At sea, safety comes first (watch our videos on boating safety here). When cruising during the day, visibility is optimal and paying attention is easier. Those who have cruised at night, on the other hand, know that at sea it can be difficult to see what is going on around you. Where is that boat coming from? How fast is it cruising? In addition to knowing the lights, there are also a few good rules for navigating at night. Here are eight of them according to Passagemaker magazine, an authority in the world of long-distance cruising.
Get your eyes accustomed
How long does it take our eyes to get used to the dark? In many cases, about 10-15 minutes is sufficient. However, there are nights with particularly overcast skies and no lights where it can take up to 20-30 minutes for the eyes to get properly accustomed.
Keep your eyes accustomed
In order not to lose this condition, it is advisable to set the brightness of the instruments to a minimum. This keeps the eyes accustomed to the scarcity of light. Another tip from Passagemaker is not to stare directly into the surrounding lights (such as a full moon). This is because lights that are too bright, while the pupil is more dilated than usual, can ‘spoil’ night vision by making us have to readjust our eyes.
Keep your eyes moving
Go step by step, doing step-by-step patrols instead of concentrating all your gaze on one point.
Don’t get your gaze lost
When scanning the horizon, it is important not to get your eyes lost on a fixed point. It therefore becomes useful, as in the step above, to keep the eyes moving.
Use the right binoculars
Use binoculars to magnify newly spotted objects and occasionally for long-distance scanning, but mostly rely on our naked eyes. Over many years of trial and error, we have learnt that for night spotting, 7×50 binoculars provide the best balance of magnification, light gathering and field of view.
If you decide to use night vision binoculars or infrared binoculars, let the one who is on watch take care of this task exclusively and the other take care only of his bare eyes and optical binoculars, as the screen illumination of the former will weaken our natural night vision. Also, with passive infra-red binoculars, remember that what we see are temperature differences, so things like wet floating logs will be very difficult to distinguish even from a slight chip in the water.
Use Radar and AIS
As in daylight, correlate every visual contact with our radar and AIS whenever possible.
Cruising at night in populated areas
If you operate in an urban area with many lights on the ground, remember that the lights of a boat could be hiding among them.
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