Night Sail

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Night Sail

Stephen Davies 3471
This post was updated on .
I was recently considering a long cruise beginning overnight with a full moon.

The moon rises before dusk to a maximum elevation of 22° and sets at 6.23am WSW.

Sunrise 5.43am with nautical dawn at 4.18am.

All these details are cribbed from timeanddate.com .

Is there a rule of thumb as to how high the moon needs to be to shed any useful light?

The passage, which I won't be making, would be a wide estuary crossing, 5 1/2miles, with the far shore possibly unlit, but with lit channel markers, and a busy shipping lane ofcourse.

I would be carrying a single white light atop the mast, (or in my case gunter).

Does anyone have any thoughts on theoretical feasibility?

Although I don't any more intend to do this on this occasion, I think, with ideal conditions it could be as safe as daylight, and I would prefer a planned night sail at the start of a passage to an unplanned one at the end.

Many thanks,
Stephen
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Re: Night Sail

Alastair Law 2624
On 6 Mar 2019 at 7:50, Stephen Davies 3471 [via DCA Forum] wrote:

>
>
> I was recently considering a long cruise beginning overnight with a
> full moon.
>

When making passages I have a slight preference for travelling at
night. I find that, in busy waters like the channel, that it is often
easier to tell what other craft are doing from their lights. If in a
populated area then a background of land illumination can negate this
advantage, of course.

Assuming that there are sufficient lit navigation marks then
visibility, from moonlight, is not so important.

Modern electronics makes the whole thing vastly easier, of course.

--
Sail when you can, row when you must, motor only
when you have to be at work in the morning.

Alastair Law
Yeovil, England.
<http://www.little.jim.freeuk.com>


--
Sail when you can, row when you must, motor only
when you have to be at work in the morning.

Alastair Law
Yeovil, England.
<http://www.little.jim.freeuk.com>
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Re: Night Sail

Stephen Davies 3471
Thanks Alastair,

On the Medway I have found the buoyage confusing at night as the channel weaves through the riverbed, it is sometimes difficult to pick out the nearest one.
If I am crossing the estuary I think it will help if I can pick out the shoreline, but perhaps this won't be a problem. I look forward tò getting out more this year and seeing for myself.
For a start I may just "go take a look", and sail back.
S.
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Re: Night Sail

John Hughes 2457
In reply to this post by Stephen Davies 3471
Stephen, what you propose sounds perfectly feasible. My main concern would be safely to cross your busy shipping lane. I would want to be confident of sufficient breeze to get straight across as quickly as possible, and in addition to the masthead light I'd carry the brightest torch you can get hold of. I wouldn't count on moonlight - it might be cloudy. Sailing in the dark can be highly disorienting and confusing, even in familiar waters. Try to avoid using an outboard engine if possible: under sail you have the additional directional guidance of feeling the breeze on your cheek, and the significant advantage of lack of engine noise and being able to hear what is around you (especially changes in the sound of the water that might indicate wavelets breaking on shoals, etc.) I would certainly want to have memorized or have a clear handy note of the light characteristics of all the local buoys, and ideally I'd want to have made the crossing previously in daylight. Finally, in planning your departure time, as you yourself say, I would give priority to arriving at your destination with ample spare daylight.

John Hughes
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Re: Night Sail

Stephen Davies 3471
Dear John,

Thanks to your reply to my post, I have been intending to visit Essex in my Mirror since the DCA rally on the Colne last year. I set off last year, from my sailing club on the Medway, (completely unprepared), at 2am before high tide, but lack of wind, and having no means of rowing saw me at Sheerness 2hrs after HW and the wind still light, though forecast to freshen later, I thought better of it, and went round Sheppey instead. It was for the best, for as the wind freshened my crew lent on a rather rotten shroud which gave way.
I now have the boat in better condition with oars and rowlocks, I do not carry an outboard and have no intention of using one, I appreciate your encouragement in that regard.

I had, for a while, considered trying to reach another rally this year which was to involve an overnight trip, but I have now decided on the Blackwater rally, 8th and 9th June, I will set off after work on Thursday 6th, anchor in the small ships anchorage to the East of the Medway Approach Channel and set off ½ an hour before HW Friday which is 3.52am, I think it will already be lightening. I copy below an account of an overnight expedition around Sheppey to Faversham this month, which, (without crossing shipping lanes), gave me a feel for the thing.  I had not considered, but in the light of it, you are right, all the senses are needed for night sailing and it would be unhelpful to surrender any one of them.  The tides up Middle deep to the Whitaker run at up to 3kts on a spring, so with a little fair wind I should have no difficulty,  if wind plays silly beggars I will change my  plans.  I have written out a passage plan detailing the bearings and distances between the buoys.  I will carry a strong waterproof torch, compass and enough fresh water to get me to Holland if I get lost.  I will speak to VTS, (Harbourmaster), before setting off, and will keep a listening watch on VHF, but being unlicensed, I will not jabber.  My crew will embark nr Colchester or wherever I end up on Friday night.  I have booked the week off to get back, via the Crouch, the Roach and Havengore Bridge. Which I expect to be complicated, slower and possibly against the wind, but eventually a shorter crossing for the estuary.

You are clearly a busy man so I suggest you don’t read the account copied below, unless bad weather or infirmity keep you from sailing, and you have fulfilled all other obligations!

Stephen.



Account of cruise Lower Halstow Creek to Faversham; Wind 5Kts SW veering NE, HWSheerness 0149

My friend, John left me at about 9.30pm, I brought the boat round and parked in front of the clubhouse to begin rigging up. A fellow  called Ken, committee member, came over to see what was going on, he asked straight away “do I have everything I need”, to which I replied, “I think I do”, but he wouldn’t have that. He insisted on fetching me his big reserve lamp, probably big enough to sink my boat, unfortunately the battery was flat so he couldn’t lend it to me, instead he found two key ring torches which he insisted I have as emergency back up, this made me realise, I should have brought a decent waterproof torch as a backup. Ken helped me to secure my rowlock to the stern, tried to give me all sorts of goodies but I resisted all but a few cable ties and some thin twine.

I tried to go to bed at about 11pm but kept remembering things and getting up to put them right, I set my alarm for 1am but got up at 12.30am, nonetheless I think it was 1.30am before I was on the water. Launching at LHYC is a dream, the slip is wide and solid and there are things to tie up to. It was always going to be beyond my wit to switch on the light before raising the gunter, so the final frustration was to do this without tipping the light, and its battery, (that was tied near the top of the yard), in to the soup.

The difficulty I now encountered was navigation, I had spent the week studying charts of the Swale and the Estuary, I had not considered my retreat from Lower Halstow Creek. Although the moon was full, and high in the South, I just didn’t have a clear enough image in my mind of the easterly shore which I was to follow, in my effort to avoid The Shade, I ended up crossing the saltings of Greenborough Marsh, I eventually had to pull the boat, and wasn’t entirely sure which way to head, I decided on the lights of what I was sure to be Queenborough. I was right, but the challenge was a sort of moat that runs along the side of the salting, I had to swim alongside the boat for a few yards and then clamber over a high mound of mud to finally reach Stangate Creek. The most reassuring thing was the sight of a yacht at anchor, whose light I had seen earlier, but not been able to find. From here it really was plain sailing, the wind, when it blew, was always behind me, the current, for now, on my side.

The Medway was busy with shipping and surprisingly choppy, the wind threatened to dessert me several times, but as is always the case when sailing with tide, the boat always drifted eventually to another patch of wind. Coming out of the Medway, the estuary was as flat as a millpond, and I had absolutely no fears whatsoever. I immediately saw the first North Cardinal, (quick flashing white), which I recognised by location rather than code, I looked for two more but saw none such. I saw lights nearer in to shore which I took to be Cheyney Rocks, but having no visible buoyage, (nor Compass, Dope), I steered a course roughly halfway between the shipping channel and the Sheppey shore. Thick cloud had gathered by now and I lost the moon, all the marks I hoped to see to seaward were not in evidence. I did see, ghosting by me in the murk, large posts(unlit), that did concern me a little, I presumed they were either a hazard in themselves, or warning me of a hazard, but I kept my distance and came to no harm.

I was visited by either a lifeboat or coast guard boat of some description. At first I puzzled over the appearance of a port channel marker that seemed to be coming toward me, then why it had morphed into a lighthouse and was shining straight at me. It eventually cut its engines and coasted up near me keeping its searchlight on me, I found that ignoring it wouldn’t make it go away, but a friendly wave seemed to help and off it went. I will advise the CG of my next nocturnal mission, and hopefully be left alone.

As the light of morning arrived at 5am visibility barely improved, the gloomy dark was replaced by a very murky morning, and I still couldn’t see the windfarm, or anything more distant than the near shore. I was still some way out but it is hard to resist the temptation to steer toward the shore, I was a breast of Warden Point, and seemed to remain so for many hours, I believe I had fallen victim to the foul tide eddy that runs
that stretch of the cant, and the wind was still not strong. It was very slow going all the way past Leysdown until I finally landed on the Columbine at low water. I waited there for it to cover, and wasted a perfect opportunity for a rest. I should have anchored and slept, but instead I stood in the shallows and held on to the boat, occasionally leaving it to it’s devices, I tried to take a picture of it but this freaked out my phone, which then sulked and refused to work for the rest of the trip.

After about forty minutes or so, the Columbine covered, and I was able to sail on, although the wind took a nap. I had a clear picture of Faversham Creek, on the Port side at the first bend of the Swale to Starboard, opposite the shoal where the seals like to be. I feared I wouldn’t have enough water to sail the narrow twisty creek, but there was enough water and, at last enough wind, I had a rip roaring sail, I was puzzled that some of the channel markers were down in the water where I was sailing but others were high up on the mudbanks to either side.

The final humiliation was arriving in the town, sculling gently with my makeshift rowlock on the transom, worked fine, but I was moving far too fast, I shot past my destination, eventually managed to turn perhaps 100 yds past the slip, but then my makeshift oar crutch made shift as I tried to scull against the strong flood. I had no option but to clamber out into the mud and end the day as it had begun, but I had another surprise in store; at the bottom of the slip, Alan keeps some special mud, for sorting the men from the boys no doubt, I was stuck fast, waist deep, and had left the boat out of reach. Fortunately I had my long painter in my hand, and was able to pull the mirror up over the mud toward me, eventually, with a lot of kicking and thrashing I was free and managed to wriggle over to a ladder and climb up to the jetty. The good respectable folk of Faversham politely ignored the vision of horror which had alighted on their shore.

Stephen.