Tuesday, September 29

Art of Night Time Sailing

After the end of summer on the bays in Texas, I can let the secret out, and reflect on all the cool, relaxing, and solitary evening sails. With normal afternoon temperatures ranging from 98 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, high humidity, and low wind, we have learned to bide our time in the air conditioning until the perfect hour, nightfall. We love an evening sail.
Sailing Galveston Bay at Night
For those in certain industries with a three day weekend, we have learned to rest up on thursday after work, and take off for the bay at sunset.  We adjust all of our electronic devices to nighttime light, switch on only the red lights in the cabin when needed, pull out our red LED headlamps for help working the sails and winches, and invite any new crew to share our joy of nighttime sailing.  

No go-fast-boats, no rude boaters causing giant wakes next to our boat, a steady constant wind, no shrimp boats, and sometimes a bright moon to light your way.

Evening sailing trips do come with a bit of risk.  We normally stay out for about 3 to 4 hours, so having extra fun and active crew is important.  One late evening sailing with extra crew, I decided to check something out in the cabin.  After nodding off for 30 minutes or so, I looked out the port lights.  "Hey JT what is our depth," I inquired.  "Oh we are fine... and we need to tack," he declared.  What got my attention is that I normally cannot see the chandeliers in the coastal homes, and our extra crew members did not know that.  We have a short keel so we can get closer to the coast than most, but we don't as a general rule.

Well apparently the secret is out.  Last month after a 3-am run to the marina bathroom another sailboat was returning from an evening sail on Galveston Bay too.
Looking for Solitude
Must have and understand for safe evening sailing
  • inflatable Life jackets around the waist
  • Accurate working chartplotter with GPS
  • Accurate Depth Finder
  • Working (navigational) bow, stern, and steaming lights
  • Enough fuel (all fuel docks are closed)
  • Maintained and good working engine
  • Radar to spot little fishing boats and new platforms-pipes not on the charts
  • Working VHF radio on Channel 16 
  • Weather forecast updated before leaving
  • Alert well-rested crew
  • Misleading shoreline red lights from the Boardwalk and the bridge to find the channel
  • Snacks and caffeinated beverages to keep the crew on their toes
  • Practice in daytime sailing before you take to the waters at night
  • Shrimp boats begin dropping their nets before sunrise so get back to port before then

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