We used to be afraid of sailing at night, but now we look forward to it. It is the perfect time to think, to read, to listen to podcasts or music. It is easier to see ships in the dark than in the day, their locations are marked with lights.
On clear, moonless nights, we see a beautiful tapestry of lights overhead, a show that is becoming less observable in cities because of light pollution. Then, depending on where we are in the world, there is bio-luminescence in the water.
We prefer reefing the mainsail down at night, a smaller sail will slow us down, but our main concern is safety.
Whether night or day, we always wear tethers that we clip to a strong point in the cockpit. We have a pair of jacklines, flat nylon webbing that run the length of the deck that we clip onto if we need to go outside of the cockpit. At night, we never go out of the cockpit, even with a tether. A short tether is better than a long one. With a long tether you run the risk of falling too far overboard, making it difficult for the crew aboard to retrieve you.
Since we started sailing, we have stuck to the same pattern for night shifts. One sleeps between 1900 and 2100, then sails between 2100 and 2400, then goes back to sleep from 2400 until 0300, and then goes back to the tiller between 0300 and 0600. 3 hours on, and 3 hours off. Some sailors prefer longer shifts, doing 4-5 hours at a time. We prefer shorter shifts, because we get tired easy, and 3 hours, when tired, feels unending. If ever we need more sleep, we take short naps in the day.