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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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  #11  
Old 04-02-2008
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So the fact that it was night only played a small part in the event. It would be a whole different questions if someone asked:

"would you enter a strange harbour at night with a failing electrical system, an unreliable chart plotter and only an old beat up chart to navigate on?"

I'd have to say no unless there were some other circumstances that forced my hand.

Edit "and a shakey knowledge of the buoyage system."
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There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar IV, iii, 217
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  #12  
Old 04-02-2008
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The closest situation I've been in, compared to your writings, is when I, along with my brother and father charted a Newport 27 out of Long Beach for Santa Barbara Island. I had been to Catalina previously, but not to Santa Barbara Island.

We spent our fist night at the Isthmus on Catalina, and headed to Santa Barbara island in the morning. As we continued west, the seas and wind increased, and wound up becoming steep 8 ft seas and 25 knot winds. The boat, with its tired sails, was unable to make much progress to windward.

As we entered into early evening, we became concerned that we wouldn't make the island in time, so we started the outboard and began to motorsail.

The outboard wasn't much use, as it was out of the water as much as in, due to the seas.

My father became seasick, and I started feeling a bit less than well. As evening fell, we could make out the profile of the island, but it soon became obvious, that while we were only a few miles off the harbor, we wouldn't reach it by dark.

So, after taking 12 hours of a beating to windward, we turned around and headed back for the Isthmus.

It was a wild, thrilling sail, with the wind and seas at our back. We got back to the Isthmus around 3:00 AM, and fortunately found a mooring so that we didn't have to hassle with the anchor.

I'm proud of the decision we made to turn back. I hope and trust that I will make the same decision if faced with similar circumstances.
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  #13  
Old 04-02-2008
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Plumper-

If he had tried waiting until daylight, the breakwater and buoys would have been pretty obvious... which wasn't the case at night. The chartplotter was perfectly reliable, but the electrical system failed... which is why I strongly advocate keeping up-to-date PAPER CHARTS aboard the boat.

You also might want to look at a chart of the area, since it is not as clear cut as you'd think.

http://www. charts .noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/13279.shtml



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Originally Posted by Plumper View Post
So the fact that it was night only played a small part in the event. It would be a whole different questions if someone asked:

"would you enter a strange harbour at night with a failing electrical system, an unreliable chart plotter and only an old beat up chart to navigate on?"

I'd have to say no unless there were some other circumstances that forced my hand.

Edit "and a shakey knowledge of the buoyage system."
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  #14  
Old 04-02-2008
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Billy, I'd say that sometimes you have to listen to an inner voice. If you are CERTAIN, without any doubts, that there are no hazardous conditions and no need for localknowledge and again CERTAIN that you can make it in, by all means go for it.

But if there is any uncertainty, any nagging feeling that you are missing something, any information you don't have (like tides, in an inlet known for current problems)...you have to err on the safe side and wait it out.

Little things like those semi-submerged breakwaters are infamous for eating boats, in many harbors, but unless you have local knowledge or a good chart, you may be boat that hits them that year. Absent local knowledge or a reliable pilot of some kind...night can make even a simple MOB into a difficult recovery. you know the line from Dirty Harry?
"Do ya feel lucky today? Do ya?"

It's like reefing: If you have to ask, you should have already done it.
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  #15  
Old 04-02-2008
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I think we've all done it, and have all gotten away with it, or we wouldn't be typing on this message board.

As a kid, I delivered boats around New England from time to time, and a long day often left you with an entry into a new harbor at night. Boasun's right, with the right tools you can minimize the risks, but it's still a whole lot riskier than waiting til daylight.

If you have to do it, don't hesitate to get on the VHF and ask for local advice, it will help and also someone will know you're trying to get in, in case anything goes wrong. Of course, back when I was doing this, most of the boats had nothing but a magnetic compass, no radio, no depth sounder. It kept things interesting..
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  #16  
Old 04-02-2008
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Well said HS... hunches are usually your subconscious mind trying to keep your conscious mind from doing something really dumb.

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Billy, I'd say that sometimes you have to listen to an inner voice. If you are CERTAIN, without any doubts, that there are no hazardous conditions and no need for localknowledge and again CERTAIN that you can make it in, by all means go for it.

But if there is any uncertainty, any nagging feeling that you are missing something, any information you don't have (like tides, in an inlet known for current problems)...you have to err on the safe side and wait it out.

Little things like those semi-submerged breakwaters are infamous for eating boats, in many harbors, but unless you have local knowledge or a good chart, you may be boat that hits them that year. Absent local knowledge or a reliable pilot of some kind...night can make even a simple MOB into a difficult recovery. you know the line from Dirty Harry?
"Do ya feel lucky today? Do ya?"

It's like reefing: If you have to ask, you should have already done it.
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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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  #17  
Old 04-02-2008
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My most stressful nighttime landfall was Bermuda. We rounded Northeast Breakers in daylight, but by the time we were approaching the Town Cut entrance to St George harbour, it was as dark as pitch. Cloudy, no moon. Only one of the four on board had been through it before, in daylight, and it wasn't me.

Town Cut, as many of you know, is a narrow channel between two tall, rocky cliffs. The Spit Buoy light, which marks a rocky shoal to the south of the entrance was out. The weather wasn't bad, so we decided go in. We contacted Bermuda Radio ZBR, and got permission to enter the Cut. The radar helped line us up, and a strong Q-Beam spotlight picked up each set of buoys. The approach to the Cut was the worst part. We couldn't see the buoys until they were maybe three boatlengths away. Once between the cliffs, it was easier to know exactly where we were.

I didn't breath a sigh of relief until we were tied up at the Customs House dock.

The radar display was at the nav station, down below. I've since added a chartplotter/radar repeater in a Navpod next to the helm. It's a great comfort to be able to see it myself while at the wheel, rather than calling up and down the companionway to a crewmember.
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  #18  
Old 04-02-2008
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A friend of ours was recently crewing on a boat from the east coast to St Thomas. They rounded the east end of the island just after midnight and the owner decide to enter Charlotte Amalie using his chart plotter. My friend was sitting n the foredeck as they were entering the harbor, when all of a sudden he saw they were headed right for some breakers and rocks. He ran back to the cockpit and grabbed the wheel from the helmsman saving the boat from certain disaster. The owner had been down at the nav station watching the chart plotter and giving directions to the helmsman. Later they discovered that the chart plotter was using the wrong datum for the USVI. Chart plotters are not infallible.

When we were in Tahiti a number of years ago, a sailboat was attempting to enter Papeete at night and confused two lights as a range marker for the harbor entrance. Unfortunately they were range lights for a different channel and they ended up on the reef.

After 96,000 miles and two circumnavigations, Kitty and I have one hard fast rule; We NEVER enter any (strange or other wise) port at night. If we are not sure of making a daylight entrance, we always heave-to 30 miles from land and come in the next day. Even if it is rough weather, heaving-to is much more relaxing than the angst of trying to enter a port at night with your heart in your mouth and the fear of loosing the boat.
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  #19  
Old 04-02-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog View Post
Plumper-

If he had tried waiting until daylight, the breakwater and buoys would have been pretty obvious... which wasn't the case at night. The chartplotter was perfectly reliable, but the electrical system failed... which is why I strongly advocate keeping up-to-date PAPER CHARTS aboard the boat.

You also might want to look at a chart of the area, since it is not as clear cut as you'd think.

http://www. charts .noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/13279.shtml
That entrance looks pretty straight forward to me. One glance at any chart (even an ols wrinkled one) would make it pretty obvious that there is a huge breakwater and some nasty shoals. There is a mile of safe water in the northern opening and a couple cables at the southeastern opening. He must have been very lost or very unlucky. Was he coming from the north or the south?
Getting into Annisquam in the dark would be a serious challenge.

Edit: By the way, that is a very neat way of looking at charts.
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There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar IV, iii, 217

Last edited by Plumper; 04-02-2008 at 09:01 PM.
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  #20  
Old 04-02-2008
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Smile Happy endings...

Some really good points made above. I resonate with some of Boasun's comments. When we made the approach to Hilo (referenced at the top of the thread), we laid out an "approach plan". We took notes of what we would see visually and on radar at each of the pre-planned waypoints. Obviously, the waypoints loaded in the GPS and the approach template was sync'ed to the waypoints. For each turn point we developed a projection of what the visual signals (lights primarily) should be, and how the radar should look before and after the turn. We wrote them down in the sequence they should appear. The helmsman had the courses, distances and ETA's to waypoints on a scrap of paper at the helm. We also had an 'abort plan' -- a preplanned route out if the visual / radar picture we expected did not develop. Another thing we did was put the youngest guy with the best eyeballs on the bow, the oldest salt on the helm and the best radar guy below looking at the green screen.

Happily, it all worked as planned. We made each of the waypoints on time, with all visual references appearing as projected in the approach plan. We arrived in Radio Bay without a hitch at about 0130. The worst part of the night was trying to med moor to the seawall between two other boats. We had to set the anchor twice. The best part of the night was the bottle of scotch that was consummed between 0230 and 0430. Worst part of the next morning was customs inspector showing up at 0730 to clear us in.

And, if you'll indulge me with just a bit more of the sea story.....around noon the of day we arrived, as we were recovering from our hangovers and feeling pretty full of ourselves for having completed such a long passage -- 3 guys with 80 or more years experience between them in a 47 ft boat, 31 days out of Gulfito, CR, 4800 nm, etc. etc,........when another boat pulls into the basin at Radio Bay. It's a 31-32 ft sloop. The skipper, obviously single-handing, comes in, drops first the main, then the anchor, backs smartly to the seawall, climbs ahore, ties up and then asks us where to find the customs officer. Turns out this singlehanded skipper was a handicapped woman, 26-28 years of age, who arrived off Hilo in the wee hours of the morning having left Puntarenas, CR some 51 days before. She had hove-to for the night.
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