Sailing at night and in fog
- Check whether intended destination can be entered at night (port harbour lit
? presence of ships moorings, yacht moorings, lit/unlit fish farms in approaches
- Quite often beneficial to approach a strange port during daylight before
subsequent night time approaches
- Check whether crew are red green colour blind - a surprisingly large
number of people are and this will affect their ability to follow the
Collision Regulations, and possibly safe navigation of channels buoyed with
red and green laterals.
- High level lights (tri-colour more visible than pulpit and pushpit mounted
lights - particularly when the boat is heeled under sail when one of the side
lights will be directing onto the surface of the sea!)
- Check crew have adequate clothing for proposed night passage - higher risk
of hypothermia at night. Bodies efficiency hits a low point in the early
- Ensure crew are equipped with harnesses and ensure they are used during night
(heavy weather and on other occasions determined by the skipper)
- Snack food and nuts to help boost flagging energy, and help generate heat
- Passing the time - walkman
- Ask crew to repeat back the course (you donít want them steering the wrong
course whilst you are asleep)
- Remind them to wake you if there is anything they are concerned about
- Clip on before going up to the cockpit
- Know on the hatch boards, and allow the person on watch to open the hatch
- when there are no big waves in the vicinity ready to find there way below
- Consider reducing sail (if crew cannot do alone, e.g. they can readily
furl/unfurl a genoa but the mainsail may be a two handed affair)
- Check hours of daylight - if harbour anchorage can only be entered during
hours of daylight. Some locks only operate during daylight hours (e.g. Glasson
- Devise a watch system and brief crew on system adopted (find out more
about watch keeping systems)
- Check operation of navigation lights before setting off (get into habit of
checking whilst on passage)
Expect the unexpected.
It's worth listening to the local VHF broadcasts by harbour authorities, and
checking the NavText here are a few strange experiences the editor's had whilst
sailing various boats:
- Some years ago we had to avoid sailing at night for a few weeks as a ship had
had its cargo of hardwood washed over the side during a storm. Six months later
during daylight we struck some semi submerged hardwood which removed a skin
fitting from under the boat.
- Had to call up a harbour authority one dark night, as
the boat drew into the coast just west of a reef we came upon the west cardinal
whose light was not functioning.
- Have known navigational buoys to break off their moorings during swell during
periods of bad weather.
- One night sailing toward Guernsey a message was issued advising that the Royal Navy had lost a
practice mine ! It was found by the local lifeboat the
- One winter we made contact with a largish object in the water - a dull
thud which made
the bow rise in the water. Consensus of opinion was that we had
collided with the carcass of a cow - some cattle having been washed off a ship a
few days before.
- Advised by NaxText to be aware of solo kayaker finishing a transatlantic
crossing - who was approaching western side of the British
Isles in an unlit craft !
Sailing In Fog
The concerns with fog are making a safe landfall, avoiding collision with
other vessels, avoiding a MOB (man overboard) situation
- Shift waypoints so that you
are not heading directly at but say 0.5 nmls off a headland or navigational
- White collision
flares - keep where they are readily accessed.
- Reduce unnecessary sound (e.g. turn stereo deck off)
- Reduce speed so that you can stop in half the visible distance (though not
adopted by many commercial vessels!)
- Fog horns (signals), air horns versus electrical
- Keep outside or to very edge of channels used by shipping.
- Lights on,
- Keep a lookout (in all directions).
- Sound doesn't necessarily travel in a straight line.
- Types of fog.
- Following contours.
- Change your
destination if entrance contains hazards and relies on use of transits etc to
make a safe approach.
- Make sure pilotage plan ready as you wont be able to see
boat drift whilst trying to work out where you are and in which direction you
should go. If having to stop remember that the tide will still be carrying the
boat over the ground.
- Partially furl the genoa to ensure you have visibility
underneath it's foot - there may be little warning. Expect the unexpected
commercial ship going against direction of traffic. Ireland - Salmon nets.
course constant and if making changes make them bold - so that ship's watch
keepers can more readily plot the boats position and judge whether avoiding
action is required.
- Plan to avoid TRS schemes when possible.
- Call up harbour control to see
whether there are any commercial ship movements in the area, or within the
harbour that you intend to enter or leave.
- Consider delaying your departure.
- Avoiding anchoring in vicinity of a fairway.
- Delay entry into estuary until
localised mist has burnt off.
- Recognised ships anchorages (e.g. east of Point
Lynas in Anglesey).
- If your boat is not equipped with a radar, consider fitting a
anti-collision device which is activated by another vessels radar beam. The
CARD system gives a visual and audible warning, the Watchman an audible