night sailing..." like we where experts now. We had been into Gig Harbor many times on our last boat, so entering at night didn't bother us there.

We've come a long way since then and have had several all night passages since then, perhaps I'll write up more about those later.

Thanks for this thread and all the stories. I've enjoyed others experiences, as well as the prodding to remember and reminisce about my own.

S/V Lilo
1964 Islander 32
Saint Helens, OR
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