Cruising Shot of the Week

Thanks to Dave L. for this gorgeous shot of Ilhabela, Brazil.

Do have cool shots from your own cruising adventures? Send them to me at


Night Watch

With both hands wrapped around a steaming cup of coffee, I gazed astern into the Puget Sound mist. All I could see was darkness, but as my eyes focused I noticed a green light, then a red light poke through. The lights were high above the water and I instantly recognized what they were–the bow lights of a large cargo ship.  I wheeled around and refocused on the chartplotter, where my suspicion was confirmed by a blinking grey triangle outlined in red. The AIS stats read: “Cargo Ship,” destination “Seattle,” speed “25 kts” – this behemoth was moving fast and not in a friendly direction.

I set my coffee aside, made quick work of a gybe and altered course nearly 90 degrees. I wanted the change to be drastic so there would be little doubt as to which way I was going relative to the oncoming ship. As the vessel slipped by in the inky black night I gybed back and made my course good for Seattle.

This wasn’t a close call by any means, but one that would be repeated as the night wore on. When operating in shipping lanes day or night, maintaining a sound watch is of dire importance. Just like exercise strengthens the body, dodging ships, fishing vessels, ferries and tugs on a busy night watch will sharpen those seamanship skills that often get dulled by day sails and buoy racing.

If capable, don’t be afraid to venture out on a night passage. Sailing at night can be extremely rewarding and the experience will help you gain confidence in your overall sailing abilities.

Enjoy this week’s Cruising Compass.


Andrew Cross

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