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  #1  
Old 09-03-2007
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Night Sailing

I searched for it but could not find anything posted regarding sailing at night. The only time I've come close is when heading back in. I really would like a midnight sail and will check weather, tides etc. but does anyone have any good tips on doing it? ie Should there be a light shining on the sail? Thanks.
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Old 09-03-2007
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Joe...there should be no lights other than you navigation lights. These lights serve to tell others what kind of vessel you are and in which direction you are travelling. Additional lights will only confuse them.
Your instruments (compass etc.) should be lit with RED lights so as not to destroy your night vision. Even your cabin should have red light to see by should you go down below since white lights can really diminish your ability to see at night.
I like to use radar at night to spot and follow the tracks of other vessels. You can often see lights many miles away and be worried since you have little depth perception at night and a radar helps put everything into proper perspective.
For your midnight sail, I would suggest you plot your course in advance and enter the waypoints into your gps. Also, familiarize yourself with the lights and buoys you will encounter so that you can look at them and time their flashes to confirm you ARE where you think you are. In relatively populated areas you will find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of flashing lights...most of which are on land but you cannot tell this so it al becomes very confusing. It is good practice to get to one light/buoy and then chart the bearing to your next buoy...then try to find it with your binoculars. I like binoculars with a built in compass for this reason.

Hope this is helpful. Ask away on any other questions.
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Old 09-03-2007
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Have your mast top tricolor on if at sea, if in closer quarters, then deck-level lights may make more sense. Don't drink any alcohol, since it can affect your night vision.

Be very careful when looking at various lights for navigation purposes, it is pretty easy to mistake one light for another if you're not. That usually ends badly for the boat. Also, lights against the background of a busy harbor or city are generally pretty difficult to spot.

Set your instruments up to be illuminated at the lowest level usable... including your GPS chartplotter and have a red lamp flashlight for use to preserve your night vision.

Hoist a radar reflector... as navigation lights aren't always properly interpreted.... and can get lost in the background. If they've got radar on, you want to be seen on it.

If you're far enough out.... LOOK UP... you'll often see far more stars than you ever would near a city... the light pollution from the city blots many of the dimmer ones out.

Wear a harness and PFD, and stay clipped in to the boat if moving around on deck. Being an MOB at night is no fun... good way to die. Also, make sure your PFD has a strobe, handheld VHF, whistle and retroreflective patches on it... in case you are an MOB at night, you want to be seen and heard.

Finally, before leaving the dock... write a list of the course headings and distances run as well as the buoys or lights you will be using to make the trip. Keep this in the cockpit and check it off as you pass each one. For instance...

Leg name.............................................. ..........Course.........Distance.......Buoy
Boston inner harbor entrance to Spectacle Island... 133˚T ......... 1.2 NM.......G "3"—Q G
Spectacle Is. to North end of Long Island.............. 86˚T .......... 2.0 NM......G "17"—FL G 2.5s
.... will pass G "1"—Fl G 4s to starboard.
Long Island to Boston North Channel..................... 60˚T .......... 1.0NM...... GR "PR"—Fl (2+1) G 6s
.... will pass G"15"—QG Bell to starboard, Deer Island light to port
Boston N. Channel to Finns Ledge........................ 21˚T............1.8NM....... R"2"—QR-Bell
.... will pass G "9"—FL G 6s, G "7"—FL G 4s, G "5"—FL G 2.5s, G"3"—Q G all to starboard.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 09-03-2007 at 11:37 AM.
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Old 09-03-2007
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I sail at night often on the Hudson Bay. It is hard to see other boats on the water especially looking at the NYC skyline where the boat lights blend in. The crew and I are extra diligent on our lookouts for other boats. Sailboats are the hardest to see on the bay. The running lights in my opinion are not in a good location or to dim to see from any great distance. If the boat has a New England blue haul it is impossible to see them at night except for the sail at close range. I don't shine a light on the sail unless I think there is going to be a conflict with another boat. Saying that I do bring up my big high power light into the cockpit at night for just that occasion plus to check for sail-trim. I do leave on a cabin light or two preferably red, for two reasons. One to see when we go down the companionway and two so I am more visible to other boats.
I love night sails. The stars are great and the water seems more serene to me. It is quiet and peaceful with just the sound of the boat gliding through the water. Plus I like to snuggle in the cool evening.

Last edited by Melrna; 09-03-2007 at 11:29 AM.
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Old 09-03-2007
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I added a AIS receiver last year and found it to be most useful at night. It not only puts frieghters, tugs, and large yachts on the chart screen but identifies them by name, type of ship, and its course and direction. It also plots the point of closest approach. The ships answer when you call them by name on VHF.The unit was less than $100 and well worth the price.
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Old 09-03-2007
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I would only add to what you've been told by saying that if you regularly sail in the same area, you should become familiar with the night lights in the harbor. The building around the harbor and even the traffic lights can help you get back to your slip. I've sailed at night lots of times, and the biggest problem is bright lights coming from other boats. It really messes up your night vision.
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Old 09-03-2007
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Joesaila,
All good advise given so far. The flashlight with the red lens being particularly good. You can make one with a light and a thin piece of red plexiglass or you can just use red nail polish on the lens already in the light. This is essential gear.

I recommend that you are in the dark for a minimum of fifteen minutes, preferably one half hour, before you start any manoeuvering. You will be quite amazed at what properly acquired night vision will reveal to you. You'll also be amazed at the pain to your eyes even the smallest white light can cause as well as destroying your night vision. This is why you hear the above posters talk of having a light to illuminate the sail or spot a dock, but not using it unless absolutely necessary.

Learning your local waters at night takes some time. Objects you navigate by in the daylight may not be visible at all. Certain shore lights or navigational aids may take on more prominence. Or, more likely, all will blend into an impressionist painting of white and amberish shore lights with the one appearing much like the other. Relying on one particularly bright light, of a non-navigational aid type, is risky what with the possibility of it's owner extinguishing it! If you have radar-this is what you got it for.

It is not at all a bad idea, on an initial shakedown cruise, to have someone available with a large flashlight on shore, that you can reach say by cell phone, VHF, or the like. It is often the case that all goes well until returning to confined waters and then you're unable to determine what's what. A signal from a shore mate will be sufficient to orient you. He'll be able to see you quite well, most likely-make sure you tell him not to shine the damn light at you (you'll lose all your night vision just when needed most) but either down on the shore, up in the air, or on some object.

Danjarch's point about other vessel's lights is correct also-do not look directly at any bright lights. With practise you will find that you can get around quite well by keeping them in your peripheral vision, thereby not damaging your acquired night vision.

If I am harping a bit on night vision it is because it is so important. A well meaning shipmate will turn a white flashlight upon you and you'll recoil as if confronted by a spitting cobra-it actually hurts with the suddeness of it. And you'll be totally useless for quite some time afterwards.
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  #8  
Old 09-03-2007
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Depending on the brightness of the light... your detail night vision can be wiped out for up to eight hours... and that's a big problem... so avoiding bright lights is a necessity.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 09-04-2007
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I believe this is realative to this thread......
We had a twenty hour sail on Saturday/Sunday.

On our last leg of the trip, a novice crew was on watch, so I sat in the cockpit with her and helped her on her watch, while I cat napped.

I pointed out to her a large vessel that was running South to North out in front of us while we were on a course of NE.

This vessel was lit up with all kinds of white lights which were very visible, but from a distance, her Nav lights were vey hard to identify and since we had plenty of room, I was not too concerned.

After about another 30 minutes, we were clear of each other and I continued to watch the other vessels progress.

Thats when I noticed a large shadow on the surface directly behind the vessel. It was a tow barge. The barge had no lights on it.

I thought the tow was supposed to also have lights?
Isn't it a flashing yellow? I never saw any lights on the barge even when I had first spotted the towing vessel. Maybe we were too far away, but later I could clearly see the shadow of the barge, but no lights.

Isn't there supposed to be lights on the barge?
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Old 09-04-2007
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Both the towing wessel and the barge should show nav lights accoring to th colregs rule 24.

For the tow boat:
(a) A power driven vessel when towing shall exhibit:

(i) instead of the light prescribed in Rule 23(a)(i) or (a)(ii), two masthead lights in a vertical line. When the length of the tow measuring from the stern of the towing vessel to the after end of the tow exceeds 200 meters, three such lights in a vertical line;

(ii) sidelights;

(iii) a sternlight;

(iv) a towing light in a vertical line above the sternlight;

and

(v) when the length of the tow exceeds 200 meters, a diamond shape where it can best be seen.

For the barge:
(e) A vessel or object being towed, other than those mentioned in paragraph (g) of this Rule, shall exhibit:

(i) sidelights;

(ii) a sternlight;

(iii) when the length of the tow exceeds 200 meters, a diamond shape where it can best be seen.

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