Nighttime navigation with rough seas and strong winds is something that all seafarers, sooner or later, will have to face. For this reason, it is important to know the dangers and most importantly, to be prepared for anything whether we be on a motor or sail boat.

Below are some important tips to knowledgeably handle nighttime navigation in rough seas and strong winds.

1 -Briefing before Departure

It is important to plan everything. Before leaving, it is important to to gather the entire crew, and show them all the safety equipment and its location: signal flares, lifeboat, fire extinguisher, the location of the toolbox in case of a technical emergency. It is also fundamental to set the route with the onboard equipment rather than waiting until you are at sea. Equally important is to prepare proper attire within easy reach, or even better, wear it immediately so as not to have to wear it when already wet. If navigation will be long, be sure that in the larder has enough ready-made food to last so as not to have to cook during the journey. Last but not least, check that the engine is functioning perfectly and always remember to keep a reserve rotor on board.

2 – Weather Analysis

Before leaving, it is important to have a clear and precise weather forecast, so as to know in detail what is to come and whether or not the vessel is properly prepared. Find emergency docking/anchoring locations in case of emergency or worsening conditions.

3- Lights

Check that all navigation lights are working and, especially in the case of a sailboat, check that the deck lights are working, as they are very useful in case of manoeuvres in the dark, like changing sails.

4 – Life Lines, Life Jackets, Belts and Rings

Set the life line at the bow and stern and then put on life jackets, checking they fit properly. Remember it is important to not count only on the mandatory life jackets, but also keep on board self-inflating ones which are easy to wear and do not limit movements. Life jackets must be worn immediately, not when seas are rough. Life jackets must have an elastic umbilical cord to connect to the life line so that crew members are always tied to the vessel and won’t be washed overboard.

Lastly ensure that the stern rings are secured to a clear life line, making sure there are no obstacles in case of emergency. Check the ring torch is working. Place the tool within easy reach.

5 – Equipment

This tip is particularly important for sailboats.  Keep on hand the storm jib and trysail, which are indispensable when sailing in open water and there is a chance of meeting with strong winds and rough seas. Make sure a single reef is set on the trysail, this is a fundamental operation to do before departure. Ensure that all portholes are securely closed and there are no leaks.

10 June 2016