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The first time I sailed into Charlotte Amalie harbor at night, I was totally freaked out.

I had a few low resolution harbor charts that showed the lights and buoys in the approaches to the harbor, but unfortunately, those lights were impossible to pick out against the hundreds of lights from cars and businesses in downtown Saint Thomas.

Every time a car went behind a building, a red light disappeared. When the car came from behind the building, the red light reappeared. There were literally dozens of flashing red lights in front of my eyes, and it was difficult to pick out the flashing red buoy lights from the flashing red tail lights.

There were reefs to port and starboard, and I needed to get the navigation right the first time. I didn’t want to run my Westsail 32 up on a reef.

This happened in the days before GPS, and we navigated by handheld compass and paper charts. Our position was approximate, and we went slowly until we identified the harbor buoys one by one.

Things are different now. We have GPS and electronic charts.

As long as the electronic charts are accurate, and as long as we are paying attention, we can safely navigate a plethora of flashing lights.

Some lights warn mariners of reefs, rocks, headlands, and other obstructions. Usually, those lights are isolated and are easy to pick out and understand their significance.

The navigation lights on ships are a completely different matter.

Every sailor knows about port and starboard navigation lights.

When I started my sailing voyage around the world, all I knew about navigation lights was that ships had a red navigation light to port and a green navigation light to starboard. That’s it.

When I first started sailing at night, I made ship’s navigation lights more difficult than they actually were.

It turns out I didn’t need an encyclopedic knowledge about ship lights to safely sail around the world.

I quickly discovered the following facts about navigation lights on ships:

1. If I see a single red light, the ship will not run me down, and it will safely pass me on its port side.
2. If I see a single green light, the ship will not run me down, and it will safely pass me on its starboard side.
3. If I see both a red and a green light at the same time, the ship could run me down and kill me.
4. If I see the low white light on the bow and the tall white light on stern aligned perfectly in a row, that ship is on a collision course, and if I don’t alter course, I will be run down by the ship.

When I see ship lights on the horizon, I instantly know whether there is any collision risk.

There is one major exception to this generalization - the tug and tow.

Between the tug and tow, there can be 1800 feet of towline that is invisible at night. That is the length of 6 football fields between the tug and its tow.

If you sail between a tug and its tow, you will be dismasted, and when the barge being towed runs over your vessel, your boat will be destroyed, and you will be lucky if you survive.

A tug and tow has a special set of navigation lights, and it’s worth learning what that pattern is because it could save your life.

The odds of sailing between a tug and tow at night are low, but it still happens. Sailors at the US Naval Academy managed to sail between a tug and tow which resulted in the sinking of the boat on which they were sailing.

First, learn the usual and customary navigation lights on ships, and after that spend a few minutes memorizing the lights found on a tug and tow.

Mastering the navigation lights displayed by ships and tugs is not that difficult, but that is only part of the story. There is a plethora of other lights that suddenly pop up at night, and those lights can be confusing.

The plethora of lights includes atypical irregular unpredictable lights displayed by fisherman at night. When we sailed across the Java Sea on moonless nights, it was total blackness until we got near a fisherman spreading his nets in the dark. Suddenly, lights started popping up everywhere. The fishermen didn’t want us to run over their nets, and they turned on every light they had. It was as if someone said, “Let there be light, and there was light, and it was good.”

The Java Sea fishermen used battery powered torpedo shaped lights to reveal the location of their nets. Malaysian fisherman used kerosene lamps to advertise their position, and Thailand fishermen lit their boats up like the 4th of July using bright lights to attract fish and squid at night.

When I was in Thailand, I purchased Java Sea fishing lights, and I displayed them on the four corners of my catamaran. With these lights in full view, there was no excuse for running down my sailboat at night.

As far as I am concerned, the more lights I display on Exit Only, the less chance I have of being run down by a drunk person or someone paying attention to their cell phone rather than watching where they are going.

When we were in Trinidad, we had lazy jacks and a stack pack installed on Exit Only. About a week after the job was finished, the individual who fabricated the stack pack was killed by running his boat into a tug and tow while he was drunk.

I have been hit by two mega yachts while I was at anchor in the daytime, and I decided that I wanted to increase the visibility of Exit Only at night. Therefore, I installed blue solar powered LED lights in the four corners of our catamaran so both sober and drunk sailors can see our position and avoid running into us.

I have two different sailing friends whose sailboats were t-boned by drunk sailors and people not paying attention to what they are doing.

I run my anchor light at night to be legal, and I have four solar powered blue LED lights that automatically come on at night to make Exit Only more visible at anchor.

The only downside of the blue LED lights is when I am in pirate infested waters. I have to cover the LED lights at night to avoid advertising my presence to the world.

So there you have it. We have a plethora of lights on board Exit Only, and so far no one has collided with our yacht at night while we are at anchor.

I hope our good fortune continues.

Dr. Dave

Captain Dave - David J. Abbott M.D.





Exit Only

See what it's like for a family to sail around the world on a small catamaran

Captain Save Our Souls

Awesome music video that captures the essence of what it's like to sail offshore in a catamaran around the world when conditions are less than perfect. David Abbott from Too Many Drummers sings the vocals, and he also edited the footage from our Red Sea adventures. This is the theme song from the Red Sea Chronicles.

Red Sea Blues

Sailing up the Red Sea is not for the faint of heart. From the Bab al Mandeb to the Suez Canal, adventures and adversity are in abundance. If you take things too seriously, you just might get the Red Sea Blues.

Red Sea Chronicles Trailer

If you like drum beats, and you like adventure, then have a listen to the Red Sea Chronicles Trailer.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 1 - When Flying Fish Attack

Flying fish assault Exit Only in the middle of the night as we sail through the Arabian Gulf from the Maldives to Oman. And so begins our Red Sea adventures.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 2 - Pirate Alley

Sailing through Pirate Alley between Yemen and Somalia involves calculated risk. It may not be Russian Roulette, but it is a bit of a worry. Follow Team Maxing Out as they navigate through Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 3 - Aden, Yemen

Stopping in Yemen was just what the doctor ordered. We refueled, repaired our alternator, and we made friends with our gracious Yemeni hosts. We also went to Baskins Robbins as a reward for surviving Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 4- Gate of Sorrows and Sandstorms

After you survive Pirate Alley, you must sail through the Gate of Sorrows (Bab Al Mandab) at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The Gate of Sorrows lived up to its name with fifty knots of wind and a sandstorm that pummeled Exit Only for two days. Life is good.

Patreon - Maxing Out

Captain Dave and his family spent eleven years sailing around the world on their Privilege 39 catamaran, Exit Only. During the trip, the crew shot 200 hours of video with professional cameras to show people what it's like to sail on a small boat around the world.

The Red Sea Chronicles is a one hour and twenty-two minute feature film showing their adventures as Exit Only sails through Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea. The professional footage documents their experiences in Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, and the Suez Canal. It chronicles the rigors of traveling in a remote section of the world rarely visited by cruisers. Exit Only dodges Yemeni pirates, fights a gale and sand storms in the Bab al Mandeb at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The crew explores deserted islands on the western shores of the Red Sea, and learns to check the cruising guides for land mines before venturing ashore.

The Red Sea Chronicles also has outstanding Special Features including an Instructional Video on Storm Management that tells sailors how to deal with storms at sea.

And don't forget the two Music Videos: "The Red Sea Blues", and "Captain - Save Our Souls".

The Red Sea Chronicles is a first class adventure that stokes the sailing dreams of both experienced and wannabe sailors alike.


    Team Maxing Out Sails Around The World On Their 39 Foot Catamaran

    Join Team Maxingout as they sail through Pirate Alley and up the Red Sea


    Give your dream machine a shot in the arm

    See what it's like to cruise on a catamaran before you spend a bazillion dollars purchasing one


    View the storm management video to learn how Captain Dave dealt with storms at sea

    After watching the Red Sea Chronicles you will be able to see yourself sailing on the ocean of your dreams

Red Sea Chronicles

Save A Tree Bookstore

Although I like the feel of a paper book in my hand, I love trees even more. When people purchase an eBook, they actually save trees and save money as well. Ebooks are less expensive and have no negative impact on the environment. All of Dr. Dave's books are available at Save A Tree Bookstore. Visit the bookstore today and start putting good things into your mind. It's easy to fill your mind with positive things using eBooks. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can pull out your smart phone or tablet and start reading. You can even use electronic highlighters and make annotations in your eBooks just like paper books.