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TonyinOregon 10-04-2006 10:53 AM

Sailing at night?
Im a long time offshore tuna fisherman who has been sailing bays, etc for the last few years on a Privateer 26. Im moving the boat to the Pacific side of things here and I have a question...(there are no stupid questions...:o )
On our Tuna boat, we drift at this something that sailboats can do?
Do singlehanders use autohelms with alarms and try to catch 40 winks?
It looks dangerous to me yet, for years, we have done this at sea...

rockDAWG 10-04-2006 11:31 AM

Hey Tony. Welcome on board.

There is a similar thread for your question not too long ago.

Click here:

TonyinOregon 10-04-2006 06:58 PM

Thanks, I read through that, good info and much like what we did with our boat.
I was after more of a drifting at night, not under sail.
Our plotter would show us basically going in a large circle with the current usually leaving us where we started depending on what part of the coast we were on.

btrayfors 10-04-2006 07:26 PM


You can, of course, simply "drift" at night. But, it might not be the best thing to do, because if there's any sea running the boat movement might be uncomfortable, even severe.

So, you'd probably want to keep some sail up. "Heaving to" is an easy way to stop a boat at sea. Requires only trimming the headsail aback, putting the helm over, and making minor adjustments to be sure she stays that way. Most boats will heave to easily, and will forereach a little. If you do this on the offshore tack, you will be carried slowly away from danger. Or, if you're a long way from land, you can make some useful progress toward your destination.

Depending on your point of view, singlehanding is dangerous, foolhardy, illegal (since you can't maintain the mandatory watch), etc. Or, it can be a thrilling, adventurous, brave thing to do. I kinda subscribe to both camps, depending on my mood of the moment :-))


sailingdog 10-04-2006 07:58 PM

One thing that seems to be a consensus among the long distance sailors I know... you should be up during the night, at least for a fair bit of it, and sleep during the day. The night watch on most large boats is generally not as alert as they should be, especially during the 2-6 am period... and I would rather be up then, and watching out for them. Most sleep a bit more during the day, when the watches on the large ships are more alert and the boat is a bit easier to see.

I would say heaving to is probably a good don't want the boat to be moving too quickly just in case.

Another good idea is to reef down just prior to sundown, as in many areas, the winds can pick up at night, and it is more difficult to reef down at night, when you may not be as alert or awake and it is far more difficult to see.

TonyinOregon 10-04-2006 09:48 PM

"Depending on your point of view, singlehanding is dangerous, foolhardy, illegal (since you can't maintain the mandatory watch), etc. Or, it can be a thrilling, adventurous, brave thing to do. I kinda subscribe to both camps, depending on my mood of the moment :-)) "
Exactly! My years of offshore fishing have tempered me to only one way of doing it and I know that couldnt be right!
Thanks so much for the welcome and advice, I have lurked on sailnet for quite some time and have always found lots of nice, knowledgeable folk.

nolatom 10-05-2006 12:04 PM

Heaving-to is a good idea, so is catnapping at night and getting more sleep in daylight (when no fog).

If hove-to, when you go below it's not a bad idea to leave a light shining on your sails, whether flashlight or spreader lights, if your batteries will stand it. Makes you much more visible than just your running lights do.

And if you're on deck and someone's getting close, shine a light on your sails for the same reason.

Singlehanded sailing at night is like solo scuba diving. No one recommends it, but a good number of people do it. Me, I dive with a buddy.

Surfesq 10-05-2006 12:22 PM

Tony: One thing you can count on with Sailnet is that you will always get plenty of responses explaining to you why you can't or should not do something...rather than actually getting a response to your question!

Look, here is the deal. Yes, singlehanding is dangerous. But so is taking a dump in Grizzly Country. Do you really want to hold that loaf until you get back to Anchorage?

I have single handed long distances in the open ocean. It can be done and it sounds like you already have a tremendous amount of experience in the open ocean so fear of the unknown, (Another annoying Sailnet theme), is not an issue. I use Radar and set the Alarm for a 10-15 mile radius depending on the conditions. When I am alone, I will nap at night in the cockpit. When the alarm sounds I get up check myself and make the appropriate adjustments. I also set my alarmclock for once an hour just to check myself.

In a heavy storm, I will either heave to or set a sea anchor. I would note that if you prefer to sleep at night you can consider using a Sea Anchor as a way of holding your position.

paulk 10-05-2006 07:13 PM

Sailing or heaving to at night is great. Only thing you have to watch for are those pesky fishing trawlers. They cruise along with no one awake, and you're too small to show on their radar.

Ericscoth 10-05-2006 07:39 PM

Lets not forget freighters, tankers, tugs in tow, and cruise ships as well.

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