The thought of sailing at night frightened me until I actually did it.  I never sailed offshore at night before I started our circumnavigation.  Daytime sailing wasn't a problem; it was nocturnal hobgoblins that stirred up fear.

When we were children, one of the first fears we conquered was fear of the dark.  Nevertheless, people who haven't been afraid of the dark for fifty years sometimes go catatonic when they sail offshore at night.  They simply can't bear the thought of sailing into the inky blackness.

For those of you overwhelmed by fear, there's good news.  Sailing at night is easier and more comfortable than sailing in the day - at least that's the way it is on Exit Only, and here's some reasons why.

1.  It dark outside, and it's easier to fall asleep when you're off watch.

2.  Your bunk is cooler after the hot tropical sun goes down,  You might even need to use a sheet to keep

3.  We slow the boat down at night so the ride is more comfortable.  There's less bouncing around to cope
     with than in the daytime when we sail with more intensity.

4.  We reduce our sail before sunset.  We don't go on deck at night to raise or lower the main.  When the
     sun goes down, we put one or two reefs in the mainsail.  Safety is our number one priority on Exit Only,
     and even with reduced sail area at night, we still get our 150 miles per day.  On Exit Only, when the sun
     goes down, the main goes down, and when the sun comes up, the main goes up.  It's safe, it's sensible,
     and it's comfortable.  After all, we aren't racing through paradise.

5.  It's easy to see navigation lights from oncoming ships when you check around the horizon.  It's much
     easier to detect ships at night than in the daytime.  Their lights warn you of their presence.  Our closest
     encounters with shipping always occur in the daytime when ships sometimes blend in with the horizon. 
     At night, their lights pierce the darkness, and it's easier to detect their presence.

6.  Navigation lights quickly reveal whether a ship is coming directly at us or will pass by at a safe distance.
     When I first sailed at night, I found the different patterns of navigation lights to be confusing.  I tried to
     memorize all the different patterns of navigation lights like I was preparing for a test in medical school. 
     Fortunately, I quickly discovered that ships have fore and aft white steaming lights that instantly tell me
     whether I am in harm's way.  If the fore and aft lights are vertically aligned with each other, then the
     ship is coming directly toward me.  If the white lights are vertically separated, then the ship will pass
     safely to one side.  The red and green running lights are much more difficult to see than the white lights,
     and I can see the white lights farther off.  That gives me more time to change course if the white steaming
     lights are vertically aligned.  In the day time, there are no lights to see, and it's harder to tell the ships
     course using only my eyes.  In daylight, I may need to turn on the radar to see if a ship is coming down an
     estimated bearing line on a collision course.

7.  Night vision binoculars let you see the loom of lights from ships even before they come over the horizon
     If the weather is bad or if there is substantial haze, we may use our night vision binoculars to detect ship's
     lights at night.  The light amplification available with night vision binoculars mean that during the night you
     may be able to detect ships easier and farther away than you could in the same conditions during the

8   We run radar at night to track squalls and monitor nearby shipping.  You can easily detect rain
     squalls and follow shipping in your small patch of paradise.  Radar levels the playing field and keeps you
     honest.  In the daytime you sometimes rely on your eyeballs when you should rely on your radar.  At night,
     we turn on the radar when there is reduced visibility or squally weather.  The radar makes us more aware
     of our surroundings and keeps us out of denial.  If there's something out there on radar, we deal with it.

9.  After sunset, we view a DVD and eat popcorn as a family activity before night watches start in earnest
     Rather than dreading the darkness, we look forward to a couple of hours of entertainment  after the sun
     goes down.

10. Our night watches are civilized.  The most sleepy person climbs in his/her bunk and instantly falls
      asleep.  The person who is the most awake and alert takes watch until he becomes sleepy, and then he
      wakes up a rested crew member to assume watch.

Sailing offshore at night is both restful and safe.  Give offshore night sailing a try.  It's safer than you think, and you might even enjoy it.