Old as Dirt!
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Tampa Bay Area
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While buying all manner of safety gear may have some merit, it is no less important that you are thoroughly familure with the yacht and what to expect from the master aboard ship during the course of the race. I know of more than one female crew that, because she was female, was expected to be the designated "cook", churning out meals and snacks for the "working crew" (i.e. deck apes) during the course of a race. Needless to say, that was not a welcome assumption and no one ended up happy with the arrangement.
Assuming you will not be assigned only "pink" jobs, you need a good undersatnding of the layout of the yacht--where lines are, etc. Go down to the boat a few daze beforehand if possible and see where things are and then close your eyes and try to visualize where everything is in your mind's eye. If you have the time, do that until you can reach out and touch the mainsheet, vang, and jib sheets as they come off their respective winches with your eyes closed from where ever you're standing in the cockpit. Being able to find the right line, or a jack-line or pad-eye to connect your tether to, in the dark without a night-light, and without falling off the yacht, or planting a portion of your body in a load line is important and even a red "night light" can goof up a helmsman's night vision to some extent so that will be unwelcome.
On the night you are sailing the sun will not set until very late--but it will not rise again until after 0900 on Saturday morning and there will not be a moon for long and not a full moon at that so it will be a very dark night. IF you are blessed with no overcast you'll have a terrific view of the stars and if you are sailing the long course, as you head northwesterly up toward the Sisters along the southwest side of Lasqueti, Cassiopia will appear before your headstay. Unfortunately, tho', at your latitude, your won't be able to follow her for long as she'll be moving further north quite rapidly but she will give you a good heading for awhile. It would be helpful for you to run "Stellarium" or one of the other free Star Programs so you can see what your night sky will look like and what to expect. Likewise it would be wise to study the charts along your course-line so that you have some idea of where marks, aids and lights are and what to look for or expect. You don't have to memorize them of course, but it is helpful.
Frankly, I don't think sailing at night is all that difficult as there is markedly less traffic and lights are easier to see from a distance. One also gets more in tune with the yacht as one's other senses come into play and are not so dominated by sight. The sound of the wind across one's ears, the direction of sway in a seaway... To some extent, I have found that once they become accustomed to the idea that a yacht will osscilate back and forth around a heading, so that the helm really doesn't need a lot of action, women are often better drivers in the dark. My wife, all of 5' and 102#, stands night watches on our boat alone while we're traveling, and does a very good job of it.
N'any case, just a few thoughts...
"It is not so much for its beauty that the sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."