People who don't sail are often very surprised when they can't find the headlights on a yacht. We don't have them because we don't use them, I say.

Then how do you see what lies in the water ahead?

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Starry eyed .... A NASA atronomer explains, 'The best known asterism in northern skies, The Big Dipper is easy to recognise, though some might see The Plough. Either way, the star names and the familiar outlines will appear in this thoughtfully composed ... image. Dubhe, alpha star of the dipper's parent constellation Ursa Major is at the upper right. Together with beta star Merak below, the two form a line pointing the way to Polaris and the North Celestial Pole off the top edge of the field. Notable too in skygazing-lore Mizar, second star from the left in the dipper's handle, forms a vision-testing visual double star with apparently close Alcor.' Many thanks to NASA, and to Rogelio Bernal Andreo for his image.

Usually the sea ahead contains no obstructions, because islands and rocks and ocasional buoys are shown on charts. So we don't really need to see ahead.

'How come you ran into a container then?' a friend asked, referring to my new story, working title, Adrift, suffering for the present under a publisher's critical gaze.

One of the finest sights

Containers that fall from ships, a huge number each year, are usually not seen at night. But then, the sea covers a vast area, covering twice as much of the planet as land.

What we do see at night are stars, and one of the finest sights for a homeward bound ocean-goer is the constellation of The Plough.

Sailing up from the Equator, I see the stars - an asterism rather than a constellation, apparently - from around 30 degrees North. What intense pleasure that brings, and goes on bringing on every fair weather night all the way home.

The brightest seven

The website, ThoughtCo, tells a long story tonight about The Plough, or Big Dipper, depending on which side of the Pond you live. The article is well worth the read, here

The seven stars - Dubhe, Merak, Phecda, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar, and Alkaid - are a wonderful sight. Even now, as a landlubber, on our not exactly common cloudless nights, you'll find me out in the garden admiring those seven brightest stars of the constellation, Ursa Major, the Great Bear.

Thanks for visiting the blog

The Big Dipper
NASA on the Big Dipper
Wikipedia: The Plough