There can be few more serene, life-affirming experiences than skimming across the silent waters of the night with only the stars above for company. When you choose to take a yacht charter in Phuket, one option we cannot recommend highly enough is to spend some time at night sailing and simply stargazing. Experience an uninterrupted view of the universe unlike any other and simply marvel at the breathtaking beauty and unimaginable scale of a view unspoiled by unwanted light sources. In this article, we will share some hints and tips on nighttime sailing, including how to stay safe during your nocturnal excursions and enjoy some unforgettable, mesmerising stargazing as you go.
Early actions and preparation
Sailing in the darkness is a fantastic, exciting option to give a new lease of life to your waterborne travels and allow you to experience a completely different sensation while remaining on the same vessel. However, it does not come without its own challenges and potential dangers, which must be accounted for and mitigated as much as possible. Simply setting sail into the night is inadvisable, and some careful preparation and safety considerations are required, namely:
Arrive at your initial destination in daylight
This is especially true if the location is one you are unfamiliar with but is a great rule of thumb in any scenario. There is no way to judge the exact condition of your vessel, the moorings, or the local conditions thoroughly and effectively at night and you should aim to do so the night before. Arrive in good time and do your due diligence in terms of:
- Ensuring the craft is in perfect working order.
- Checking all necessary equipment is secured in place. This should include several quality flashlights, a hand-bearing compass, anti-collision flares, binoculars and night-vision goggles if possible.
- Seeking out as much relevant local information as possible, including advice on weather/tide patterns, and any areas to avoid.
- Re-supplying the vessel with any consumables.
- Feeding and resting the crew.
- Discussing the upcoming trip and any issues/factors to be aware of.
Once you set sail
The name of the game when it comes to all activities on the water is safety and you must have a set of unbreakable rules in place that all crew members are aware of. These will vary according to the vessel and its captain, however, some good rules our team have adhered to over the years include:
- The cockpit will never be vacant at any time during nighttime sailing.
- All aboard will attach themselves to lifelines where possible when moving around the vessel.
- The radar will always be on, as will the Automatic Identification System (AIS), broadcasting your position to other vessels and helping prevent impacts.
- Crew members will use red-light headlamps, in case it becomes essential to use the night-vision goggles for any reason. White lights require a transition period for the eyes to adjust and use the equipment and also significantly reduce the effectiveness of the eyes’ natural night-vision capabilities.
- Lifejackets are a non-negotiable requirement, preferably with GPS devices attached.
- In the instance of any concerns, no matter how seemingly trivial during nighttime sailing, it is crucial to notify others. Whether unexpected lights on the horizon or unpredictable squalls, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
During longer excursions, it will be important for some crew members to rest and sleep while others are operating the vessel. This, naturally, requires a watch system with its own set of considerations, rules, and requirements. Consideration for the off-watch crew is crucial as nothing will fray tempers and cause unrest faster than inconsiderate, noisy actions when others are resting.
Stagger your watches as fairly as possible and remember that, when you devise the watch schedule, nobody should be asked to operate on less than four hours of sleep. A well-rested crew is happier, more efficient, and less likely to make mistakes.
Bring a few simple pleasures on board to keep people happy. From a decent speaker to play music to tasty snacks and treats, it is the small things that will make life tolerable on longer journeys. Throw a pack of cards on the table, a fresh set of magazines and novels in the rack, and ensure there’s always a pot of great coffee and plenty of teabags to keep people happy and alert.
Among the oldest of the accepted sciences, enjoyed and utilised by sailors and explorers since time immemorial, stargazing has been used for everything from keeping track of time to orienting colossal monuments and even attempting to predict the future. Ancient civilisations revered and acknowledged the stars as almost nothing else, but stargazing is less of a spiritual, navigational necessity these days and more of an enjoyable, recreational experience. Our modern understanding of the stars has increased manyfold in some ways and perhaps regressed in others, but in terms of having access to information on any area of the night sky, no humans have ever been luckier. But how best to make use of so much information and modern technology to enjoy stargazing?
A great place to start is by installing one of the many stargazing apps available for most modern phones and tablets. They use clever technology and augmentations to show you the exact position of any star or constellation, moving to adjust to the position of the camera. Finding individual constellations and clusters has never been easier and this is a great way to initially find something specific you might be looking for or the name of a celestial entity that temporarily escapes you.
- Remember, the joy of stargazing from your yacht lies in actually gazing at the stars, not just representations of them on a handheld device. Use the technology as a powerful tool to point you in the right direction but don’t allow it to take over the whole show.
Things to remember
Stargazing on calm, peaceful waters can be an amazingly serene experience that can be heightened if you bear certain things in mind:
- Safety – It is your duty and responsibility to ensure the safety of yourself and any others on board at all times. Stick to the rules above and use common sense to keep everybody safe. Familiar locations are much less likely to give you any nasty surprises or unforeseen issues.
- Turn off the lights – Although turning off as many non-essential lights as possible will undoubtedly enhance your experience of stargazing, you must keep your running lights on at all times. Your continued visibility to other maritime crafts is more important than achieving an unspoiled view.
- Soak up the tranquillity – There are not many occasions in life where we can truly escape the noise and chaos of life, so be sure to make the very best of this glorious opportunity. Once you have thought of everything and all necessary precautions are in place, kick back with a tasty beverage and just gaze at the distant wonders of the universe.
We hope this guide has excited your passions and tempted you to undertake some nighttime sailing and stargazing of your own. Should you wish to discuss doing so with our dedicated professionals, please do not hesitate to get in touch and share the details with us at your earliest convenience. Our fully crewed charters are a superb way to get all of the advantages of nighttime excursions without having to worry about the practicalities and skills required to operate the vessel in the darkness.