What comes to your mind when you imagine boating? For many, it’s the hot summer sun shining down across the water, lazy afternoon picnics, and water sports such as skiing, tubing, or knee boarding. For other people, however, the night has a special allure. The world is calm and quiet; the lights and the stars reflect off the water; and the heat of the daytime is replaced by cool, refreshing breezes. There is certainly something special about nighttime boating—however, nighttime boating also presents challenges, and it’s important to be prepared and know the rules of nighttime boating. This brief guide will help you prepare.
- Slow down
The reduced visibility of nighttime boating demands extra care—and a key component of this is slowing down in order to allow for more situational awareness and better reaction time. What’s more, state and local laws generally enforce low nighttime speed limits—in some places you may not be allowed to go faster than an idle.
- Use your lights
Never boat at night without the proper lights. Any boat under 20 meters must display a green light on the front right side, a red light on the front left side, a white light on the back side of the boat, and a forward facing mast light that illuminates 225 degrees. Boats under 12 meters have the option of doing away with the back light, and instead including a white mast light that shines in 360 degrees.
- Take precautions
All the typical precautions of boating become even more important at night. Make sure you have developed a float plan, and that you are carrying all necessary safety equipment (i.e. life jackets, visual distress signals, an sound signal, a fire extinguisher, and communication tools such as a cellphone.)