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It has been months since we’ve undertaken an overnight passage but we might be commencing one tomorrow. The top of Trinidad lies approximately 80 miles south of lower edge of Grenada and 105 miles from Carriacou. We had originally planned on sailing to St. George’s tomorrow, staging there for the day and then setting sail for Trinidad on Tuesday. After consulting the charts though, we determined that departing from here gives us a 10 or more degree better angle on the wind. So, from here we will leave and at a 5 knot average, the passage from anchor up to anchor down should take us about 24 hours. Of course, all this hinges on us receiving confirmation that Rebecca can get on the October 8th STCW course. If we don’t get that confirmation, we’ll be putting the trip on hold until November when the next session begins.

Night sailing is one of those things that some people get freaked out about. The truth is though that, south of the Bahamas, there’s just no avoiding it. The distances between several of the islands are great enough that it’s just not possible to sail between them during a single day.

The greatest risk to night sailing seems to be bumping into some unseen, partially-submerged object in the sea. This is a very real threat in some areas, as attested to by the yacht which recently sunk in the Indian Ocean. With the watertight crash bulkheads on each of our bows, our boat might fair a bit better than the unfortunate one in that story but I’m not eager to test that theory. Like many things sailing related, we just need to have some faith and trust that the odds of not hitting something are greatly in our favor. If sailors didn’t have that kind of faith, they would probably seldom leave the shore!

Partially submerged container which has fallen off a ship.
Running into something like this could seriously ruin your day (or night).


  1. Just read that people reduce sail for night to slow speed down: if will hit something at least the speed will be lower.

    • Many people, including us, put a reef in at dusk. The primary reason, or at least OUR primary reason, is not that we think we’re going to hit something. Rather it is to make it easier to deal with squalls that may sneak up on us in the dark. Having reduced sail already makes for less drama than trying to reef in the dark when crew members may be sleeping.

  2. I hope for you that you get the confirmation, a night sail with this moon will be spectacular!

  3. A full moon means, clouds not withstanding, it won’t be too dark.

    With the breeze you’ve got, I would assume you would leave mid-morning, as you don’t want to arrive pre-dawn if you make good time. Realistically, I’d think you’d be looking at 16 hours.

    I snapped dagger boards twice, both daylight. Both times we went back and had trouble even finding what we hit (submerged tree, submerged dredge pipeline). I don’t recall ever steering around a partially submerged item during daylight, so I’m not certain running at night changes the risk so much. Less risk than the risk of running a reef at night!

    I’ve run run over 100 miles many times, but I was always able to either arrive or leave in the dark–one of the 2 harbors was safe to navigate. In your case, I can understand the need. Sounds fun so long as the weather is relatively settled.

    • If everything goes according to plan we will leave here between 10 and 11 AM. The conditions should be reasonably settled and yes, we should be able to make better than 5 knots. It’s a lot easier to slow down than speed up though so I don’t like to schedule with that in mind.

  4. We are seriously consider investing in a Forward Scanning Sonar for our boat. I found this but I am sure that there are many different models available:

  5. How do you stage for 24 hour passage? Do you do normal staging, and take shifts and maybe get an hour or two of sleep? Or do you stage 2 days ahead, take an easy rest day and get plenty of sleep and then both of you crew the whole time?

    • When I use the term staging I am referring more to the placement of the vessel. We want a spot which will allow us to depart without hazards if we will be leaving in the dark.

      Our typical watch pattern has each of us taking a 3-hour shift at the helm. We will normally commence that at 7:00 PM.

      First shift: 7:00 – 10:00 PM – Off person tries to nap even if not really tired.
      Second shift: 10:00 PM – 1:00 AM
      Third shift: 1:00 AM – 4:00 AM
      Forth shift: 4:00 AM – 7:00 AM

      By that time both of us are generally awake and on deck.

  6. Thanks, Mike, for sharing your watch schedule. We’re two newbies looking for our first boat with good advice from a grizzled veteran (a sailor of 35 years) — currently in Florida after selling our house. If anyone knows of a readily available boat under US$100,000, let us know.

    • You’re very welcome. Finding a watch schedule that works for you and your crew will be a bit of trial and error.

      As for finding a boat under 100k, that should not be all that hard.

  7. About 10,000 containers annually fall off ships….As far as I know they will float and will finally sink……I am not sure of any law or requirements, but why don’t they require these things to sink once they hit water.

    • I don’t know for sure but I “think” I read something about newer containers having a feature which does allow them to sink. Of course, most of the containers in service are not new.

  8. Having once helped unload containers from China, that were full of dollar store trash and trinkets, I know that those containers had so many plastic products that they would have floated forever. Think “sealed in flotation” in boats.

    The Japanese tsunami flotsam is going to keep showing up on the west coast for years. The Harley, the floating dock that recently appeared and much more are going to be well hidden hazards.

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