It’s like entering a different planet when paddling in the dark. A regular journey turns unique on a moonlight lake. If you haven’t taken your kayak out for a kayak at night, now is the time to do so. Make sure you follow these recommendations to make it a success.
There are many reasons to paddle between dark and morning, so here’s what you need to know to kayak securely and legally at night. The sounds of a bow cutting through the water and paddle drops are amplified. Stargazing from a lake may be excellent with no moon and a clear sky. Furthermore, natural phenomena such as the aurora borealis and bioluminescence may only be seen in the night sky.
Can You Kayak At Night?
Paddling at night has all of the risks of paddling during the day, plus a few more. Wear your PFD, leave a float plan with a trusted buddy, and check the weather before the paddle. If you’re not familiar with night navigation lights and signals, don’t paddle at night or in low visibility on water used by powerboats or sailboats.
Kayaks and canoes are considered “vessels under oars” by Transport Canada and the US Coast Guard. Paddlers must carry “an electric torch or illuminated lantern exhibiting white light” on the river between sunset and morning.
If you’re going to be on the water between sunset and dawn, you’ll want something that allows you to see and be seen. Some prefer a waterproof light, although they might “blind” your partners and are inconvenient if you need to communicate behind you. If you’re paddling in a region without any powered boats, bring a portable, waterproof, 360-degree light.
Some jurisdictions mandate that a kayak light be visible at all times after dark, but the majority do not, enabling you to paddle by moonlight or stars. Remember that any light put in your line of sight or reflected into your eyes, such as a headlight reflecting off the deck, can damage your night vision. Check your local regulations twice.
Mounting a raised white light on the aft deck is best to ensure boaters’ visibility. The light should be able to beam in all directions and be unhindered by the kayaker or seat. Motorboats may miss kayaks since they are so low to the water, and a modest light may easily be mistaken for a light onshore or far away.
Use a suction cup mount instead of affixing the mount to the deck if you don’t paddle much at night. A kayaker should still carry a backup handheld, waterproof light for visibility and signaling. Paddlers must paddle conservatively while sharing the water with motorboats.
The Canadian and American coast guards do not mandate sidelights on kayaks since they may give some visibility upfront without obstructing the paddler’s view. If a paddler wishes to utilize sidelights, she must adhere to exceptional coast guard standards for installing them. Other lighting arrangements may seem appealing, but the Coast Guard does not permit them.
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Paddlers should also wear an emergency light, usually a battery-powered LED light that can be seen from more than one nautical mile away. This 360-degree light may be fastened to the shoulder strap of your PFD to keep it with you at all times. Unless you can use a phone or satellite communications equipment to notify someone about your situation, you may be floating for a long time.
As with every kayaking endeavor, what you wear depends on the air and water temperatures you’re paddling. Layering is always a good idea, and taking one extra layer at night than you would during the day is a brilliant idea. Put it in a dry bag, and you’ll be pleased to have it if you need it.
A tiny lake or slow river that you’re comfortable with is the most excellent spot to kayak at night. Choose a route that you’ve paddled a few times throughout the day, so you’re familiar with the landmarks, length of the paddle, and any dangers. Look for landmarks such as giant trees, marinas, cliffs, large buildings, or lighthouses on your trip.
If you’re paddling a loop of a lake, start at a marina or another well-lit spot for night-time navigation. On more giant lakes, be extra cautious of impending weather and wind and the risk of being disorientated. You may use your phone or GPS device for night-time navigation, but having an analog navigation source as your primary navigation source is recommended.
Night Kayak And Paddles With Light Tips
Conditions of poor visibility can only enhance the danger of boating accidents if you don’t know how to interpret night-time navigation lights and signals effectively.
Keep track of other boats traveling the waterways – and if you can’t see any moving lights, learn to trust your hearing. Next, make yourself visible to others – and I cannot emphasize how important this is. Kayak lights and a loud noise maker are two options for night kayaking visibility.
The US Coast Guard requires the use of a waterproof, 360-degree white light — an electric torch, illuminated lantern, or, at the absolute least, a handheld flashlight. An inexpensive, simple, and effective noisemaker is a marine air horn or a long-range whistle – make sure it has a decibel level of 120dB or above.
Putting running lights on your kayak may be good if you share the water with other paddlers, but the law does not require them. Place your lights behind you rather than insight to avoid obstructing other kayakers’ night vision. Green and red running lights should always be on the right side of your boat and red on the left because they reflect light into the water.
Read more: How To Choose The Best Kayak Lights?
If you’re looking for help, place a green light on your right side and a red one on your left to indicate which way you’re heading. This will enable you to be noticed by everyone around, preventing you from being run over.
Experts say your eyes will become dark-adapted in 30 minutes if the night is moonlight rather than pitch-black. The first rule of night kayaking is “be seen,” and the second is “see.”
A waterproof headlamp may be helpful in certain situations, but only if used sparingly. Use it only for meaningful work and paddle with the lights turned off. However, estimating the size, distance, and location of items like other boats, landmarks, and waves will remain a challenge.
Kayaking securely requires being aware of your surroundings, so invest in a high-quality, waterproof light. Remember that artificial lighting impairs your night vision, so turn it off as much as possible while kayaking. When checking navigation and halting, the headlight is the most acceptable option; ambient light might make objects seem farther away.
Always attempt to maintain track of your bearings since becoming lost in the dark is very difficult to recover from. Plan and remember your route ahead of time. You’ll lose sight of your paddle at night, distances will be more brutal to judge, and waves may appear out of nowhere if you’re on the ocean.
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Remember to bring your dry bag – it will carry your necessities if anything goes wrong and you find yourself in the water. It would help if you also had an emergency beacon with you at night to notify others who may be far away.
Adjust your gaze slightly to the side, around 20 degrees away from the center, when looking at a wave. Low illumination affects your retina badly, although rod cells located in the outer borders adapt to low light levels better at night. This is for sea kayakers only.
It’s a mistake to assume you can manage night kayaking the same way you do day kayaking. It’s a whole other beast, but it doesn’t rule out the possibility of having a good time. Be careful and mindful of your surroundings, and don’t get too carried away until you’ve tested the waters.
A dry storage bag for personal goods and valuables that may not survive being wet is a good idea. This includes your ID, smartphone, first-aid kit, additional batteries, and portable electrical equipment. Make sure everything is easily accessible if you can’t locate what you need in the dark.
Is Kayaking At Night Legal?
The USCG has not established any explicit laws that would make kayaking at night unlawful. However, each state has its own rules governing paddling at night. So, before you go out on the water, educate yourself with your local vessel operating guidelines.
Non-motorized watercraft under 23 feet (7 meters) in length, such as kayaks and canoes, are classified as “vessels under oars” and are subject to the restriction mentioned above. If a boat does not display an all-round white light or has on hand an electric torch or lit lantern revealing a white light that must be shown inadequate time to avoid a collision, it is classed as a sailing boat.
Read more: When Should You Discard A PFD? – PFDs Maintenance
Is Nighttime Kayaking Safe?
Paddling a kayak at night may be a hazardous undertaking. Dehydration, hypothermia, capsizing, extreme weather, and drowning are just a handful of the hazards and perils prevalent in paddling activities. You have an added layer of danger when you add low light and poor visibility to the equation.
In low-light situations, your primary sense – vision – will be severely impaired, making it impossible to judge size, distance, and location precisely. I’m not trying to frighten you out of your night kayaking adventure; I believe that kayaking at night may provide a surreal experience. That doesn’t make the dangers go away.
On a moonlight night, even a well-trained boat skipper moving at a safe pace will have difficulty detecting a paddler in a kayak. Shallow lighting ultimately boils down to one thing: external lighting. How you prepare for a kayak night excursion impacts how risky it will be.
The most severe risk of night kayaking is underestimating the threat and failing to match the perceived risk to the actual risk. There’s also the threat of inactive wildlife during the day but become active at night, such as alligators. The fact that you’ve come here to read about night paddling safety indicates that you’re aware of the hazards of kayaking in the dark.
Read more: How To Get Out Of A Kayak With Bad Knees?
Sleeping On A Canoe or Kayak At Night
Sleeping in your canoe can be uncomfortable and a bit of a squeeze, depending on your canoe’s size and height, plus all your belongings. You may not be able to sleep peacefully in your kayak unless it is inflatable and has enough capacity. It may also be inconvenient if it is pouring when trying to get comfortable for the night.
One of the advantages of sleeping in your canoe is that you won’t need to look for dry or soft ground since your canoe will offer a level resting surface. It may also provide spectacular views of the night sky.
If you are looking for a quiet place to sleep on a moonlit night, consider taking a dip in the water near the shore – this is not recommended in all conditions and settings. The water must be calm and flat to avoid drifting away, and there must be enough moonlight to be seen by passing boats.
The thwarts prevent you from sleeping comfortably unless you can easily slip below them. This means you will probably have to sleep without them overnight and reinstall them in the morning.
You’ll need a right-angled aluminum bracket and some bolts to secure it to the gunwales. Then use wire lock pins to reconnect them and a drill to make the necessary holes. After that, you may use the hook to lock and unlock the thwarts, making them simple to remove for resting and fast to reinstall.
A hammock is handy because it allows you to sleep above the ground, which is advantageous if the ground is wet, rocky, or otherwise undesirable. Hammocks take considerably less space than sleeping mats in many cases. If it’s raining or there are a lot of bugs around, you may want to consider some form of shelter – a hammock tent can keep the rain at bay.
A lovely cushion will support your head and neck, which is vital if you want to avoid stiffness on your next paddle day. Carrying your usual bedroom cushion is certainly not practical, but a lightweight camping pillow might be helpful. A tent is an excellent choice if it’s windy or wet or if you don’t want to be entirely exposed to nature. In most cases, a lightweight hiking tent will suffice.
Having a campfire at your campsite might help you relax and lower your blood pressure. You may also use the fire to prepare hot beverages and cook meals. Just make sure it’s safe and legal since some locations may prohibit it due to wildfires’ increased danger.
Snacks that are heavy in carbs will help you sleep and replace lost energy during paddling. Snacks rich in protein or caffeine should be had a few hours before bedtime. It’s a good idea to have a carb-rich meal in the evening to help you fuel yourself for the following day.
Read more: Do Alligators Attack Kayaks And Kayakers?
Things to Think About When Night Kayak Tour
Regardless of the time of day, knowing what to anticipate when on the water is critical for safety. Even without the heavy wind and inclement weather, night kayaking is challenging enough. Save the harsh circumstances until daylight; testing your paddling talents at night is not good. Sure, weather forecasts might be inaccurate occasionally, but check the forecast before heading out on the lake.
Knowing when the tides will change, how much they will vary (tidal range), and how they affect the currents might help you plan a safe night kayaking excursion. Inexperienced paddlers may release kayaks at high tide only to drag them over sand or mud back to the starting site at low tide.
The regulations of on-the-water navigation apply regardless of whether you’re kayaking during the day or at night. On a pitch-black night, losing sight of objects and drifting off course is more common than you may imagine. Plan your route, remember it, keep track of your location, and stick to it like your life is on the line.
When kayaking at night, distance, duration, speed, and bearings should be meticulously monitored. It’s good to double-check your route for low-head dams, which may be difficult to notice even during the day, much alone at night. Pay close attention to details and maintain a constant awareness of your environment.
The Global Positioning System, or GPS, will provide you with extensive information about your exact position, direction, and speed. I believe that a GPS is a must-have navigation tool that should be on the gear list of every night paddler. Always include a kayak compass and map as a manual backup. Technology may occasionally fail, so it’s best to be prepared.