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Go Back   SailNet Community > Out There > Destinations > Chesapeake / Central US east coast > Chesapeake Bay
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  #11  
Old 08-14-2012
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Re: Chesapeake at night

Sailing at night can be a beautiful and challenging experience. You really need to be comfortable handling the boat, navigating with charts and distinguishing among the plethora of blinking lights. You see far more lights sailing at night in the Chesapeake than sailing at night off the coast. The prevailing breeze seems to come in several hours after sunset, when the sea breeze dies. If you are scrupulous in avoiding the use of white lights, your full night vision is effective after about 20 minutes of normal night darkness. (I use a red lens flashlights and a red lens headlamp to best preserve my night vision - the stern running light is the only white light I will see, and it becomes quite bright in the cockpit). Avoid the use of cabin lights, spreader lights, and white flashlights, if at all possible. Once you acquire your night vision, you will be better able to see the outline of the shoreline, unlighted structures and other boats. If the moon is out, the moonlight and the reflections on the water will allow you to see almost as well as during the daylight hours. It is a lot easier to become mesmerized by the beauty of sailing at night, and to forget simple matters in your normal routine, such as checking the depth sounder periodically.
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Last edited by jameswilson29; 08-14-2012 at 08:01 AM.
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Re: Chesapeake at night

Though I've done the full length of the Bay several times at night..I prefer to be off shore.. It's a hassle distinguishing navigational lights from back ground or onshore lights.

I prefer a moon lite night to venture out in the busy parts of the Bay..
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Old 08-14-2012
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Re: Chesapeake at night

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Originally Posted by jameswilson29 View Post
Sailing at night can be a beautiful and challenging experience. You really need to be comfortable handling the boat, navigating with charts and distinguishing among the plethora of blinking lights. You see far more lights sailing at night in the Chesapeake than sailing at night off the coast. The prevailing breeze seems to come in several hours after sunset, when the sea breeze dies. If you are scrupulous in avoiding the use of white lights, your full night vision is effective after about 20 minutes of normal night darkness. (I use a red lens flashlights and a red lens headlamp to best preserve my night vision - the stern running light is the only white light I will see, and it becomes quite bright in the cockpit). Avoid the use of cabin lights, spreader lights, and white flashlights, if at all possible. Once you acquire your night vision, you will be better able to see the outline of the shoreline, unlighted structures and other boats. If the moon is out, the moonlight and the reflections on the water will allow you to see almost as well as during the daylight hours. It is a lot easier to become mesmerized by the beauty of sailing at night, and to forget simple matters in your normal routine, such as checking the depth sounder periodically.
Another point is learning how to dim your chartplotter and helm instruments and deal with them if the dimmest setting is still too bright. At the dimmest setting my nav instuments intially seem too dim and the chart plotter a bit bright. After your eyes adjust the instruments are easily readable and the chartplotter is still brighter than you'd like but manageable. On the boat I crewed on we had to rig a towel over the chartplotter to cover it when it was not in use because it was way too bright.
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  #14  
Old 08-14-2012
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Re: Chesapeake at night

Many have summed it up.

While beautiful and quiet, it's never really relaxing as I've had too many things pop out of the dark at me. Boats with no lights. Trees. Even a small failure, when you are olone and can't keep watch while repairing or dealing with it, is very disorienting.

What I try to avoid is moonless nights, where the twinkle on the water is gone. And I'm not shy about slowing down.

But is certainly something everyone should expereince.
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Re: Chesapeake at night

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Originally Posted by PalmettoSailor View Post
My night sailing experience is also pretty limited but one of the areas where I want to continue to develop my knowledge. So far its mostly been racing and "overnight" vs. a night arrival except a few times arriving at our home marina well after dark.

I haven't yet been in the situation of needing to navigate a less familar creek entrance or anchorage so haven't had to deal with nav lights blending with shore lights and the like. I also have the advantage of having sailed out of the southern bay for several years and now mid bay for a few years so I generally have some knowledge of the western shore from Annapoils down to Mobjack Bay which adds some comfort when sailing at night, at least when I know we'll be underway until daylight. Entering an anchorage and setting the hook in the dark does hold quite a bit of trepidation for me at this point.
I've got the perfect mission for you:

Go to Oxford in the evening, arriving at night. I did it once, successfully. Here's why:

It's not far from you.
There are tons of well lit, navigation aids.
There is an excellent anchorage, with excellent holding in the Tred Avon River, just prior to rounding the point of the Strand.
You've already been there, so you know the area.

It's a great place to train for night sailing.
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  #16  
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Re: Chesapeake at night

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Originally Posted by PalmettoSailor View Post
My night sailing experience is also pretty limited but one of the areas where I want to continue to develop my knowledge. So far its mostly been racing and "overnight" vs. a night arrival except a few times arriving at our home marina well after dark.

I haven't yet been in the situation of needing to navigate a less familar creek entrance or anchorage so haven't had to deal with nav lights blending with shore lights and the like. I also have the advantage of having sailed out of the southern bay for several years and now mid bay for a few years so I generally have some knowledge of the western shore from Annapoils down to Mobjack Bay which adds some comfort when sailing at night, at least when I know we'll be underway until daylight. Entering an anchorage and setting the hook in the dark does hold quite a bit of trepidation for me at this point.
One of my pet peeves, if it can be called that, is the way red and green traffic lights, as they pass behind trees on certain shorelines, can look and AWFUL lot like ATNs at long range, and at night range is always a bugger to estimate. Pre-GPS was so much more fun.
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Re: Chesapeake at night

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One of my pet peeves, if it can be called that, is the way red and green traffic lights, as they pass behind trees on certain shorelines, can look and AWFUL lot like ATNs at long range, and at night range is always a bugger to estimate. Pre-GPS was so much more fun.

TOO FUNNY! A few years back on an overnight race we were off Chesapeake Beach and for some reason it just popped in my head to say "hey look, one of those rare three color nav lights!" See, it's green, wait it will flash yellow and now it's red....
Of course one person on the boat bit and said where? What's it mean? I said DON'T GO THERE. They asked again. I said DON'T F'ing GO THERE, it's land.

They finally got it.

Quote:
Go to Oxford in the evening, arriving at night. I did it once, successfully. Here's why:
First mate and I did this 2 years ago in Oct. By the time we got off work and drove to HHSouth and got under way it was 10pm. Forecast was 10 knots out of the NNE. We got more like 15-19 out of the NNE against an incoming tide. Just my handheld GPS to back up a compass course down to the Choptank and just the jib out. We flew down the Bay and then headed up the Chop; had to motor the whole way. Finally anchored out in Town Creek at 0330. But it was fun!

Hey PALMETTO: IIRC you're out of HHS. USE CAUTION w/ the pound net stakes up by 83A! We almost nailed them 2 weeks ago in the Gov Cup. and I even knew they were there. (I was a little preoccupied w/ other duties trying to keep things together while the owner navigated.)


Sailing at night is a delight. Fewer idiots around, nicer weather, gorgeous moons. But... this year's Newport Bermuda race the 3rd night out was the absolute DARKEST night I've ever sailed in. NO moon, overcast sky so NO stars. Blustery and 6-8' waves on the stern quarter. You could not discern the horizon at all except for a little sliver to the east if you didn't look right at it. Heeling over steering solely by instruments it is real easy to get disoriented. Took a LOT of concentration to hold course.

And I will second the notion that you better know nav lights real well.
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  #18  
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Re: Chesapeake at night

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Hey PALMETTO: IIRC you're out of HHS. USE CAUTION w/ the pound net stakes up by 83A! We almost nailed them 2 weeks ago in the Gov Cup. and I even knew they were there. (I was a little preoccupied w/ other duties trying to keep things together while the owner navigated.)

Yes, fishtraps are a concern, but that's among the advantages I mentioned. Over the past few years, I've marked every fish trap I see with a little skull and crossbones icon on my GPS. I can confirm the traps at Herring Bay, Tilghman Island, east of Shadyside and on the Maryland side of the Potomac are just were they were last year, and I haven't noticed any new ones this year. Not so sure about the ones south of the Rappahannock that I marked a few years ago.

It is all to easy to get preoccupied when short handed at night as I proved by nearly clocking a charted and lit NOAA bouy during the Gov Cup this year.
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2 events.

1

Bringing a friends boat back from kent narrows to the rappahanock. We were going to leave in the am but a huge full moon came up and we left that evening. Glorious sail. Beam reach all night long. You could almost read by the moon.

2

Governors cup 25 or so years ago.

Trimaran. Multihulls start last. We passed several hundred boats all night long. Surprised most of them as we had mast head running lights and we were flying.

We'd just duck em shouting hold your course.

Highlight? Sitting on the windward ama watching the phosphorescence light the hull and dagger board.

Thanks for the memories bill homewood and third turtle!

Ric

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Old 08-15-2012
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Re: Chesapeake at night

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Originally Posted by Sic Semper Tyrannis View Post
1Highlight? Sitting on the windward ama watching the phosphorescence light the hull and dagger board.

Thanks for the memories bill homewood and third turtle!

Ric

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And that's why I keep looking for opportunities to sail at night. It wasn't that long ago I did my first overnight sail as crew during Down the Bay and I vividly remember, my 4AM stint on the helm. It lit the fire that lead to skippering my own boat in the Governor's Cup and looking toward the day when I can cruise the east coast full time.

Perhaps its my relative inexperience showing, but I've never really had much of a problem with commercial traffic on the Chesapeake and this was even when racing and starting the motor was not an option we'd want to consider. We've had some moments of anxiety for sure, but since we aren't super competitive we've been willing to tack away if it looked like there might be a close call. There were several times that, had we been in cruising mode, a few minutes of iron jenny would have us out of the channel without having to change course. I just don't think shipping should be considered that big a deterrent to night sailing on the Chesapeake, at least south of West River to Wolf Trap. I also think the threat of things lurking beneath the surface waiting to rip the bottom our of our boats is overstated in this thread. Chesapeake sailors are fortunate that there just aren't that many things to really get you in serious trouble on the Bay, if you pay some attention to the charts and use some common sense.

For those that haven't done it, its something to experience as many others have said. Seeing the phosphorescence, moonlight on the water, stars like you can only see in a few places on land, punctuated with shooting stars then watching the sunrise over the liquid horizon listening to the swish of the bow cutting the waves over a cup of hot coffee is just an awesome experience.
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