You’ve had a great time on the boat all day. Then, suddenly, an idea hits you! Why not have a great time on the boat all night as well? You’ll be able to enjoy the entire, beautiful Miami sunset, you’ll be able to see the two or three stars visible at night (light pollution sucks, right?), then you can go have a few mojitos (if you have a designated diver, cough cough) on the Miami River. Whatever you plan on doing, make sure to follow these tips on night boating safety.
Learn what lights to use (and not to use):
If you’re driving a boat, you should already know what lights mean what, but when driving at night, this becomes particularly more important. The red navigation lights are always on the port side of a boat, while the green lights are on the starboard side. Specific lighting requirements vary on the size of the boat, so be sure to check which apply to yours.
Also, use caution and respect when using high beams. If there are many boats around, don’t use them. This can confuse oncoming traffic, and can also overwhelm the navigation lights. Never shine your headlight directly at another boat. It’s extremely dangerous, and also illegal.
Slow down, especially when boating in unfamiliar areas:
This one is common sense. Speed makes everything more dangerous, especially at night: you won’t have time to see oncoming debris camouflaged in the dark water, and familiar landmarks that you usually use when navigating may not be visible. Also, get familiar with local laws on night time speed regulations.
Use a GPS or a compass (if you’re old school):
Navigation will be hard enough at night, and close to impossible with out the proper tools. Having a GPS will take all guessing out of the equation and make your life much, much easier. If you have autopilot on your boat, don’t use it; it won’t account for other boats or debris.
Don’t get distracted:
Driving at night will require 100% of your attention. Turn down the radio so the honking of any unseen boats can be heard. Also, turn off or dim the interior lights so your eyes can adjust to the dark. This will make spotting obstacles a whole lot easier.