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First Time Navigating at Night . . .

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  • First Time Navigating at Night . . .

    We took a crew of people on my brother's (new-to-him) Grady-White 305 to the Fireworks display in Falmouth, MA last night. They have a barge anchored off of Falmouth Heights and hundreds of boats go out to see the show. Previously, we had always watched the fireworks from shore.

    ​This, of course, required that we navigate back from the fireworks at night (about 10-10:30 PM) Neither my brother nor I had navigated at night. We had mapped out a route on the GPS and planned to follow our 'track' on the GPS on the way back. It was about a 45 minute boat ride doing 30-35 mph on the way over in the daylight/dusk. . . . it took a while longer on the way back.

    ​The tricky part was getting through Woods Hole in darkness and then navigating in the harbor itself as we got close to the marina where he slips his boat. My brother had used various buoys along the way as waypoints, which proved to be a mistake . . . we basically were heading right for the buoys Some were lighted (red or green flashing) and some were not lighted at all At one point we went right by an unlighted buoy at 32 mph missing it by about 20 feet. The boat has a spot light with remote control . . . of course shining a light to find buoys, etc. proved to actually reduce the visibility.

    ​In the marina itself, we got ourselves mixed up in a mooring field instead of the channel . . . eventually managed to get out of it.

    ​A few lessons learned . . . Put the waypoints about 100-200 feet away from the buoys or in the middle of a channel. . . Bring a high powered handheld spotlight, as the remote controlled light was not all that effective. . . . the GPS is a bit hard to read while also navigating (steering) the boat, I suppose that will take practice.

    ​Overall, it was a decent experience, but probably will be a lot better next time around. I think I'll take my boat out at dusk to get some more experience in night-time navigation.
    Best regards, Ted . . . . Cape Cod, MA

    Formula 330 Sun Sport, O'Day Mariner Sail #3224, Sunfish
    Past Boats: Catalina 22 Sail #10531, Formula 242 Sun Sport
    Twin Mercruiser 7.4 LX MPI (0F802036, 039), Bravo 3's (0F806198, 199), Mercury 7.5 HP (1969), Johnson 4.5 HP (1980)

    My Boating Web Pages: http://www.tpenfield.com

    Member of the Month - February 2013

  • #2
    I keep seeing boats with truck-style light bars for hunting, so I bought some LED work style lights from Princess Auto (Canada's version of Harbour Freight maybe?), I was planning on installing them on the boat, in case I get stuck at night in one outing, just need to figure out where to put them.

    I do have a high powered Milwaukee spot light I can bring with me, but I'd like to think I can make it with the spotlights.
    1985 Sunray Catalina - 70hp Johnson Seahorse

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    • #3
      Most people make the mistake of trying to use a plotter to steer rather than position verification.

      Your eyes are your primarily navigational tool. Once your eyes have acclimated to the darkness, you can see surprisingly well for considerable distances. Can pick out crab pots on all but the darkest of nights.

      You loose peripheral vision at night. Continually scan the horizon in front of you. Use the chartplotter to conform what your seeing. If it's too dark to see, it's too dark to be out there w/o radar

      Use no light whatsoever. Your eyes take 15-20 minutes for retina to acclimate to darkness after each encounter with light.

      Set your chart plotter for auto-night mode. My helm even has red backlighting and a red/white option on the cockpit light to keep glare to a minimum.
      ....

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      • #4
        Originally posted by REN3G8 View Post
        I keep seeing boats with truck-style light bars for hunting, so I bought some LED work style lights from Princess Auto (Canada's version of Harbour Freight maybe?), I was planning on installing them on the boat, in case I get stuck at night in one outing, just need to figure out where to put them.

        I do have a high powered Milwaukee spot light I can bring with me, but I'd like to think I can make it with the spotlights.
        In my limited experience, I found that more light coming from the boat resulted in less visibility rather than more. It is also my understanding this it is not 'legal' to run with anything other than navigation lights.
        Best regards, Ted . . . . Cape Cod, MA

        Formula 330 Sun Sport, O'Day Mariner Sail #3224, Sunfish
        Past Boats: Catalina 22 Sail #10531, Formula 242 Sun Sport
        Twin Mercruiser 7.4 LX MPI (0F802036, 039), Bravo 3's (0F806198, 199), Mercury 7.5 HP (1969), Johnson 4.5 HP (1980)

        My Boating Web Pages: http://www.tpenfield.com

        Member of the Month - February 2013

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        • #5
          At one point we went right by an unlighted buoy at 32 mph missing it by about 20 feet.
          ​You were going 32 mph, at night, unsure of your whereabouts, and never boated at night. You are dang lucky you did not hurt yourselves or somebody else. Even myself, boating a lot at night, would not even consider going fast at night. glad I did not see you that night, I may have gave you a stern talking to.
          If ya can't fix it with a hammer,ya got yourself an electrical problem.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Grub54891 View Post
            At one point we went right by an unlighted buoy at 32 mph missing it by about 20 feet.
            ​You were going 32 mph, at night, unsure of your whereabouts, and never boated at night. You are dang lucky you did not hurt yourselves or somebody else. Even myself, boating a lot at night, would not even consider going fast at night. glad I did not see you that night, I may have gave you a stern talking to.
            We were traversing the bay of about 10 miles of open water, which we regularly travel in daylight . . . surprisingly, we were one of the slowest boats out there . . . but if you were out there, you would have been talking to our stern

            My biggest fear is hitting something in the water that you would normally be able to see, and hopefully avoid, in the daylight (floating log/piling, etc. ) Of course the slower you go, the longer it takes to get there . . . sort of a balance as to what is a 'safe' speed.

            I'm sure that buoy would have left a mark had we been 20 more feet to port. I think next time, I'll make sure the route is marked far enough away from the buoys
            Last edited by tpenfield; July 5th, 2017, 08:56 PM.
            Best regards, Ted . . . . Cape Cod, MA

            Formula 330 Sun Sport, O'Day Mariner Sail #3224, Sunfish
            Past Boats: Catalina 22 Sail #10531, Formula 242 Sun Sport
            Twin Mercruiser 7.4 LX MPI (0F802036, 039), Bravo 3's (0F806198, 199), Mercury 7.5 HP (1969), Johnson 4.5 HP (1980)

            My Boating Web Pages: http://www.tpenfield.com

            Member of the Month - February 2013

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            • #7
              FWIW - I took a look at the chart covering the route that we took. The only thing I can see on the chart that we would have come near is a Green #1 buoy with Green flashing light (4 seconds) . . . the only thing is that there was no light flashing . . . just a basic green can.

              The red dotted line was our route as best I can tell.
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              I'm thinking the best thing would be to either plan the route well away from the buoys or slow down as you get near them and can locate them with the spot light, then move on to the next navigation point.
              Best regards, Ted . . . . Cape Cod, MA

              Formula 330 Sun Sport, O'Day Mariner Sail #3224, Sunfish
              Past Boats: Catalina 22 Sail #10531, Formula 242 Sun Sport
              Twin Mercruiser 7.4 LX MPI (0F802036, 039), Bravo 3's (0F806198, 199), Mercury 7.5 HP (1969), Johnson 4.5 HP (1980)

              My Boating Web Pages: http://www.tpenfield.com

              Member of the Month - February 2013

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              • #8
                My first question is why are you passing on the outside (right) of a green channel bouy?

                G1 is a channel boundary marker. Not listed as being out of service on Notice to Mariners.
                Are you sure you didn't pass G3?
                ....

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                • #9
                  32 MPH at night? Sorry, I don't care if you travel those waters 10 times during the day, 32 MPH is not safe at night. So what if you are the slowest out there.
                  1998 Wellcraft Eclipse 24 Cuddy
                  Volvo Penta Duo-Prop 7.4L "LK"

                  2006 Sun Tracker Party Barge 21
                  Mercury 90 4-Stroke FI
                  "Common sense is not very common"
                  "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." -- John Wooden

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                  • #10
                    Thanks for the comments guys. It definitely was not G3 that we passed, because we actually were able to spot G3 by moonlight, so my assumption is that it had to be G1. It marks a shallow water area. We were looking for the green flashing light, but never saw it and then passed it in close proximity.

                    G3 is the outer buoy for the next harbor, if you are inside of G3 you are very close to exposed rocks that are near shore.

                    Yea, I did not mark the course, nor drive the boat. ( not my boat )

                    What would you collectively say is a safe speed at night ?
                    Best regards, Ted . . . . Cape Cod, MA

                    Formula 330 Sun Sport, O'Day Mariner Sail #3224, Sunfish
                    Past Boats: Catalina 22 Sail #10531, Formula 242 Sun Sport
                    Twin Mercruiser 7.4 LX MPI (0F802036, 039), Bravo 3's (0F806198, 199), Mercury 7.5 HP (1969), Johnson 4.5 HP (1980)

                    My Boating Web Pages: http://www.tpenfield.com

                    Member of the Month - February 2013

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Safe speed at night, Is for me, just above idle, I once was going a bit faster, around 15mph and it was a full moon, actually bright out. Long story short, I saw a flicker ahead of me, it was a paddle boat that I would have hit, but they flicked a lighter and I saw the spark. The waves and reflections hid them from us. Yeah, they should have had lights, and it was an inland lake. Out in open water like you were, the speed in my opinion was a little much, them kyackers are out in the big lake around here also, with no light of any kind.
                      If ya can't fix it with a hammer,ya got yourself an electrical problem.

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                      • #12
                        Thanks, I did a bit of reading over on THT, as those guys tend to do more night boating.

                        The concensus is about 10 knots tops for speed - "don't go any faster than the speed at which you are willing to hit something" .

                        A lot of talk about use of handheld LED tactical spot lights vs. the boat's spot light. Night vision goggles as well.

                        I am wondering if my FLIR One iPhone camera would be useful I might have to try that out.
                        Best regards, Ted . . . . Cape Cod, MA

                        Formula 330 Sun Sport, O'Day Mariner Sail #3224, Sunfish
                        Past Boats: Catalina 22 Sail #10531, Formula 242 Sun Sport
                        Twin Mercruiser 7.4 LX MPI (0F802036, 039), Bravo 3's (0F806198, 199), Mercury 7.5 HP (1969), Johnson 4.5 HP (1980)

                        My Boating Web Pages: http://www.tpenfield.com

                        Member of the Month - February 2013

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The others have said it- running that speed at night is simply insane. Sorry, Ted, but that's the kind of behavior that gets people killed.

                          As for routing, my plotted routes vary. If my route follows a narrow channel, I plot more or less up the middle. If the channel is very wide, I'm more inclined to plot from marker to marker, as I want a visual confirmation that I am where I think I am. During the day it's no issue. I don't need to follow the plot line precisely- I can see whether or not I'm in the channel. At night using the charplotter (and traveling at 7 or 8 mph) I can easily tell when I'm approaching a marker. At that point I switch on the handheld spotlight and confirm that it's there. Adjust course as needed, switch off the light and go on to the next marker.

                          My .02
                          Last edited by JoLin; July 6th, 2017, 08:10 AM.
                          John and Linda
                          Long Island, NY
                          Escapade III
                          1992 Carver 26 Command Bridge
                          Twin Merc Alpha 4.3 'Gen +'

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                          • #14
                            I don't want to make it sound like more than it is, but I do some night time boating on Priest Lake. Not the ocean by any stretch, but has channel markers and nav aids on it. I use Navionics to plot me through the route back to the marina. I'm familiar with quite a bit of the lake, but not all of it for certain. AND because it's an impounded river, it does change some from time to time. I set waypoints off the bouy I want to pass by several yards. In some areas I won't know where to look, so I'll have to keep watch to see it - but most of the time, I know roughly where I am and have a pretty good guess at where the can is (ours are not lit).

                            I don't think I've felt comfortable over 10MPH, and probably take my time doing more like 7. REGULARLY - and I mean regularly enough that it limits how often I do go out at night - I get passed by bass boats full tear at less than 50ft. I can't believe how many people drop the throttle and run in the dark - and amazingly, I can't believe how few incidents there are reported as a result. Even with the debris we get washing downriver after a rain, people are blazing their way across the water in the dark.

                            Nav and instrument lights only for me. I carry a good flashlight, but nothing more. I've considered putting a spot in the glove box, but rarely would need it. While underway, it's best to work with just your eyes. Close in to the pier, there's usually enough shore light but occasionally I've needed the flashlight depending on where I'm landing.

                            Not sure if I'd like NVGs. It still messes with your night vision - which out on the water I think is typically pretty good once you acclimate.
                            sigpic

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                            • #15
                              Sign up today
                              The night speed limit at one of the lakes I am on is 10MPH. Not even sure I would go that fast. At Lake Tahoe there is no speed limit and people are regularly travelling at planing speeds at night which is crazy. We have 1 foot diameter logs regularly floating out there especially now that the water is up and floating them off the beach. We even had a picnic table floating out there. Hit that at planing speed and the drive will get torn off. Ted, hopefully everyone in the boat had their life jackets on running at that speed.

                              I have a spotlight that I use only when I have trouble locating a buoy in shallow channels. Of course you always see the rookies out in the middle of the lake or ocean with their spotlights on.
                              1998 Wellcraft Eclipse 24 Cuddy
                              Volvo Penta Duo-Prop 7.4L "LK"

                              2006 Sun Tracker Party Barge 21
                              Mercury 90 4-Stroke FI
                              "Common sense is not very common"
                              "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." -- John Wooden

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