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Top tips for boating at night

Darkness has fallen and stars have scattered along the summer sky, spreading bright and infinite above your heads.  Pleasure seekers, even if you have stayed too late to catch the sunset, the full moon rising or just intended for a romantic night cruise during your bareboat sailing holidays, navigating back to the marina requires careful attention. Here are the top tips for night boating without getting lost or bang into floating debris , making it back to the marina safely!

Gear up, even if you don’t really plan to be out after dark: Every boat should have an emergency flashlight aboard, as well as bag of glow-sticks; if you find yourself out after dark, have each crew member crack one and put it in a pocket or on a lanyard, so if someone falls overboard they can be easily spotted. 

Slow down: There’s a nautical saying: Be a pro, go slow. No matter what high-tech navigation equipment is on board, the first rule of night boating is to slow down. At night, familiar landmarks change or even disappear, making it easy to run off-course. Floating debris big enough to damage your boat are invisible on the black water's surface. Other boats' navigation lights can be difficult to discern from the backscatter of shore lights. To maintain control in this challenging environment, slow the pace.

Eliminate Distractions: When cockpit lights distract your night vision, it can be difficult to identify subtle signs. Dim the interior lights and pop your head above the windshield to reduce reflections. Even a too-loud stereo can become a hazard, overpowering the horn of an unseen boat.

Learn the lights:  The combinations of red, blue and green lights on a boat, indicate whether a boat is coming or going and their general direction. Every boater should learn to identify those combinations, have pre-checked that theirs work properly.

Stargazing and chartplotter use as little as possible:  Even in fully dimmed modes, looking at the stars or a chartplotter will temporarily diminish your night vision. Glance at it sparingly, and instead use your compass to hold a proper, if less than ideal, heading.


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