Boating at Night – The Importance of Learning the Basics

Boating at Night – The Importance of Learning the Basics

Caught up in the beauty of the sunset and got late? Or enjoying an evening cruise? Whatever reason makes it necessary, at times you cannot avoid boating in the night. Whether you had planned for it or not, you need to exercise caution when you are out on the waters on your boat after dark.

For every recreational boater, night safety basics are essential elements of the knowledge you need to have a great trip. Consider the dos and don’ts before you venture out to make sure it is a safe boat ride for you, your co-passengers, and all others around your vessel.

Maintain A Slow And Steady Pace

The speed of the boat must be as much as allows you to stop and avoid a collision with any object. Just as you drive your car at a slow speed when darkness envelops the road, you must drive your boat at a slow pace when the natural light is not available to guide you.

The speed of the boat depends on the circumstances and conditions as well. On a clear full moon night, you can maintain a certain speed. But it would not be the ideal speed when there is no moon or fog or mist affects visibility. Consider the visibility factor before you determine the speed of the boat. If unsure, slow down.

Know The Waterway You’re Travelling In

Sailing into unchartered territories at night is a risk that recreational boaters must avoid. It is best to travel the waterways that you plan to go to night at least once during the day. This helps you ascertain whether there are any obstacles that you need to look out for while you venture out to the same place at night.

Make sure you have the detailed map and compass even when you are carrying the latest gadgets that tell you all about the area. Also, make sure you tell someone about your plans or inform the authorities, so that at least people are aware of where you plan to go to on your boat trip and how long it would last

Understand The Lights

You simply cannot undermine the utility of artificial lights when natural light isn’t available. Before you understand the appropriate placement of lights on your boat, consider one thing – your vessel, unlike your car, doesn’t have headlights. This is because the effect of the mist and waves on such lights would impair vision, not support it.

Whether you are on a motor boat or a sailboat, whether you are rowing or paddling, whether you are on your own or have others onboard, you need to make sure that you are visible to others. For this purpose, the appropriate use of bright lights is essential, be it in the night or when visibility is low due to weather conditions.

Here is a quick checklist of the lights that need to be used on your boat.

  •  White light – all round light that shows uninterrupted light for 360 degrees.
  • Masthead white light – positioned over the fore and aft centreline of your boat, this lights shows a continuous light for 225 degrees.
  • Sidelights – a green starboard light and a red port side light; placed to show a steady light for 112.5 degrees.
  • White light on the stern – positioned near the stern, this shows an uninterrupted light for 135 degrees.

Another thing you need to understand is that too much light inside the cabin can affect your night time vision in an adverse manner. Your eyes need time to accustom to the dim light of the night. If they come across the glare of bright lights on the boat, they would take at least half an hour to regain their night vision.

It is best to opt for dimmers to control the light inside the cabin. You need to incorporate navigation systems and controls with dimmers that don’t hamper your vision with their sudden glare. Using mounted or portable spotlights may be necessary at times, but remember, they have a blinding effect on you and others; use them wisely and sparingly.

Utilise The Right Technology

Detailed electronic cartography helps you to find out whether there are any obstacles on the waterway. Chart plotter is especially important as floating logs, moored boats, or dark shoals are often unlit and unmarked. If your boat collides with them, it may hamper you and your co-passenger’s safety.

Consider the use of radar when you are out on the open waters at night. While chart plotters can make you aware of the permanent objects afloat, radar technology can help you discover almost any object on the water’s surface. This would help you avert any trouble especially if you are in any area that has other watercrafts moving around.


Be Vigilant To What’s Around You

Whether you rely on the tried and tested map and compass or the latest global positioning gadgets for your night boat trip, you cannot ignore the significance of the best navigation tools that you have – your eyes and ears. Keep a close lookout and listen to everything around you. This would help you avert trouble.

It is a good idea to keep at least two people for lookout. This makes it possible to maintain a strict watch at all times. This is also helpful when you have to consult the maps and charts and take off your eyes from the horizon, even if for an instant. Paying attention to all that goes on around the boat is the best way to keep safe on a night-time boat trip.

Remember, your awareness is what differentiates between a responsible and an irresponsible recreational boater. Never get alcohol or drugs in the mix if you plan to go on a boat ride, anytime of the day or night.

Whether you are out on the open waters by chance or by choice, whether you are on the move or at anchor, whether you are on a solo fishing trip or a family adventure cruise, you need to use care and caution while you are on your boat at night. With the cooperation of your co-passengers, it sure would be a great experience for you all.