Offshore Log: Seeing in the Dark


Two of the most important tools on our night passages through the Java Sea and South China Sea were our Fujinon FMTR-SX binoculars and our ITT Night Mariner 250 binocular-style night vision scope. We were fortunate to have either moonlight or bright starlight for most of the trip. 

Offshore Log: Seeing in the Dark

The second-generation Night Mariner proved excellent at picking up even the tiniest lantern glow from unlit fishing boats. After locating a target with the night vision glasses, we would switch to the higher-powered Fujinon binoculars for closer inspection, since the Night Mariner does not provide magnification in its standard configuration. A 2x to 3x magnifier can be retrofit to the night vision scope, which we intend to do in Singapore.

We had not used the night vision scope much before this trip, but it proved its worth. Our new night routine underway in potentially congested waters is to scan around the boat at least once every 10 minutes with the night vision scope, followed up by a scan with binoculars if any targets come up. We then go below and have a look at the radar screen, which is usually left on the 6-mile range. More often than not in Southeast Asian waters, there is a boat or ship in view at all times, day or night.

Our only complaint about the Night Mariner is the flimsy set of eyepiece covers. The covers are not attached to the scope, and so are easily lost. For a $2,000 piece of electronics, we would expect a better solution.

The Fujinon FMTR-SX binoculars have consistently ranked at the top in our binocular tests, and continue to be the benchmark. Their light transmission properties are excellent, and the flat, undistorted viewing field gives a superior image across the board.


Contacts- Fujinon, 10 High Point Dr., Wayne, NJ 07470; 973/633-5600. ITT Industries Night Vision, 7671 Enon Dr., Roanoke, VA 24019; 540/362-8000.

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him by email at