Watersports are generally best enjoyed under a warm sun and a blue sky, but the cover of darkness doesn’t mean the party in - or under - the water is over. There are still some very good (and other not so good) reasons to venture out on the water at night.
It may be that a sunset cruise went on longer than expected, or that you ‘lost track of time’ at Rum Point or Kaibo and find yourself heading back in the pitch dark. Alternatively, you may have planned a nocturnal boat trip because you are going diving or fishing.
In the sea, just as on land, when the creatures of the day settle down to sleep a whole different cast of characters comes out to play at night. For divers this means a chance of seeing octopus, lobsters, crabs and tiny coral polyps.
For anglers it can mean hooking an entirely different species of fish. The popularity of night fishing has spawned the development of a range of accessories including submersible lights that are fixed to the boat in order to attract fish, and lures with flashing LED lights built into them.
Whatever your reasons for heading out to sea at night, safety is paramount, and if you are out on a boat in the dark, you want to make sure you have all the right gear to keep you out of trouble and get you home safely.
First and foremost you need to make sure you have functioning navigation lights. These will be all that alert other vessels to your presence in the dark. Because jet skis, wave runners and personal water craft don’t have navigation lights, they cannot be legally used at night.
An up-to-date navigational chart, whether paper or electronic, is also essential as you won’t be able to see rocks, reefs or markers at night. “There is no substitute for local knowledge however,” says Tim Kelly of Kirk Marine, “and inexperienced boaters or boaters who are new to the area should not venture out in the dark.”
Boaters who run into difficulties need to be able to alert someone else of their predicament; this is why, in addition to carrying a mobile phone, you will want to have a working VHF radio on board which operates on a more powerful frequency.
Flotation devices, flares, horns and spotlights are also sensible items to have at hand. Some people keep a “ditch bag” handy, which contains all the essential safety equipment, so that should one have to abandon ship in a hurry, one can grab the bag and go.
As a final precaution, anytime you head out on a boat – but particularly at night – be sure to let someone on shore know where you have gone and what time you are expecting to be back so that the alarm will be raised if you fail to return at the expected time.