First night sail, first time out of sight of land - SailNet Community
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post #1 of Old 08-03-2013 Thread Starter
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First night sail, first time out of sight of land

I'm pretty new to sailing and I just finished my first big long-distance sail on Lake Superior. We started in Duluth and sailed to and through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie.

It was an amazing trip and there was a lot to love for a new sailor, like the Tall Ships that we sailed past in Duluth Harbor and the race boats that were at Sault Ste. Marie for the Trans Superior race. Il Mostro, a Volvo 70! Buadhaich, an IOR 50 newly restored!

But the most amazing part was my first night sail. Sea sickness had disabled most of the crew. Against the forecast the wind shifted 120 and picked up from 10 knots to 20 knots. The waves were 4-6' and their period was short and their motion was confused. The helm was a ****** because every wave wanted to throw the boat a different direction.

The person before me baled before the end of his shift. He had been quite sick and was exhausted. I didn't know before that a side effect of sea sickness is exhaustion, but there it was. I took the helm. The person who was supposed to be my watch mate was also quite sick. He used a tether to tie himself to a winch, because he knew he couldn't stay awake but was afraid that he'd be thrown all over the cockpit if he fell asleep.

So there I was on my first night sail. There was a faint fog that obscured the horizon line. The running lights of the boat illuminated the water so you could see the breakers maybe 20' out, but that was it. Other than that there was nothing.

I got used to the compass, correcting after every wave. Sometimes the waves would gang up on us and we'd drop right off, smacking the bow and sending a wave all the way back.

I became hypnotized by the compass. It was psychedelic, just gaze at the compass, no other visual stimuli, until the bow crashed through a wave and the water streaming back was illuminated by the running lights, so there were great streams of green and red water crashing towards me!

It was amazing. Finally I saw the other guy stirring and unhooking his tether. I thought I had been at the helm for about an hour. I asked him what time it was. He looked at his watch and and it turned out I had been at the helm for over two and half hours! I was completely hypnotized!



We had better weather and we had worse weather, but I will always remember my first night out. Wow!

The attached picture is before dark when it got really windy, and anyway pictures always flatten the waves. But there it is anyway.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-X...-no/splash.jpg
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post #2 of Old 08-03-2013
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Re: First night sail, first time out of sight of land

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The running lights of the boat illuminated the water so you could see the breakers maybe 20' out, but that was it. Other than that there was nothing.




I will always remember my first night out. Wow!
Sneak down while the crew are chundering and turn off the Nav lights. (and the compass light!). You'll love it! You will find you still see the white caps and most of the waves unless its reallllly dark and then you just feel the waves and after a while you can steer quite well.
You may even have phosphorescence in the waves.

Now you've had your first over nighter you will love each of them. They are unique and wonderful! Stuffed if I know why so many people hate them. Bonkers.


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post #3 of Old 08-03-2013
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Re: First night sail, first time out of sight of land

I love steering by the stars. Being out at night is surreal and awesome (unless it's stormy and terrifying:-). Watching a bright moon come up from the horizon and light up the sea is a wondrous thing.

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post #4 of Old 08-03-2013
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Re: First night sail, first time out of sight of land

One year ago I was watching the Perseid Meteor Shower 5 days/nights north of Maui.

If anyone can get a night sail in, now is the time to do it. Get away from the light pollution.

Watching moonrise especially through clouds is great. But a moonless night really lets you see the stars.

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Re: First night sail, first time out of sight of land

Great experience!
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Re: First night sail, first time out of sight of land

Wonderful story. Man oh man, your description and wonderment made me miss the ocean! Superior must have its own ways, like any big body of water. It feels magical to me. But I haven't done an overnighter on it.


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Re: First night sail, first time out of sight of land

It was magical, the red and the green water running back over the dodger and over the crew! So cold, but just beautiful.

I loved the trance. I was happy that my watch-mate fell asleep, I loved being out there on my own. It was quite a thing to take a moment to look around, see nothing, look back at the compass and see that I was already off by 15.

Fair weather sailing is nice, but wow, I think I like the terrible weather stuff better.
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Re: First night sail, first time out of sight of land

Hi Minnesail, congrats on the beautiful sail. I love Superior at night. Put 30 miles behind the keel and there's nothing but water sky and stars. All the Great Lakes are quite temperamental, especially Superior, but it's great when you can get a nice weather window to do a big hop like yours without getting beat up too bad.

On my last crossing (west to east from Thunder Bay to the eastern shore) I would lay on my back in the cockpit, let Aries do the steering, and just soak in the night sky. Oh so many stars...
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Re: First night sail, first time out of sight of land

Sailing at night can be exhilarating as you describe. I think you will find that being fixated on the compass will become tiring after it is not new. As you gain experience you will be able to hold a course with a light touch on the wheel, feeling the rudder interact with the water and the hull reacting to the wind while watching a star or a cloud if during the day.

You will feel like you are part of the boat and keep a better lookout.

It’s all good!
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post #10 of Old 08-03-2013
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Re: First night sail, first time out of sight of land

Congrats, Lake Superior is spectacular. You have spoiled yourself! The other Great Lakes are not so "Great" after sailing Superior.

I miss the clean, fresh water, remoteness, wilderness, weather challenges, pristine crusing... I even miss the Lake Superior fog.... but I do not miss the cold. Brrrrrrr.

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