5 best tips for boat safety at night

Boating under the stars is an amazing experience. As you can imagine, it’s also a lot more dangerous than boating during the day, because, well, you can’t see as much.

That’s why we’re offering up our top tips for boat safety at night.

  1. Be ready with the right gear

Even if you aren’t planning to be on the water at night, it pays to be prepared. After all, a sunset sail could turn into something darker, if the light goes down and you’re not at your mooring or ramp in time.

We recommend always having an emergency flashlight in an easy to access location, as well as glow sticks, so you can crack them when the sun goes down. Put your glow stick on a lanyard or in your pocket.

That way if someone falls overboard, you can easily spot them. You may also want to get some night vision goggles. Yes, they sound high tech and expensive, but you can actually buy a pair for around $100. Head here for reviews of some of the best brands out there.

  1. Reduce ambient light

We all know that having bright lights blaring in our eyes makes it harder to adjust to the darkness. So, it makes sense to turn down bright lights onboard when the sun goes down. That way, when you look out at the water, your vision is far more effective.


We recommend dimming the chart plotter, courtesy lights and any other lights that will impact your capacity to see. This will preserve your ‘mesopic’ vision, which is when neither the rods or cones inside your eyes operate at peak performance in intermediate light.

This is really a fancy way of saying; don’t kill your night vision by keeping a bunch of lights on. Tone them down so you can see beyond the bow and stern, and identify obstacles on the water more clearly.

  1. Go slow

This one is so obvious, but we’re often surprised at the number of boaties that don’t reduce speed when the sun goes down. It may feel safer when the moon is out and there is not much congestion on the water, but when it’s dark, be especially careful and stay slower than you normally would.

Your braking time on a boat is far slower than you probably even realise. This, coupled with the lag in reaction time of most drivers, will increase your risk of water collisions dramatically. So, even though it may seem a little boring, slower is far better.

  1. Have a look out

When the sun goes down, designate one person to look to the horizon at all times. This ‘look out’ should not be the Captain. Rather, a person who can stay frosty, and alert the Captain to obstacles or dangers ahead.

At night, the Captain has an even greater burden to chart the course, while also monitoring gauges and adjusting the throttle. Looking up and down between the chart plotter and horizon can mean they miss moments in front of them.

Having an additional set of eyes adds a whole other level of safety to your boat, and it’s relatively easy for any crewmember to do. Just make sure they have their eyes on the horizon and a direct line of communication to the Captain.

  1. Trust your tech

At night, distances can be deceiving. At night on the water, this deception is even greater. With this in mind, it can be tempting to mistrust the information being presented on your chart plotter. Don’t. Believe what it tells you, as you’re far more likely to be wrong.

Many night sailors have realised this the hard way, so you’re benefitting from their (somewhat understandable) mistakes. Either way, always slowdown if you feel something appears closer than what it appears to be. It never hurts to slow down and play it safe.

Discover more boat safety at night tips

For more information on boat safely at night, head to this NSW Government Roads and Maritime Services website, which offers great tips for sailors.

If you need cover for your boat, or any other vessel, contact us for a free quote. We always want our clients to be safe on the water, but unfortunately accidents can happen.

If they do, we want you to be covered for the stuff that matters, so you can get back on the water faster. Get started now.

Safety Boats Tip at Night