Night vision in the bag


One highlight of the Miami Boat Show this year was a press junket aboard the 80-foot power yacht Secret Love &mdash captained and owned by the irrepressible Terry Kirkman &mdash for an on-the-water demonstration of the FLIR infrared night vision equipment. Outfitted with multiple FLIR night vision units, including one mounted on the foredeck on a tripod that looked a bit like a some kind of high-tech weapons system, we departed the dock after nightfall. With our night vision capability, we were able to see a whole other side to the activities of the harbor at night. (The image above is a stock shot provided by FLIR.)

We witnessed the expected wonders of seeing other boats approaching from the gloom, of course. And that was impressive enough. However we also observed a dark patch of water resolve itself into the two glowing shapes (the image on the screen was black and white) of local fishermen in an outboard-powered skiff. They were invisible in the darkness, but with the FLIR, their body heat produced spectral images of two fellows more interested in fish than their own safety. Another fascinating view was that of commercial ships moving in the harbor or tied alongside docks. All had engines running, producing a white block of heat that could be seen through the ribbed steel skin of a ship. I guess that’s how a heat-seeking missile looks at things.

The best stunt of the night, however, was when one of our FLIR hosts placed a plastic shopping bag over the FLIR camera. With visible light, such a covering would haave blinded the camera. But in the realm of IR, the image of a distant ferry crossing the dark water was still clearly visible.

By Ocean Navigator