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View Poll Results: Night Pilotage, How Do You Do It?
I study the charts and read the lights. No big deal, even without GPS. 17 34.00%
Instudybthe charts and read the lights, but wouldn't go into a strange harbor at night without GPS. 3 6.00%
I study the charts and read the lights, but wouldn't go into a strange harborbat night without a plotter at the helm. 10 20.00%
I wouldn't go into a strange harbor at night regardless of the tools at my disposal, except in an emergency. 19 38.00%
I have never faced this situation. 1 2.00%
Voters: 50. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 10-08-2013, 14:41   #16
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

Quote:
Originally Posted by David_Old_Jersey View Post
Just to say (especially to those starting out), that whilst the old saying "There are old, and bold but no old & bold etc" is sorely abused - when it comes to small boat navigation it is very relevant.

Never be shy about deciding "no" (before having to say "I wish I hadn't started!") or running away!......it is the sign of a good navigator and skipper not to bite off more can chew, even when others can chew more or are willing to risk finding out. No prizes for getting sunk first.....

Not to say that entering a strange harbour at night is something that others cannot be more comfortable than me doing for good reasons, but I am a prudent navigator (AKA cowardly!) and simply don't have the experience of doing that in strange waters to be comfortable (Chartplotter or not).
I agree!!
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Old 10-08-2013, 14:42   #17
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

I don't think that Coastal cities take into account how their lighting can affect vessels coming from offshore to the harbor. I don't know if there could be a specific light color ascribed to back ground lights to reduce the confusion or not. Oft times it is not the color but the intensity which blinds one to the other lights that have more important meaning to the mariner. That damn old invention electricity! When out where there is no lighting, I will wait offshore a good distance and time my arrival for daylight entries.
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Old 10-08-2013, 15:03   #18
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

I recall delivering a good size boat (over 60 feet) into Puerta Vallarta one night with GPS and plotter. I had been into the harbor many times but the owner who was aboard insisted that his new plotter was correct even though things just didn't feel right to me. I slowed right down to about 2 knots when the plotter showed we were on the beach and when the surf began to lift the stern I did a 180' with the plotter showing us about 6 blocks inland! I remember him being so pissed he tried to rip the plotter off its bracket on the flybridge to throw it overboard!
Cruised south down the 30 fathom line until I picked out one range light amongst the hotels and finally got the second and made it in safely. All of the raster charts for the area were drawn from about an 1880 survey and off by about 1 1/2 miles.
I've never completely trusted any nav aids except charts, range lights, channel markers I can read up close and my own local knowledge. Plotters, GPS, in its day loran, and even radar which can give false echos are all indicators but not as good as your own eyeball on physical features.
Out of all the hazards out there, the thing that still scares me the most is heavy fog! Haven't hit anything really expensive yet. Phil
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Old 10-08-2013, 15:08   #19
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

I'm pretty much with Captain58sailin above. but I did not post a vote. On the other related thread I had made the statement that, after a grounding in such a situation when I was "young and in manure", that I never again entered a strange harbor at night, but I have recalled doing otherwise. These were easy small harbors with little conflictng light or entrances far from the city. 'just to many variables to make a claim.
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Old 10-08-2013, 15:11   #20
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I'm with the "it depends" crowd (not an option on the survey).

I always try to avoid entering unfamiliar harbors at night, but have entered many. I've also decided to heave-to and wait for dawn rather than risk it. It depends.

GPS, chart plotter, radar can all improve your safety margin but none are necessary for a well marked channel in good weather.

For large commercial channels also know the traffic control and working channels and have them scanning on the way in...this way you can hear what the big boys are doing.
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Old 10-08-2013, 15:15   #21
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

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Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
I never go into an unknown harbour at night.
Mark

agreed! Only well known harbours that I have accessed frequently during daylight prior.
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Old 10-08-2013, 15:17   #22
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

I'm with belizesailor ........ it depends !
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Old 10-08-2013, 18:03   #23
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

I voted one, but with qualifications.

The wind and the weather have to be such that the boat can be sailed under control, should the engine fail.

A lighted range is a must, and it must be identifiable long before it is critical.

At the very first Bell/whistle/bouy/light, verify that the range indeed lines up with the channel and my position in the channel is correct as I run the range. I can think of several examples where the dredged channel has drifted over time, just slightly. In those areas, "everybody knows" that you line up the range a little to port or starboard. You can only become part of "everybody" by running aground (now you know!) or by verifying with other nav aids.

I must feel very comfortable with the tidal information at my disposal. If I am not completely certain of the tidal conditions I will face, it's a no go. Too many places have tides that stack due to weather conditions, and offer the possibility of running into the ebbing of a three or four day high tide when you expected it to be rising. It is too difficult to verify the tidal state in the dark.

If the place is big enough to exhibit lots of background light pollution, it is probably big enough to have some traffic to follow in, or some local knowledge at the other end of a radio call. I have Boat US towing, but will call SeaTow just as quick if they are the most local operation (in the US of course). A local marina, boatyard, or any local business you can call ahead of time to gain local knowledge can be a help (this has to be done beforehand, obviously).

I guess what I'm saying is, by the time I will enter an "unfamiliar" harbor at night, it is hardly unfamiliar. Usually, I try to be very familiar with the possible ports along my route before ever setting out, but if not, there's plenty of time to study while the wind vane steers!

By the same token, I try to still do all of these things even for a daylight entrance. The sparkling sun on the water and the overconfidence it brings put a $2.4 million dollar Hylas on the rocks this week, in familiar waters. That complacence or distraction would have been less likely on a black night. On a dark night, those rocks would earn a wide berth, as the black water covering them would offer none of the confidence the shimmering sun provides.

I'm not afraid to turn around and head back to sea if something isn't quite right in the daylight either, until I can get it sorted out.

'
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Old 10-08-2013, 18:05   #24
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

When I first bought my boat, I kept it a Oyster Point Marina North of SFO and south of Candlestick Park in the SF Bay. Every afternoon when the "slot" was blowing the wind would come around the south side of MT San Bruno and it would blow like hell thru that area. Doing a 90* turn into a windward slip in 20-30 knot winds blowing directly a crossed the fairway was interesting.

So I'd wait for darkness and the wind to calm down before rounding Hunters Point to head for the channel to the marina, which extended more than a quarter mile from the entrance thru the breakwater.
The channel marker had a red flashing light but behind the light was all the lights of the SFO runways with their planes landing and taking off.
Thru trail and error I learned to clear Hunters Point by 1/2 mile and head directly for the United maintenance hanger, identified by 5 parallel red lights. When the depth sounder indicated 13 feet, there the channel marker was within 100 feet off my starboard beam.
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Old 10-08-2013, 18:25   #25
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

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Originally Posted by John A View Post
...................North of SFO........ SF Bay .......... MT San Bruno ...........
We're from all over the place! Keep in mind the scope of this forum. I can assume San Francisco even though your avatar says Vancouver, but I and many others won't know what SFO or MT San Bruno represents.
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Old 10-08-2013, 18:30   #26
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

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On another thread (GPS as the Sole Means of Navigation.), an unnamed skipper was ridiculed for being unable to find his way into San Diego harbor when the chart plotter in his charter boat went down. Got me thinking - how many people actually go into new harbors at night? With what navigational tools?

I try to avoid it. Any time I'm entering a channel, even one well known to me, at night, I have someone on the bow with a spotlight. We have already looked at the chart and know what we're looking for.

There are channels I would not enter at night even though I'm very familiar with them. I would go (and have gone) into Pass-a-Grille channel at night, but I'm very familiar with it. I would not go into the Manatee River at night. I know that my chart plotter shows that channel very accurately, but if it went out, some of the channel markers are very far apart, and there's a lot of shallow water around there.

But, I live on my boat, so anchoring out somewhere for the night would hardly be an inconvenience.
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Old 10-08-2013, 18:34   #27
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

Quote:
Originally Posted by David_Old_Jersey View Post
Just to say (especially to those starting out), that whilst the old saying "There are old, and bold but no old & bold etc" is sorely abused - when it comes to small boat navigation it is very relevant.

Never be shy about deciding "no" (before having to say "I wish I hadn't started!") or running away!......it is the sign of a good navigator and skipper not to bite off more can chew, even when others can chew more or are willing to risk finding out. No prizes for getting sunk first.....

Not to say that entering a strange harbour at night is something that others cannot be more comfortable than me doing for good reasons, but I am a prudent navigator (AKA cowardly!) and simply don't have the experience of doing that in strange waters to be comfortable (Chartplotter or not).

We don't often agree but I do agree with you about this. I knew the English coast could be rocky but that was one scary looking entrance you posted. thanks for the great pictures.
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Old 10-08-2013, 18:36   #28
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

the correct answer of course ( and I answered never except in emergencies) is "it depends. Good commercial harbours with clear approaches , good buoy age , say like Cherbourg , or ones with simple entrances, ( say Las Palmas etc) are no problem.

But add a sea running, big tidal ranges, complex entrances and confusing lights, No way.

dave
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Old 10-08-2013, 19:14   #29
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Re: Poll - Harbor Pilotage at Night

Been mentioned a couple of times but bears repeating. If there is the slightest doubt never hesitate to lay offshore until daylight or better conditions.

I have spent several nights hove to off a harbor and one night singlehanded tacking all night when I didn't have enough searoom to heave to. Was pretty tired the next day when I finally dropped the anchor but didn't regret the decision for a second.
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Old 10-08-2013, 19:31   #30
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This discussion reminds me of a lesson learned from unfamiliar night time entrances. I once picked my way up an unfamiliar, narrow, unlit, winding, shallow, Louisiana bayou, in the dark, in the rain...and never touched bottom once. My crew, who was on bow watch all the way in, and I were pretty pleased w ourselves.

Early the next AM, on a crystal clear sunny day, we headed back out the same bayou...and promptly ran aground...twice! (Its all soft mud bottom there so no big deal...part of that "it depends" equation).

Some one else mentioned the Manatee River entrance. I used to live on the Manatee and ran that admitted potentially tricky entrance day/night/good weather/bad weather...hundreds of times. Only ran (bumped) aground once....broad f'ing daylight on a perfect day....same reason.

Lesson learned. Attentiveness makes a big difference....familiarity can make you less attentive.
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