Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
Cruiser Midnight - 11 February, 2016
I don't remember the first time I heard the term "cruiser midnight," but I am almost sure it was before we started cruising full time. Then, it was a
little joke about priorities. Now, it is simply a fact of life. Cruiser midnight is 9:00 PM (2100, for you nautical types). It refers to the idea that, for
most cruisers, sundown is late and by 9:00, we are (for the most part) all tucked up in our beds, heading for fast asleep.
People who live on cruising boats are much more oriented to the sun than to the clock. We tend to get up with the sun and go to bed shortly after
it does. There are three reasons for this, I believe. In no particular order, they are, electricity is expensive when you are making your own,
television sucks and motoring at night is chancy, at best.
When you are cruising, particularly if you are trying to keep costs down, you tend to spend a lot of time at anchor, or on a mooring. Because of
this, you become very aware of how much you use of resources we don't think about a lot when we are dirt dwellers. Water, for example, becomes
a continuing source of interest. How much is in the tanks, where can we get more, is the water "good" here and when is it going to rain becomes
subjects of discussion.
Electricity is a little harder to measure, since you can't just pop the top off the batteries and take a look at the "electron level." We have gages that
tell us what the battery voltage level is, how many amps we are taking out or putting in and about how much of the "total" battery power we have
used. However, I tend to look at this information with a jaundiced eye, because I know weird things can affect the reading.
For example, when we are running the generator and the battery charger is working, the gage shows that we have a "Positive" amperage flow - we
are charging the batteries. But, if I then turn on the toaster, all of a sudden, the gage shows that we are using power at a massive rate. The
toaster has nothing to do with the batteries or the 12 volt system at all. For some reason, putting the toaster in the system confuses the battery
So, I like to keep the batteries charged to 100% most days. Usually, I can do this by running the generator for a couple of hours in the morning
and letting the solar panels top the batteries off over the course of the day. If it is very cloudy, I may have to run the generator for three or four
more hours to get to 100%. It is a waste of fuel to get there. The batteries do just as well at 80% charge as they do at 100%, but I like to have a
lot of power in the bank.
So, when night time comes, I am even more concerned about turning lights off than I was when I lived on land with teenagers, If you don't need it to
see, why is it on? Do we really need to flush the electric toilet EVERY time (in case you are wondering, I lost on that argument)? Do we need to
watch a DVD or could you just read a book - by flashlight?
Since the sun goes down here about 6:00 PM, three hours of darkness is about all we can deal with before we want to be in bed.
Of course, back in the "old days," when we lived in a house, we usually spent a large portion of the evening watching television. Evening news,
followed by random nonsense, followed by programs we actually wanted to watch. Finish up by watching the late news, then to bed and asleep by
actual midnight. Up in the morning at 5:30 to be at work by 7:00.
Part of the whole "watching television" process was channel surfing through the fifty to 250 channels available. Even if you only watch 10 or fifteen
channels, you had a houseload of programming to choose from. Not so when cruising.
Most boats have televisions of some sort, even if they only watch the occasional DVD. Television antennas grace a good portion of cruising
antennas. Even if you only watch occasionally, it is good to be able to see the local news and weather. The problem is that all that really "good"
programming is on the cable channels now. It is like the regular networks are giving up. Interestingly, a lot of the programming we get over the air
is by the secondary stations, showing the programs that were popular when we were kids. Apparently, old farts like us like old fart television - F
Troop, Gilligan's Island, Bonanza and Gunsmoke.
So, problem number 1 - in most cruising locations, there is no television signal, or it is very limited. Problem number 2 - what is there ain't good.
Solution - turn off the television and read, surf the Interwebby - or sleep. When you choose to watch television, it is on "their" schedule. When you
read, you make the schedule. You go to sleep when you are tired.
Again, back in the old days, I used to get up at 5:30, so that I could get to work by 7:00. This happened day after day, year in and year out, no
matter when the sun came up or went down. My life was ruled by the clock.
Now, the clock doesn't matter. I get up when I wake up, which is usually when the sun coming through the overhead hatch is light enough to make
a difference. In the summertime, I get up earlier, in the winter, later. We tend to work on projects, move the boat, go ashore and come back in
daylight. this is particularly true on days when we are traveling.
When we move the boat, we take into consideration things like the tidal current, possible stopping points and dangerous places on the day's
itinerary. But our number one concern is that, unless we are going offshore, we want to be tucked in and anchored tight before dark. Traveling on
the ICW at night is risky. Even with a good chartplotter, there is a lot of eyeball navigation. Being able to see a snag or a tree branch before you
hit it is important. Even in some of the most desolate places on the Ditch, there is usually some night time lights. Houses, businesses and cars can
put pinpoint lights where you don't expect them and it is sometimes tricky to pick out the non-moving house from the moving tug and barge. Add in
a few unlighted day marks and other "Aids to Navigation" and you have a recipe for a crunch.
There are some people who tell you that the run the ICW at night all the time and they have never had a problem. I would say to them that there
are people who drive drunk all the times and they have never had a problem either - until they do. All of us row our own boat - but most of us
agree that rowing that boat down the ICW at night is a bad idea.
So, on days that we are traveling, we want to be up before dawn, so that we have all of our pre-departure checks done and can be moving when
the light gets bright enough to see by. If the sun comes up at 7:00, as it does here now, then we need to be up by 6:00. In order to get a good
eight hours of sleep, that means being asleep by 10:00 - and we are back to the concept of "cruiser midnight."
So, does all this mean that we NEVER stay up late? Absolutely not!
Why, just last week - we went out to dinner with friends AFTER SUNSET!! We were the life of the party. We were running full bore. We stayed up
until almost 10:00.
Of course, we both had to take naps the next day.