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I'm pretty new to sailing and I just finished my first big long-distance sail on Lake Superior. We started in Duluth and sailed to and through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie.

It was an amazing trip and there was a lot to love for a new sailor, like the Tall Ships that we sailed past in Duluth Harbor and the race boats that were at Sault Ste. Marie for the Trans Superior race. Il Mostro, a Volvo 70! Buadhaich, an IOR 50 newly restored!

But the most amazing part was my first night sail. Sea sickness had disabled most of the crew. Against the forecast the wind shifted 120º and picked up from 10 knots to 20 knots. The waves were 4-6' and their period was short and their motion was confused. The helm was a ****** because every wave wanted to throw the boat a different direction.

The person before me baled before the end of his shift. He had been quite sick and was exhausted. I didn't know before that a side effect of sea sickness is exhaustion, but there it was. I took the helm. The person who was supposed to be my watch mate was also quite sick. He used a tether to tie himself to a winch, because he knew he couldn't stay awake but was afraid that he'd be thrown all over the cockpit if he fell asleep.

So there I was on my first night sail. There was a faint fog that obscured the horizon line. The running lights of the boat illuminated the water so you could see the breakers maybe 20' out, but that was it. Other than that there was nothing.

I got used to the compass, correcting after every wave. Sometimes the waves would gang up on us and we'd drop right off, smacking the bow and sending a wave all the way back.

I became hypnotized by the compass. It was psychedelic, just gaze at the compass, no other visual stimuli, until the bow crashed through a wave and the water streaming back was illuminated by the running lights, so there were great streams of green and red water crashing towards me!

It was amazing. Finally I saw the other guy stirring and unhooking his tether. I thought I had been at the helm for about an hour. I asked him what time it was. He looked at his watch and and it turned out I had been at the helm for over two and half hours! I was completely hypnotized!



We had better weather and we had worse weather, but I will always remember my first night out. Wow!

The attached picture is before dark when it got really windy, and anyway pictures always flatten the waves. But there it is anyway.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-X3kz7-f9kRE/Uf2PnkuDLnI/AAAAAAAAALo/jF1C08j81Zg/w962-h722-no/splash.jpg
 

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The running lights of the boat illuminated the water so you could see the breakers maybe 20' out, but that was it. Other than that there was nothing.




I will always remember my first night out. Wow!
Sneak down while the crew are chundering and turn off the Nav lights. (and the compass light!). You'll love it! You will find you still see the white caps and most of the waves unless its reallllly dark and then you just feel the waves and after a while you can steer quite well.
You may even have phosphorescence in the waves.

Now you've had your first over nighter you will love each of them. They are unique and wonderful! :) Stuffed if I know why so many people hate them. Bonkers.


Mark
 

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I love steering by the stars. Being out at night is surreal and awesome (unless it's stormy and terrifying:). Watching a bright moon come up from the horizon and light up the sea is a wondrous thing.
 

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One year ago I was watching the Perseid Meteor Shower 5 days/nights north of Maui. :)

If anyone can get a night sail in, now is the time to do it. Get away from the light pollution.

Watching moonrise especially through clouds is great. But a moonless night really lets you see the stars.
 

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Wonderful story. Man oh man, your description and wonderment made me miss the ocean! Superior must have its own ways, like any big body of water. It feels magical to me. But I haven't done an overnighter on it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
It was magical, the red and the green water running back over the dodger and over the crew! So cold, but just beautiful.

I loved the trance. I was happy that my watch-mate fell asleep, I loved being out there on my own. It was quite a thing to take a moment to look around, see nothing, look back at the compass and see that I was already off by 15º.

Fair weather sailing is nice, but wow, I think I like the terrible weather stuff better.
 

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Hi Minnesail, congrats on the beautiful sail. I love Superior at night. Put 30 miles behind the keel and there's nothing but water sky and stars. All the Great Lakes are quite temperamental, especially Superior, but it's great when you can get a nice weather window to do a big hop like yours without getting beat up too bad.

On my last crossing (west to east from Thunder Bay to the eastern shore) I would lay on my back in the cockpit, let Aries do the steering, and just soak in the night sky. Oh so many stars...
 

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Sailing at night can be exhilarating as you describe. I think you will find that being fixated on the compass will become tiring after it is not new. As you gain experience you will be able to hold a course with a light touch on the wheel, feeling the rudder interact with the water and the hull reacting to the wind while watching a star or a cloud if during the day.

You will feel like you are part of the boat and keep a better lookout.

It’s all good!
 

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Congrats, Lake Superior is spectacular. You have spoiled yourself! The other Great Lakes are not so "Great" after sailing Superior.

I miss the clean, fresh water, remoteness, wilderness, weather challenges, pristine crusing... I even miss the Lake Superior fog.... but I do not miss the cold. Brrrrrrr.

Sent from my GT-P3113 using Tapatalk 2
 

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Discussion Starter #11
It was cold, water temp was around 45º brrr!

I know I've been told to avoid "compass lock" but I don't think I could have sailed any other way that first night. It was thick overcast and there was a light fog so there were no features to look at.

The second night was also completely overcast with light fog, but the wind and waves were calmer and I could kind of drive by the feel of the wind.

Finally the third night the clouds broke and I could drive to a star or the moon. Glorious! I love Mark's idea turning off all the lights.

It turns out I'm a huge fan of night sailing. I tended to show up for my watch a bit early and stay a bit late. The other guys were thanking me for letting them get more sleep, I was thanking them for letting me have more time at the helm!

I do have to learn to manage my sleep better though. I let myself get quite sleep deprived, which would not be good on a longer run.
 

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I love when you are far from land that you are able to see a whole nother layer of the stars that you will never see on land.
 

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Sounds like you got your "IFR" certification. (Instrument Flight Rating)
The Great Lakes seem far more angry than the Chesapeake Bay where I sail, so I salute you.

2 weeks ago, I did the Eastport to Solomon's race overnight. Huge moon all night long, beautiful sky.

This weekend, I crewed in the 40th annual Governor's Cup. No moon at all, away from the light pollution, so we had meteors, Milky Way, stars galore, and luminescent jellies.

This is my 3rd year doing these night races.
 

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Burying the bow like that can certainly cause fillings to fall out of your teeth! Good on 'ya for not bailing! You may want to avoid staring at the compass. Instead, rotate your attention through compass hdg, speed, depth, AWS, AWA, sail trim, rudder angle, horizon fwd, left, right, astern. I get nauseous quickly just looking down.

We did the MD Governor's Cup Friday night. I started driving at 0100 beating in 15-18 kts AWS on a calm Chesapeake Bay. The Milky Way was out, a ton of stars everywhere, and shooting stars overhead. The jellyfish were phosphorescent and danced along the port side as we slid along at 5-6 kts. Most of the crew was zoned out or asleep and it was just me and the trimmer in silence, occasionally shining a light on the telltales. Pure magic. I hear 'ya.
 
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