Transiting a dark harbor entrance or anchorage you haven’t been into at night can be a test of will and nerves in the best of visibility or weather. Sometimes however, the ‘Golden Rule’ – ‘to avoid going in some foreign port you don’t know well in the darkness’ – is a rule that can make better sense broken…Unforeseen circumstances can sometimes make ‘staying the course’ – more risky than ‘coming in hot’. Thus a way to reduce the risk of a night approach by any percentage, can make thermal imaging devices something to consider. ‘Things that go bump in the night and ‘crash landings’ are EVERY seamen’s worst nightmare!
While recently delivering the all carbon (carbon has extremely bad point impact resistance / if you were to strike something in the water) Reichel Pugh 45 ‘Optimus Prime’ from Osaka, Japan to Darwin, Australia got me to thinking about ‘threat reduction’ while field testing new technology.
However, it wasn’t until my next yacht delivery from Singapore to Perth via Indonesia and Bali aboard an Outremmer 55 catamaran did I get the opportunity to give the ‘FLIR’ / ‘Thermal Imaging Monocular’ – a test drive. I’d written to a friend rep who works for the company and described the volatile nature of this particular delivery route as it transited some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, Indonesian fishing fleets, crab pots, unlit fishing cavitation devices and potential pirates!
So it was wonderful to be able to scan the sea in front of the boat while on night watch, effectively turning an otherwise pitch black night into relative daylight. I found it’s greatest power was for scanning the area out to several hundred yards or less than a mile away from the boat – facilitating optimal use for the following circumstances: entering a dark harbor without a moon, sighting crab-pot buoys, spotting something in the water near the boat (a person over-board) unlit anchored boats etc.
You could argue that say a million + candle power search light might do the same trick however, you’re not getting quite the same same visual spectacle or quality of panaramic view as the ‘FLIR’ – which is far superior.
Also, a single charge of the lithium-ion ‘FLIR’ battery lasts days with occasional use and more than a few hours with constant use – plenty to make into port or God forbid retrieve a person from the water! A case-example being while we exited Geraldton on the Western Australian coast. Due to an extremely favorable weather window on what is a predominately upwind route headed south, necessitated a grave-yard hours departure to meet ‘the perfect’ wind switch.
However, the long harbor entrance, as well as the whole continental shelf was a minefield of crab-pots! This required an extremely vigilant watch to avoid getting one caught on our props, rudders or keel. I’ve had to dive overboard enough times at night in the past to un-tangle nets from our props in the North Pacific garbage ‘gyre’ on any one of my 30 + times transiting from Hawaii to the US West Coast – thus I wasn’t keen for additional midnight ‘dips’ mid-ocean ! The ‘FLIR’ proved invaluable dodging these small buoys as we made the descent to Perth – pretty amazing space-age technology.
Soon, I’ll field test the device during my next geo-seismic assignment…Should be a real asset for the night operations, a vast application and marketing potential for FLIR. To keep up with it all or if you simply want your yacht delivered message our ‘trio at ‘Liquidflight’: http://www.bjcaldwell.com