The dos and donts of night boating:
Dockshare’s tips to keep the captain and crew safe at night

With summer in full swing, the days are longer- which means daytime activities tend to flow into the evening with night boating! Being on the water after dark requires more caution and concern. Below are several guidelines to help you safely guide  your crew on the water at night: 

1. Pack Accordingly
Make sure you have enough safety equipment to get through any possible mishaps on the water (day or night). Items include life vests, flares, and sound horns. With evening hours, come lower temperatures on the water.  Be sure to bring extra clothing layers and blankets. 
2. Reduce your speed and stay alert
The best way to avoid danger while night boating is to slow down. Night hours cause reduced visibility and your speed should reflect that. It’s equally important to stay alert of your surroundings. Look out for other boats’ navigation lights and all other water crafts.
3. Assign an extra lookout

The captain has an important job focusing on driving the boat. It doesn’t hurt to share the lookout job between other on board. Things like crab pots and debris can be very difficult to spot from any distance at night. Keep those eyes open!

4. Pay attention to the lights

Dim your cabin lights as much as possible. Your night vision is enhanced with dimmer lights because your eyes must adjust and can see the surrounding darkness better. Bright lights pollute the surrounding field of vision and your eyes can no longer see into the night as well. Additionally, pay attention to the red and green running and marker lights. Entering a harbor, follow the rule: Red, Right, Returning which means keep the red lights to starboard to stay in a safe channel.

5. Use and trust your tools

Chartplotters, GPS, and radar can be your eyes on the water at dark. While none of these systems are perfect, when used together, they are extremely helpful for getting you home safely when night boating.

1. Point spotlights

Spotlights can be useful for seeing directly into the water or for portable use, but they need to be used responsibly. Bright lights pointed directly outwards can be distracting, blinding, and dangerous for others.

2. Drive under the influence

This rule is set for all times of the day. Furthermore, diminished vision at night only becomes increasingly worse with each drink. Drink responsibly, determine a designated captain, and make sure to establish a safe plan before boating to ensure everyone gets home safely.

3. Rely on recognizable landmarks

Many people use the coastline to find their way home during the day. Evening hours are different. With night skies, be sure to use your GPS to navigate in dark waters.

4. Night boat in unfamiliar waters

For your first time nightboating (or your first time boating in a new area), try not to make it a nighttime excursion. It is much easier to get lost in places you haven’t boated before. Get to know the area in daylight before making a trip at night.

5. Assume the best

Positive thinking is a powerful thing, but safety is the most important! Assuming that everything will be fine can cause the driver to be careless and increases the chances of an accident. Assume that the water is dangerous at night and boat accordingly to get your crew home safe.

Night boating can be an awesome experience if you do it right!  If, for some reason, you decide that boating home in the evening isn’t the best decision for you or your crew, find a place to dock.
Make the most of your boating days and nights.  Always make a plan and a backup plan before heading out on the boat. Follow our Dos and Don’ts to keep you on the right track at night. Stay safe and happy boating!