View Poll Results: Do you operate at night?
I never operate at night 3 3.95%
Only when absolutely necessary 25 32.89%
Occasionally 29 38.16%
Anytime 17 22.37%
I would not operate at night on the loop or unfamiliar areas 7 9.21%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 76. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 08-15-2017, 10:59 PM   #1
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Operation at Night

Are you a night boater? Do you only operate at night in familiar places or do you operate anywhere... like on the loop?

And what precautions do you take to keep a reasonable level of safety?


+++++++

I could argue that anyone who does much long distance travel some night experience is certainly valuable. There are times when you just get stuck and have to operate at night.... fighting weather, mechanical problems, whatever.

For "me", the main thing I do is avoid Fri, Sat and Sun nights.... unless I can operate where other boats won't be. There's a lot of amateurs, drunks and idiots out at those times and I'd avoid them. Even during the day on the weekends can get often too busy.

But getting up early and launching before sunlight is a treat, especially watching the sun rise. Love mornings, and very little traffic and often better weather. And arrive at destination earlier.

And during the winter, with darkness early, night operation just give more time for boating.

Also, radar is a bit plus, but not an absolute. Don't have FLIR, but suspect that would be helpful, too.

Thoughts?
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Old 08-15-2017, 11:29 PM   #2
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We operate offshore at night regularly. When we're inshore or on rivers (as now) we operate at night when needed, but we exercise great caution. We always pay close attention to radar at night, slow down and keep exterior lights on.

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Old 08-15-2017, 11:38 PM   #3
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Too many times i didn't plan to operate at night, but if I've planned a 10 hour day, that becomes 11.
There you go.

If radar is NOT a must. How do you see?
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Old 08-15-2017, 11:44 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wxx3 View Post
If radar is NOT a must. How do you see?
I agree. I would not intentionally operate at night without radar unless I was in very familiar waters with little or no boat traffic.
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Old 08-16-2017, 12:02 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drake View Post
I agree. I would not intentionally operate at night without radar unless I was in very familiar waters with little or no boat traffic.
Quite easy.... some of the time.
Moonlit night, no problem
Cloudy dark sky, have to rely on spotting channel markers and seeing other boat lights.
Cloudy raining night... I'd pass without radar.
With heavy city lights in background... tough
Out in the boonies without a lot of lights, not bad.

So the nights I operate without radar, I want some things in my favor, but do it often, and usually in familiar waters.
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Old 08-16-2017, 12:55 AM   #6
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Thanks for AIS and Radar, but a full moon is even better.
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Old 08-16-2017, 03:07 AM   #7
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Only when I'm drinking
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Old 08-16-2017, 03:14 AM   #8
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I enjoy cruising at night when conditions are nice.
I often cruise early morning in the dark or run late in the evening if the wind and/or currents are more favourable at that time. I don't have radar, but there is minimal traffic around here.

One thing I don't like doing at night is anchoring somewhere that I am not very familiar with.
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Old 08-16-2017, 04:28 AM   #9
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Boating at night has long been deeply pleasing to me, though I agree it's something better enjoyed in familiar waters. I can hardly count all the times that glittering moonlight reflecting off the surface has reminded me of how lucky I am to be out on the water, alone or nearly alone, to witness such moments of grace and beauty.

Navigation with radar and / or chart plotter makes it a lot easier, but it's not essential in familiar places. As one gets accustomed to the patterns of the channels and shallows, a glance at the fathometer can give you a satisfying confirmation as to where you are (or aren't).

In busy waterways, the relative absence of other boaters at night can make the experience much more enjoyable than it is by day. It's true that the occasional ignoramus will approach head on, picking his way from marker to marker with spotlight continuously blazing. That's inevitably the same boater who, apparently noticing my running lights for the first time, thinks it's a good idea to aim the spotlight directly toward them (and into my eyes, destroying my night vision for minutes after). Usually a brief flicker of my own spotlight is enough to discourage the offender, but there have been a few times when I've had to fight spotlight with spotlight. Boneheads go out after dark too, I guess.

One of the thorniest boating challenges is making an unfamiliar landfall at night. Then the panoply of shoreline lights can be daunting, even with radar. To me, that sort of beauty is best appreciated from anchor, or hove-to. It's smart to time landfalls and arrivals for dawn or later in the day, but occasionally it doesn't work out that way. That's when the full suite of electronic aids earns its keep.

Whether inshore or offshore, I tend to run more slowly during the hours of darkness. If passing though an unfamiliar stretch of the ICW soon after a storm or a period of inland flooding, I'm doubly cautious for fear of striking debris. That's true day or night, of course. But if traveling along a stretch of coast following a hurricane or tropical storm, for example, I don't even try it at night. Then the likelihood of objects in the water is too great.

Offshore, I have over the years become increasingly wary of objects and debris either awash at the surface or barely submerged. On one overnight passage from Tampa Bay to the Dry Tortugas, the sun rose in the east (as it usually does) to reveal that I was motoring through a vast field of what appeared to be heavy wooden fence posts, about four inches thick and several feet long. They were floating right at the surface, undetectable to radar or to the naked eye during the darkness. They must have been deck cargo that somehow went over the side, but struck just right and at sufficient speed, any one of them could have holed my bow, mangled a prop, or bent a shaft. Creepy.
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Old 08-16-2017, 05:33 AM   #10
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I personally don't mind night running & do it often ,as long as I have a radar and better yet if it's a clear, moonlit night but I really have to be away from shore to be comfortable. The advent of chartplotters have really made it nice because (for me) it's so easy to get disoriented when night running. One quick trip to the head or something & I come back up & it's like "where the heck are we???!!!". Plus, nowadays there is so much more development along the shore that the backlighting makes it harder to discern the shoreline.
Then there's the McMansion owners who've built & feel the need to light every room in the house, light the house & yard with floodlights then light their dock with the jetskis on lifts. That especially takes away my night vision & the enjoyment associated with boating after dusk!
Pretty cool how I incorporated my rant into the post, huh?
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Old 08-16-2017, 05:39 AM   #11
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Had a late arrival at my anchor point last year so we needed to anchor at night, it was cloudy and dark like a black hole. We were quite nervous cruising in shallow water and setting the anchor. I felt lucky to have my chart plotter even if I was in a well known area.
The admiral does not want to renew the experience too often

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Old 08-16-2017, 07:42 AM   #12
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Don't mind running at night in open areas such as oceans, sounds, bays, and large rivers. Prefer to leave in the dark instead of arriving in the dark, especially in unfamiliar areas.

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Old 08-16-2017, 08:05 AM   #13
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The only time we intentionally travel at night is crossing the NE corner of the Gulf of Mexico usually between Apalachicola to or from Tarpon Springs or Tampa Bay. We leave mid afternoon so we can be out deep enough to be past the crab pot floats before it gets dark. Same thing on arrival, we go slow enough so by the time we approach the coast it will be well light enough to spot those floats. We use radar and autopilot out there.
Below, sunrise on the Gulf, a few hours out from Apalachicola FL after a night crossing that tower is a welcome sight.
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Old 08-16-2017, 08:26 AM   #14
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We do night boating primarily offshore only and on crossings that simply can't be made during the day alone, typically crossings of 300 to 1000 nm. We have AIS, Radar, Night Vision, Sonar. We do not ever enter an unfamiliar inlet at night. We'll delay to hit in day. There are very few inlets we'll enter or exit at night. We will do Port Everglades and have done Lake Worth at night. We have also exited Government Cut at night when there were no events or Bayside madhouses. Occasionally we have exited other easily navigated inlets at night.

We prefer daytime traveling but when offshore in very little, if any, traffic, we find occasional nighttime travel to be pleasant. Definitely better than sitting where I am waiting for a flight from LGA to FLL. We're supposed to take off in 10 minutes.
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Old 08-16-2017, 08:27 AM   #15
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Here in New England night travel is greatly hampered by lobster traps. Just got back from Casco Bay in Maine where they are everywhere.I'd hate to snag one at night with that cold water temperature. Not a pleasant thought.
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Old 08-16-2017, 08:36 AM   #16
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Lots of night running. Some inshore, some in unfamiliar waters, lots offshore. I go slow at night and inshore am vigilant using radar, chartplotter and quick blips of the searchlight. My pucker level is higher and I run slow.
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Old 08-16-2017, 08:54 AM   #17
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I have operated at night quite often, whether it is for work or for pleasure. Between good charts and a radar system I have never had any issues. Except for pleasure boats and the occasional fishing boat that insists on having every exterior light on (deck lights, spreader lights, mast lights, cockpit lights galley lights pouring out windows etc) that drown out the nav lights making it nearly impossible to tell if the vessel is approaching, running with you or even crossing.
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Old 08-16-2017, 10:02 AM   #18
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Operated last night in waters I'm quite comfortable with. Brought her back to dock at 11:30pm.

Personally I would not operate in waters unknown to me.
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Old 08-16-2017, 10:07 AM   #19
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MANY years ago when I was a sailboat sailor and single, quiet often sailed at night. That was with only RDF and hand bearing compass for nav tools, and crew of questionable character. .... I'm sure that shiftwork schedules and short weekends at the time forced much of the night time passages.

Now happily married, retired, and piloting a trawler with GPS, radar, AIS and electronic charting, lighted boat parades are about the only night time cruising we do.
Older and wiser? Luxury of retirement schedules? Who knows. However, we do stay proficient on radar interpretation just in case an emergency necessitates a night time passage.
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Old 08-16-2017, 10:19 AM   #20
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Regarding running into crab traps....

Has anyone put rope cutters on their prop?

I have not as I've only got lines tangled in the prop about once every ten years... so not a big issue. And I'm sure there's an element of danger when cleaning the props.

I did actually pick up a wire crab trap once. Was in fairly shallow water and it wrapped around my prop, but got it off by working it and pulling on it. No damage.
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