Tom Cunliffe has sailed tens of thousands of miles around the world, thousands of them at night. He gives his ten top tips for night sailing
Ten tips for night sailing
1. Make your first night sail in familiar waters with a full moon to make things easier.
2. Remember that the dark hours are very short in June and early July.
3. Set a quiet timer for half an hour to wake you if you do fall asleep on watch.
4. Do not use AIS, MARPA or waypoint alarms on a plotter after dark if you don’t know how to disable the alarms. The strident ‘lost contact’ buzzer will ruin the off-watch crew’s chance of sleep.
5. Keep a knife and a torch to hand in your pocket.
6. If in doubt, shorten sail at sunset for a quiet night.
7. Charge batteries in the afternoon and watch your power consumption so you don’t need to wake everyone up with the engine at night.
8. So long as you know the main light patterns well, don’t worry about remembering them all. They’re all in the almanac.
9. Don’t clatter your harness on deck when moving around. It will waken a sleeper as effectively as a waypoint alarm or a thoughtlessly rattled winch.
10. Make sure the ensign isn’t draped over the stern light when entering or leaving harbour and take it in at sea.