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.
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
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
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
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.