Friday, September 16, 2011

NKOTB - Overnight Passages

NKOTB (New Kids On The Boat) ... A Weekly Series Sharing Our Thoughts and Questions as Beginner Sailors and Future Cruisers.  NKOTB or Experienced Cruiser ... Tell Us Your Thoughts!

When thinking of cruising, overnight passages seem to be inevitable at some point.  While Ken and I plan to hop along the coast as much as possible, we realize that there will be times when we'll need to sail overnight.  We don't plan on sailing the world, and at this point we can't imagine tackling more than two nights in one passage, but perhaps our feelings will change with time and experience.

We've not yet sailed at night, so the thought of overnight passages is intimidating and exciting.  I can imagine that the first time we continue sailing as the sun sets will be like going up the hill on a roller coaster.  We'll be excited about the amazing experience to come, but we'll also have the anxiety that comes along with doing something out of the norm.

When we anchored overnight for the very first time, it was awesome!  Watching the horizon disappear into the dark, while the moon and stars popped up overhead was such a beautiful experience.  Even though we've enjoyed the moon and stars while camping or sitting outside, it's a totally different experience when you're on a boat in the middle of a large body of water.  We were lucky to have a clear night, and we couldn't stop peeking our head out of the companionway throughout the night to take in the sights one more time.  We felt like we were let in on a secret and that we were so lucky to be looking at the world "from the other side".  With that experience in mind, we think that sailing throughout the night will be something we find to be exhilirating and wonderful. 

At the same time, we know that there will be a certain amount of anxiety and fear while sailing in darkness. That feeling in my stomach that makes me want to vomit while going up that roller coaster ... I'm sure we're gonna have it.  I had it when we bought my motorcycle (which I love to ride now), and I know I'll have that feeling when sailing overnight.  That feeling will increase as the sunlight decreases, and I'll wonder why I'm doing such a thing.  What if we hit something?  What if one of us falls asleep while "on watch"?  I guess these fears are a little illogical since we can hit something just as easily during the day while on watch.  Also, we're thinking of having some sort of alarm that is set to go off every 15 minutes if we're really tired and feel like we may fall asleep.  And of course, we'll have some sort of radar and/or AIS.

Just like the roller coaster, once it's over I'm sure we'll be excited about our experience and looking forward to doing it again.  And, just like the roller coaster we'll have a certain amount of excitement and anxiety every time we sail overnight.  Once the sun starts to rise and we realize that we survived, we'll be proud of ourselves for overcoming our fears of something new and "just doing it".  After all, isn't that what living is all about?  There's nothing like the adrenaline rush of doing something out of the ordinary.  All the money in the world can't buy those types of experiences! 

Have you sailed overnight?  What precautions do you take?  What do you do to ease your anxiety?  Do you have a glass of wine, say a prayer, wear a lucky shirt ...?   We'd love to hear from you!

Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!

Note:  Here are the previous posts from this series.  Check them out and feel free to give us your advice.  We've really enjoyed reading your comments!


Leslie Basil Payne said...

With such wonderful anchoring at night, why sail? If you're sticking to the coast there really is no need for overnighters. When we run into folks who just did overnighters, they're worn out, red eyed, and ruppled. For us, tt's all so much more enjoyable rested and ready! To each his own.

Sandee said...

We've only traveled in the dark one time. Where we boat it's too dangerous in many places, unless you stay in the deep water channel. We never drink and operate our boat. We can do that when we are tied up to where we are going to be for the night. We have radar that guides the way through fog or darkness. It is scary though.

Have a terrific day. :)

Dan N Jaye said...

Couple of thoughts: your first time, try just leaving at 3 or 4 AM, and sailing for 4 hours. You get to leave your familiar harbor and travel familiar waters for a few hours, then, watching the sun come up on the ocean is magical! Also, try for a clear, full-moon night the first time - amazing how much you can see with a full moon.

hans and laura said...

We've only sailed through the night three separate times and each was a nightmare. I'm not trying to scare you but it's like the Gods knew I was a novice and delighted in kicking up the wind and the seas. However, I do love anchoring in secluded spots where even in a blow you're usually well protected. From what I've read, night sailing can be a beautiful experience but if we do it again I would like a couple of more people on board who know what they're doing.

Ken n Cheryl said...

Leslie, Sandee and Laura ... we agree that overnight passages will not be a common thing in our cruising life since we'll be "coastal" cruisers. If we don't need to, why stay up all night? I need my sleep! LOL! However, it is something I want to experience ... with great weather! Sandee, I'm with you ... no alcohol before settling in! Dan n Jaye ... what a great idea to leave around 3 or 4 in the morning. We'll have to do that soon, and maybe on a night with a full moon. It does sound like it could be an amazing experience with a full moon and then watching the sun rise!

Linda said...

Chris and I have done several overnights, the longest being two nights three days. In two cases we had no choice, we sailed from Acklins Island to Providenciales (Turks & Caicos) which was 24 hours. The second time we sailed around Hiati from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic to the southern coast - two nights, three full days. The other times it was our choice because we learned in "Passages South by Bruce Van Sant" that taking the "night lee" is the way to sail when you are in the DR or Puerto Rico. (If you don't have this book, get it.) My advice is to plan according to weather and sea forecast, sail to your ability and experience, have your jacklines rigged for safety, as well as your other safety gear in good working order. Create a watch schedule and stick to it, waking the off watch person when help is needed. Know how to use your radar and your navigation instruments. Know the rules of the road and the meaning of navigation lights on ships at sea (is it coming toward you
or going away from you?) The suggestion from your another blogger to start with a 3 or 4 am journey is a great one. Knowledge is power and
calms fears. There's always a FIRST time. After that you have a little more knowledge and experience AND confidence. I don't know what setting a timer really does because Chris and I are always awake during our watches. I read, I check the radar every 30 minutes, I scan the horizon every 10. Chris uses music as his "timer" scanning the horizon after every
couple of songs on Margaritaville. Our watches are 3 hours on, 3 hours off for the overnights. I would worry less about falling asleep and think more about planning and preparing meals and snacks, having your safety gear in place, learning your route, and watching the weather. Admittedly, I am always a bit nervous on the night sails, but I know the sun will come up and a new day will dawn in a few hours. There's a nice article on Women & Cruising on this topic.

Steve and Lulu said...

We've done numerous overnight, and multi-night trips. They seem a little intimidating at first but really are no big deal unless you happen to be in a heavy traffic area or it's foggy (but that sucks in the daytime as well). GPS, chartplotters, AIS, and (although we don't have it) radar all work together to help you feel less blind.

All the other advice you've received above sounds good to me.


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