An overnight boating trip, a single night trip, or an unintentional day trip that has lasted too long all provide a unique and thrilling experience. The water can feel like a completely different place once the sun goes down. Boating after dark, however, does pose certain challenges that you may not run into during the daytime. The key is to be prepared for these challenges by packing certain gear that will be helpful for night boating.
WHAT TO BRING
As required by the U.S. Coast Guard for any boating trip, there are many pieces of gear necessary to ensure safety on the vessel. Some of these items include flotation devices, fire extinguishers, flares, signaling devices, and more. You'll need an anchor light, working navigation lights, flares, and a strobe specifically for night boating. We recommend keeping a few extra glow sticks and flash lights on board for your night trip.
Navigational Lights and Devices
Navigation lights make you visible to other boaters while also allowing you to see and identify boats and other objects on the water. USCG regulations deem these mandatory for all vessels. Navigation lights help you determine the type of vessel, size of the vessel, if the vessel is towing anything, and what direction the vessel is moving.
In addition, keep a chartplotter or marine GPS on board to help with navigation.
Even during the heat of summer, temperatures may drop significantly once the sun goes down. The weather will most likely be chilly and windy. You should wear warm clothes and layer them. Sweaters, fleeces, windbreakers, and long pants are all great options.
Bring your cell phone in case you need to get in touch with someone. There may very well be no service out on the water, which is why it is important to have a VHF radio and extra batteries as well.
It would be helpful to have a heavier anchor for night boating. If you do not have anyone on watch and plan to stay anchored through the night, it is a good idea to opt for extra security. You should use an anchor at least one size larger than what is recommended for your boat to guard against drifting.
Location is a very important factor if you are anchoring. You'll want to pick an area that is small and protected (no open waters). Staying closer to shore is a safe option, as weather conditions can change drastically in a short amount of time.
Q: Should I do anything ahead of time?
A: You should go to your planned spot prior to your overnight launch. Practice dropping the anchor and check for any abnormal conditions.
Q: Can I go night swimming?
A: Swimming off your craft during the nighttime is not the best idea. Currents may cause you to drift from the boat, and furthermore, locating someone in the water is increasingly more difficult at night. If you are completely set on getting in the water, tie a rope around a floatation device and secure it to the boat.
Q: Should I use a white anchor light?
A: Yes. No matter the size of your craft, a white anchor light adds an extra layer of security and safety.
Q: How much experience does night boating require?
A: You don't need to be a highly-experienced boater to do a night trip, however, you should be up-to-date and familiar with all basic safety rules, regulations, and anchoring tactics.