I'm not recommending anything, rather providing information if the OP intends on entering a harbor at night. The reference to the ease of making a "fatal mistake" should get the smart sailor thinking.
The OP's post made me think of the entrance we made into an unfamiliar harbor at night last week. We had an unexpected beat upwind and arrived much later than expected to the Upper Entrance of the Keewenaw Waterway from Stockton Island (Lake Superior). It was a dark night and there were enough of non navigational lights on shore to confuse the situation. A fire on the breakwater, cell phone
towers with flashing red lights. Wifey did not read the entry lights correctly and urged me to cut a corner which would have grounded us on a shoal near the lonely entrance, in 35 degree water
, unpleasant conditions, a long way from help. It was a simple mistake but it could have been a fatal one.
Wifey and I work as a team and so if we are not seeing the same thing we take time to work out it out. We turned offshore
, sacrificing some of our hard earned progress, reviewed the charts and the chart plotter, then lined up the lights correctly and made it through safely. Patience and attention to detail is key and they are both hard to maintain after a long, cold day on the Great Lakes