In the dark

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ash
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In the dark

Postby ash » Mon Sep 03, 2012 2:22 pm

Our attendance at the protest demo against the closure of CCG meant that we travelled back to Kip in the dark - a new experience for us.

During the first part of the journey when there were lots of boats around, it was still light enough to see them.

During the next bit towards the Cloch, there was a boat ahead and inshore of us which we were slowly overtaking - it was interesting to see her visible lights change from white to white and green and then to green - I couldn't see a steaming light though I'm fairly sure from her course that she wasn't sailing.

The Western Ferries are a blaze of working lights so you can see them but I couldn't pick out their nav lights.

It was very cloudy so there was no help from the moon but I could still just see the waves if I stood up so that the sprayhood hid the light from the bulkhead compass.

The Kip chimney made it easy to hold a course.

I knew from the earlier journey that there were no pot buoys so only had to worry about the big grey mooring buoy and the red racing mark just north of Kip entrance. I used the handheld GPS to follow a reverse of my previous course.

The boat that we overtook moved offshore to directly behind us so you see her lights change between green and red as her heading moved. I think that she had a bi - colour so the change was more of a twinkle rather than 2 lights appearing and disappearing.

Kip has a flashing green just off the entrance which was a help but we were on it quite quickly - it's difficult to judge distance - is it dim and close or bright and far away?

Kip have floodlights on their building which seem to shine right into your eyes as you enter the narrow entrance - I found it very difficult to see the walls - the crew seems to have better night vision so she kept me right.

We waited until we were in the marina before fitting fenders. Our fenders are fairly big - when rigged they almost touch the water. The crew found it difficult to judge the distance in the darkness, and one slipped out of her cold fingers when it touched the water. We decided that we wouldn't attempt to recover it ( we found it the next morning, and they're now marked with boat name, and berth number )

Turning into our aisle, I found that one of the walkway lights shone into my eyes.

I got into my berth OK though it wasn't as tidy as it might have been.

It was good to have done it, and means that we will be more confident if we have to make an unexpected return to our berth.

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marisca
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Re: In the dark

Postby marisca » Mon Sep 03, 2012 2:38 pm

Well, you have probably experienced the worst part of night sailing with a totally overcast sky, shore lights, car tail and headlights, and some rather idiosyncratic light displays by the boats at the "demo". If you can get away from those distractions night sailing can become a wonderful experience with navigation lights pinpointing your position and course and other vessels being obvious from a great distance. Dark nights can have phosphorescence, bright nights stars. Unfortunately, you got none of that last Friday.

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Re: In the dark

Postby Ocklepoint » Mon Sep 03, 2012 6:01 pm

Well done

It sounds as if you had really poor conditions for a first night sail, all the background light can be very confusing. We were in the upper Forth one night and didn't manage to see a ship coming straight at us until the last moment. Her lights had seemed fixed against a background of Grangemouth's bright industrial lights, many of different colours and many flashing.

As ever the learned Marisca is correct. Sailing at night gets very much more enjoyable as you escape the bright lights. Try a little circumnavigation of Cumbrae. Plenty of darkness round the west side but enough easily identified buoys and lighthouses. The only oddity is the unlit south cardinal buoy at the western entrance to the Cumbrae Pass

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Re: In the dark

Postby ubergeekian » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:33 am

[quote="marisca"]If you can get away from those distractions night sailing can become a wonderful experience with navigation lights pinpointing your position and course and other vessels being obvious from a great distance. Dark nights can have phosphorescence, bright nights stars. /quote]

I agree. In fact, I enjoy sailing at night more than during the day. When looking for crew I always want to find people who are (a) happy to do night passages and (b) happy to let me hog the midnight - 6am stint.
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Re: In the dark

Postby Rowana » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:10 am

ubergeekian wrote:
marisca wrote:If you can get away from those distractions night sailing can become a wonderful experience with navigation lights pinpointing your position and course and other vessels being obvious from a great distance. Dark nights can have phosphorescence, bright nights stars.


I agree. In fact, I enjoy sailing at night more than during the day. When looking for crew I always want to find people who are (a) happy to do night passages and (b) happy to let me hog the midnight - 6am stint.



When on overnight passages, my favoutites are those which cover the sun going down and rising in the morning, especially the morning. There is no better feeling IMHO, than watching the first grey light on the eastern horizon, and then seeing the sun appear. Wonderful.
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Re: In the dark

Postby Telo » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:55 am

Gets gey cold around 0400.

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Re: In the dark

Postby ubergeekian » Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:30 pm

Shard wrote:Gets gey cold around 0400.


Doesn't it just? Funny how very much darker 0400BST feels than 2200BST.
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Re: In the dark

Postby Clyde_Wanderer » Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:06 pm

One of the enjoyements of friday nights return passage to Millport was spotting and recognising various nav lights.
As mentioned sometimes you think you are much further away from a lateral mark than you actually are, I think red seems more decieving than the greens.
The finnal leg into Milli bay was interesting as we verified the leading lights with the transit line on the plotter, both of which makes you believe you are closer to the Luig and Spoig (pronounced locally as Lug and Spug) south of the visitors moorings.
I prefer to move off a few deg to north to be sure to be sure, and this keeps the depth finder happy.
Notice a white flashing light on the NW side of wee Cumbrae, keep forgetting to check it when charts are at hand.
Had a very close shave with the S Cardinal comming the Tan a few years ago while on someone elses boat during a S gale, was unnerved to look almost directly up and see the triangles sillouted against the sky.
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Re: In the dark

Postby ubergeekian » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:05 pm

Clyde_Wanderer wrote:The finnal leg into Milli bay was interesting


I did it (effectively) on my own one night last year, under sail, which was an interesting experience. Coming from the west it takes an awful long time until the leading lights appear - not at all the route I (and I guess you) would take in during the day. As I wrote, I love sailing at night (this is an offer to anyone wanting crew for a night passage!) but I much prefer to be well away from land till it gets light.
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Re: In the dark

Postby Clyde_Wanderer » Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:44 pm

ubergeekian wrote:
Clyde_Wanderer wrote:The finnal leg into Milli bay was interesting


I did it (effectively) on my own one night last year, under sail, which was an interesting experience. Coming from the west it takes an awful long time until the leading lights appear - not at all the route I (and I guess you) would take in during the day. As I wrote, I love sailing at night (this is an offer to anyone wanting crew for a night passage!) but I much prefer to be well away from land till it gets light.


UB do you mean approaching the bay from the east ie from the hunterston chnl?
When doing that I continue down until I pass HUN 9 leaving it to sb, then gradually altering course to sb while also making way south, once I arrive at leading line on plotter I turn west into the bay.
If you are describing approaching the bay while comming in from west through the Tan, then yes it is a fair slog up to intersect the leading line before adjusting cog to 333deg, but comming from that side I would go between the islands and west bay shore north up to pier.
Done it one night last season at 2230 from my mooring at Fairlie, desperate for a pint! :oops: :)
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Re: In the dark

Postby ubergeekian » Wed Sep 05, 2012 8:16 am

Clyde_Wanderer wrote:If you are describing approaching the bay while comming in from west through the Tan, then yes it is a fair slog up to intersect the leading line before adjusting cog to 333deg, but comming from that side I would go between the islands and west bay shore north up to pier.


From the west. Turning in sooner wasn't an option, partly because I was scared to do it (rocks!!!!!) but mainly because the wind direction was much better for the leading line.
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Re: In the dark

Postby sahona » Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:19 am

Re Millport - Is my memory playing tricks or was the cathedral tower clock illuminated a few years ago?
It was a great guide to the leading lights which were a bit dodgy before being upgraded. (remember that lamp-post with the red glass in front of the blue shop...)
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Re: In the dark

Postby Bodach na mara » Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:40 pm

"I knew from the earlier journey that there were no pot buoys so only had to worry about the big grey mooring buoy and the red racing mark just north of Kip entrance. I used the handheld GPS to follow a reverse of my previous course."

We knew (from nearly motoring over it on the way out) that there was one of the feckers well offshore from Cardwell Bay. It was marked with a small (about 5 inch) red buoy and I did not see it until it was abeam and about six feet from us. Going back, we kept rather closer inshore than I like to he eash point off the bay.

It was an impressive and interesting night and very instructive. Firing flares from a boat has a different feel to doing it in the back garden on bonfire night. I have long campaigned for there to be a "pyrotechnic amnesty" at some specific time(s) each year to allow us to experience the procedure. Hand flares do burn for what seems like a very long time, and the metal casing gets white hot, which raises the question of what to do with them when they burn out. Dipping, then dropping into a builders' bucket full of sea water was our solution. The parachute rockets were another hazzard and I worried particularly for the sailboarder with his plastic sail who was sailing around. Many of the parachute flares were still burning when they reached sea level and one seemed to drift to windward over the shoreline and landed behind the crowd, still burning. I am glad to read in the Argyll report link that there were no reports of accidents or casualties.

It was not a good night for a first night sail, but I cannot agree that there was no phosporescense. There was lots of it around us as we rowed ashore in the dinghy at Cardwell Bay. I have never before seen it actually on the weed on the slipway and it was visible despite the brightness of the streetlights.

The approach to Millport from either side is "interesting". As I usually forget to plan ahead to the extent of looking at the chart and finding leading lines until I am there, in the dark, with no clear idea of what I am looking for, my technique has always been to keep well to the Wee Cumbrae side if coming from the west or well offshore if from the east. Knowing when to turn for the moorings has demonstrated on several occasions that there is a providence that looks after fools, drunk men and little children and works overtime for me. I have yet to find the leading marks at night. The one on the pier is hard enough, but the one up the lamp post outside the bike shop I can barely pick out in daylight.
Ken

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Re: In the dark

Postby ash » Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:25 pm

I too had a bucket of water to cool the spent hand held. I hope that no one simply tossed them overboard. I wanted to have a bucket of water on hand in case we had to deal with a fallen parachute.

I left the spent hand held in the bucket until we got back to our berth but I mistakenly knocked it over before I could deal with it. The water stank strongly of sulphur.

I wonder if the event would have been allowed to happen if the wind was on shore?

Years ago, on 5 Nov, I fired off two expired parachute flares which came with the Leisure 17. It was in the country, miles from the sea. The first one was fine - floating down gently and dark by the time it hit the ground. The parachute must have failed to open on the second and fell very quickly and was still burning fiercely when it hit the ground - I was a bit worried about the farmers hedge but it survived. I wouldn't want it to land on a boat. I was taken aback by the amount of recoil.

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Re: In the dark

Postby MrMcP » Thu Sep 06, 2012 11:03 am

My first night sail as skipper was not at all what I expected. I'd done crew duties at night before, but the course, nav etc was all taken care of so I didn't really learn much.

So, 2009 and we'd entered the SIPR. Bit windy... Ran the Mull leg, jumped back on board as the night closed in, set off for Jura. Crew were me, Mrs McP and a good friend from work with years of west coast cruising experience who I'd (mistakenly) assumed had done night passages. I'm colour blind which really helps with identifying marks. We made it out of Salen fine and the darkness rolled in. First few discoveries were that the plotter at the helm, even on lowest illumination, is a royal PITA for night vision. So switched it off and had the charts ready at the table instead. It was a long beat to Duart, and the background street lights at Lochaline were hugely distracting. As per Ash's comments, judging distance was enormously inaccurate. More difficult and stressful though was trying to identify other boats, what tack they were on, their heading (lots of variation in how high they could point) and how close to cross. From the number of torches on mainsails, others felt we were probably getting a bit too close. It pretty quickly settled into a routine of me helming and dealing with a single known nearby mark, Mrs McP on spotter duties for nearby/crossing boats, with Tony backing us both up and planing the best next tack/course. As a first time night sail for all 3 of us it was extremely intense, but the runners down below commented in the morning that it all sounded very efficient and calm, so perhaps we did something right.

On a more pleasant note, night sails through Luing and onwards down the sound of Jura have been a delight - it's like watching a runway open up in front of you once you identify the marks and start to see the channel they guide you through. That day we had the pleasure of approaching the summer isles at Craighouse just as the first sun started to peek through, accompanied by a friendly pod of dolphins all around. Magical.

That 0400 chill is pretty severe though - but the coffee tastes even better. :)

My main problem with night sails is tiredness, or more specifically my response to tiredness. As mentioned earlier I'm colour blind, so have to use light sequences to separate marks. But when I get tired numbers are the first thing I struggle with, so remembering which sequence of numbers equates to which mark becomes increasingly difficult. I stick a white plastic sheet somewhere near the helm with a waterproof marker pen so I can scribble them down as they come into sight - otherwise I stay stressed that I'm either forgetting sequences or muddling up the order and the experience is ruined.


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