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On a moonless night with a steady breeze behind us, I was standing watch with two students during an offshore passagemaking class in the Caribbean. Prior to sunset we had practiced crew overboard drills and it was obvious the drills were still on their minds when they inquired about how the maneuver differs at night. Since it was in the lesson plan, I decided to indulge them.
Without saying a word, I went down below and grabbed two one-gallon water jugs (one full, one empty), a small flashlight and a piece of line. When I returned to the cockpit I sealed the flashlight in the empty jug, tied it to the full one and hurled both into the night. The students watched the jugs disappear and looked at me with eyes as big as their dinner plates. Over the next hour I explained the differences in night and day maneuvers as we retrieved the jugs and tossed them back.
Among other things, your depth perception, timing and spatial awareness all change at night, which makes the maneuver drastically different. Next time you’re sailing at night, even close to your home harbor, carefully give crew overboard maneuvers a try. You’ll be amazed at the differences.
Enjoy this week’s edition.