Tips for navigating in pitch black. New moon. - SailNet Community

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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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  #1  
Old 07-18-2008
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Tips for navigating in pitch black. New moon.

Go figure, the Governor's cup is scheduled for 8/1 and 8/2 which is supposed to be a new moon. I have all the legal stuff covered (nav lights), however, I wanted to know of anything else I can do for myself and crew that would make sailing in the dark a little easier. One of my crew is going to bring his GPS which will be a big help, and I bought a little flashlight that you wear on your head. As stupid as it looks, I think it'll work quite well, it has a "night vision" red light on it as well.

Flashlights will be on board, and a couple cabin lights, but I'm afraid those will be too bright (LEDs) to leave on during the race all night. My question, how do I miss crab pots when I can't see them? Besides trying to stay in 30'+ of water?

I plan to go out this evening on my boat to do some spinnaker practice, but I'm thinking of actually waiting until nightfall to do so and try to find out what problems I'll run into. There's a moon tonight, so it should be lit up pretty well.
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Old 07-18-2008
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You'll be surprised how well you can see once your eyes are properly adapted to the dark. I hope you have red lighting for the nav console and cabin. Pretty much any white lighting will trash your night vision.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 07-18-2008 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 07-18-2008
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ZZ,

Even without a moon, the Bay will have a lot of residual ambient light reflecting off it, from the communities along the shoreline. I would keep use of any white lights to a bare minimum, both on deck and below, and let your eyes adjust. If you have to use a white light for some reason, close one eye so that you won't lose your night vision entirely. Better to install red filters.

You need to study the tide tables to see whether you want to stay in deep water or the shallows for the ride down the Bay. If the tide's going out, stick to the deeper water, if coming in you'll want to skirt the shallows. Deep water means you'll have to keep a sharp eye for ships and especially tugs with tows. Shallow water means you'll have the constant concern for crab pot warps.

If you can't avoid a crab pot float, try to keep the rudder as close to centerline as possible while you pass over it. If you snag a float and warp, sometimes a quick 360 will untangle it. Otherwise you may have to cut it, so have a knife handy that can be quickly tied or duct-taped to a boat hook.

A special word of caution about the target area along the western shore just south of Pax River N.A.S. -- be very careful not to sail through it. It is littered with destroyed target platforms that lurk just below the surface, as well as debris from ordnance. Make sure you go outside of it, or well inside -- not through it! It can be deceptive, especially on a dark night, so study the chart carefully.
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Last edited by JohnRPollard; 07-18-2008 at 02:19 PM. Reason: typos
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Old 07-18-2008
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red lights or no lights at all.
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Old 07-18-2008
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A good watch with a clearly visible second hand is also very necessary, since much of your navigation will be done via navigation aids that are lit. If you can't time them properly, you'll get lost pretty quickly.
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—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 07-18-2008
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Different strokes for different fokes..........
In my part of the world you simply point the boat the general direction you want to go. Nothing but deep water all around (except near shore and some of the bays) and we don't have crap pots or tides to deal with. Our biggest concern when cruising at night are the 700' Lake Carriers.
I have been out in the middle on a new moon night and it is a little spookey. Especially if there is some cloud coverage and the stars are not visible. You feel real small. (Im sure the Blue Water Guys feel even smaller)
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Old 07-18-2008
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I've done that race only once, but it was pitch black dark (heavy overcast) so we didn't even have any starlight. The best we could hope for was to see any hazards in the reflections of lights from shore on the water's surface.

Of course the wind was from the South at 15-18 kts, and boats were crossing tacks regularly. The scariest thing is the odd boat that has malfunctioning running lights. Believe me, they'll be out there. And you won't see it until it's on top of you.

Carry one of those 1,000,000 CP Q-Beams to illuminate your sails if collision appears imminent! Just tell your crew to close their eyes for five seconds while you flash the main, in order to retain at least a little night vision. You'll be tempted to shine it on the port-tack boat bearing down on you, but...be nice!
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Old 07-18-2008
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Also, be aware that even small amounts of alcohol consumption can drastically affect your night vision... I would highly recommend not drinking before going on a night sail.

Shining a bright light at another boat is generally a really bad idea. You will wipe out their ability to see in the dark just when they may need it most to avoid you.
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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 07-18-2008
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Get a Nocturnal so you can tell time at night without looking a watch.
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Old 07-18-2008
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Boasun-

Last I checked, a Nocturnal isn't all that precise a time-piece and when you're trying to figure out if the buoy is flashing every six seconds or every nine...a watch with a good second hand helps a lot more.
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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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