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Tips For Night Navigation

The day is totally sunny. Great for sailing. Everything is relaxed going at a good seven knots with a gentle crosswind. We spotted white sails barely two hundred meters away drawing a perfect line with one of our starboard side stanchions. The self-confident crew goes about their business, enjoying sailing and paying little attention to the new actor who bursts into the vast great blue.

This scene, which is offered to us on many occasions during any navigation, changes dramatically during night navigation. We cannot help but recognize that our attention increases when it comes to sailing at night. Those sails we saw on our starboard side would be replaced by an eerie red light. Our confidence coefficient is slightly reduced, despite having the latest electronic navigation technology on board. A simple incident during the day runs the risk of turning into an accident at night. Night navigation has its own rules that should be well known.

If we like to sail, we are almost condemned, in the good sense of the term, to sail at night. A 100-mile voyage inevitably means spending a night sailing. If we manage to master the techniques of night navigation, we will be able to enjoy one of the greatest pleasures that the sea offers us. On the other hand, we will also find positive factors, such as a better identification of the lighthouses, the pleasure of navigating with a sky full of stars or with the reflection of the moonlight, or even the sensation that navigating without seeing the waves. that hits our helmet. I have a good friend who always says that he prefers to tackle a storm at night than during the day for precisely this reason. Sometimes it is true that unconsciousness makes happiness …

Another variable that often determines the fact of sailing at night is that it is preferable to arrive at our destination during the day, especially if we do not know the port well, or simply because it is an anchorage that may be occupied by more ships, so our Anchoring maneuver will be more complicated.

In order to enjoy all this, we must properly prepare the boat, the crew, the organization of the guards, the safety regulations and the special navigation and maneuvering techniques.

Some tips for your eyesight

To identify a certain object, it is better not to look directly at it, but to wander the view observing it a few degrees apart.
We must continually doubt the colors we perceive. Avoid white lights and preferably use red lights, which do not destroy retinoic purple, to illuminate the chart table, compass and navigational instruments.
The crew member on duty must be relieved by another who has adapted to the darkness for at least a quarter of an hour. To keep the adaptation period as short as possible, it may be appropriate to create ‘indirect’ lighting inside the boat, for example by covering the light sources with aluminum foil. The view soon gets used to this soft light, which also creates an atmosphere conducive to relaxation for some and activity for others.
You have to eat carrots and blueberries. If they are stowed well, they will always be great, and their vitamin A content is excellent …

Prudence rules

Whatever the weather, we must never go out on deck without being equipped, that is, with warm clothing, with a life jacket, a harness on and with a flashlight (preferably frontal to have hands free). Remember not to shine directly on our companion on duty with that headlamp or flashlight to avoid blinding him.
From the moment we occupy our position, be it the helm or surveillance, we must always hook the harness carabiner to the lifeline.
We must never hook the carabiner to the shrouds, rings, or the compass guard arch or any other place that is not suitable.
We must avoid being left alone on deck.
It is preferable to do the watch with a minimum of two people.
Absolute prudence always, but especially at night with the possibility of a Man Overboard fall. When moving out of the bathtub we will always go with the lifeline and with one hand attached to a handrail.
I have the habit, especially when it comes to inexperienced crew members or students, who do not leave the safe environment of the bathtub under any circumstances

Benchmarks and posts

  • Lighthouse Book
  • The lights of the boats
  • Recognition of the sky and its stars
  • Electronics (Radar, Plotter-GPS, AIS)

The equipment

  • Indoor lighting, for chart table, binnacle, kitchen, etc.
  • Exterior deck lighting
  • Boat navigation lights and it is highly recommended to always carry an emergency light kit.

We hope that these brief tips will be useful to you, and we encourage you to enjoy the joys of night sailing on your next voyages. And if you want to take more practice, we have sailing cruises at your disposal throughout the year, and from initial level to oceanic. We will be delighted to have you on board, see you soon!


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Hello, my name’s Marvin Armstrong, maritime seaman and sailor by trade.

This blog, although it wasn't meant to be a blog, but rather the site about my maritime interest, has now expanded to be an expression of my own lifestyle itself where I cover my interests and discoveries.

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