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.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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