for Night Operations
Like most of you I was not real keen about night ops. I got dragged
into it by getting caught out at night. Once I had my nose rubbed in it
and noticed that doing things at night, when conditions were calm, had
real advantages over doing the same thing in the daylight, when conditions
were not calm; I came around to liking it. Well, sort of!
So. here are some tricks to doing night ops.
Tweak your radar up during the day. Your radar probably uses short pulses
on the 2 or 3 mile scales and longer pulses on longer ranges. Use
the 2 or 3 mile scales for catching small targets. Use small boats that
come near you during the day, to tweak the radar. You will be much calmer
at night if you know the small boats were showing during the daytime.
The CG uses quick flashing lights on buoys to mark turns and danger spots.
Other characteristics are used to catch your attention and make you aware
of some special situations. Faster flashing and group flashing are intended
to get your attention or stand out from surrounding lights.
The CG is reducing the light visibility at major lighthouses, generally
from 25 miles down to 18 or so. They seem to assume you have GPS.
Many entrances have a special marker light near the end of one of the jetties.
Generally located on the jetty side that is to be favored when coming and
I assume you all know what a channel range light set is. 2 lights placed
so as to create a track line that you can get on and follow. In most, but
not all cases use them. A case where I would not follow the range is at
Tillamook Bay Oregon.
In some places there is not enough room to place the back range light and
for those locations the CG uses what they call a "direction" light. Depoe
Bay Oregon has such a light and there about 20 all told in the US. The
light usually is visible as white when you are right on the range, and
red or green if you are just to one side or the other of the centerline.
At Depoe Bay, the light is only about 20 feet from the ocean and there
is a rock cliff about the same distance back, no room for the second range
Much less common than range lights, are lights that are intensified thru
a small sector of their total arc of visibility to give you an indication
of the centerline of the channel. Columbia River Entrance has one,
pile marker 10, in the West Baker Bay Channel, that shines both up and
down channel from it. This pile is about 1/2 mile of the WBBC entrance.
The so called "entrance buoys", are marked with stripes of red/white, and
flash the morse code letter "A", dit, dah. It is a safe water buoy,
in that it is always placed where there are no nearby obstructions and
normally in water deep enough to be approached under any conditions. This
generally means breakers will not form at the buoy, but under really severe
conditions that might not be true. I have never actually seen this happen,
but then again I have always been "underground", when it could have been.
Observe entrances(bars) for a while before making the crossing. Radar will
often show breakers, if they are in the channel or nearby, even in the
dark. On the radar they look similar to lines of small seagull symbols,
moving towards the beach.
Orientation is everything at night, never get in a hurry. Which means,
if you think you might be lost, out of position, assume it is so and act
Everyone of these topics, could have a whole chapter written about
it. There is much to learn.
So, you are not going to do no stinkin night ops, are you!? Well then
you can keep these things in your mind for the time you get caught out,
without intending to!
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2001. Captain Michael P. Maurice. All rights reserved.