BOATING AT NIGHT
The days are shorter now.....
If you are going to be out on the water at night, whether by chance or by choice, the minute the stars come out, the world looks very, very different. Your ability to navigate home requires careful attention and preparation is the key at night to get back without getting lost or banging into an underwater obstacle.
Here are a few common-sense rules to make it home safely:
Most state and local jurisdictions have lower nighttime speed limits — some as low as idle speed. It's a natural precaution, because familiar landmarks change or even disappear at night, 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 stay in control slow the pace.
Nighttime operation is usually a matter of reading subtle clues. This can be hard to do when cockpit lights compromise your night vision. Dim the interior lights and pop your head above the windshield to reduce reflections. Even a loud stereo can become a hazard. .
Be Careful With the High Beams
Some might think headlights are the answer. (If your boat has a built-in pair, they're actually "docking lights" intended for close-quarters maneuvering only.) Powerful forward-looking lights or swivel-mounted or handheld spotlights can be helpful, but they can also confuse other boaters by overpowering your navigation lights or blinding approaching captains. Use spotlights judiciously, and never shine them into the face of another boater
Use a Compass or GPS
Never make your trip into unfamiliar waters at night. During the day, make note of the compass direction from home port to a landmark. (say, you’re a waterfront restaurant.) When you return, it's an easy thing to add or subtract 180 degrees to get your reciprocal or return course. Most smart phones contain GPS and compasses.
Understand what things mean...Learn the Lights
Every boater should know the combinations of red, green and white lights that tell you whether a boat is coming or going, and in what general direction.
Navigation lights are designed so that the only time you'll see both green and red together is when another boat is coming at you head-on (top). Otherwise, you'll see either a green or a red light (middle and bottom), if the boat is crossing your course, and a white light (stern), if the boat is moving away from you. A very simple rule to remember is that when you see red, stop. The other boater has the right of way.