Skipping a boat at night time can be an adventure for some or a responsibility for others; a responsibility of feeding a family, hauling in business, supporting the local economy, or guarding the coastlines. In this article, we will be talking about night boating and some tips you should always remember for your own safety. Besides, it does procreate a better boating experience for you, so there’s that!

Why would people take out their boats at night?

There can be many reasons. But primarily, the commercial reason for night boating would be for fishing. If you did not know, you can actually catch different kinds of fish at night that you would not be able to find during daylight. These fishes also get sold for higher prices compared to the daytime fishes, so there’s that. Fishing boats with an experienced crew tend to have the best tips for night boating. So if you ever get a chance to speak with such people, don’t miss the opportunity and take notes!

Another most common reason is for recreational purposes. How does a great candlelit dinner in the middle of a calm ocean sound? Romantic, isn’t it? Or how about experiencing a great sunset right on your little vessel? Or hey, the nighttime adventure on a boat sounds great! And let us tell you, this can be an exquisite and memorable experience for you, your friends and family, or your spouse.

Sounds exciting! What tips should I follow for some Night Boating?

It is wise to understand the safety measures rather than regret after an accident happens right in the middle of nowhere. Let’s keep in mind these basic safety tips that will save your life, or someone else’s!

Take it Easy!

It’s nighttime. Whether you are going out or returning to the harbour, make sure to take it easy. Slow down and pay attention to your surroundings. You do not want unwanted accidents out there in the dark. Be slow and confident and make use of the limited visibility that you have.

Remember, nighttime changes how a coastline looks and how the water and wind feel. So yes, do not panic and do not rush. Take it easy and take it slow and you will definitely make it safely back to the harbour… Or have a safer experience on the sea in case you are going out at night.

Let your natural night vision work!

Humans may not have superior night vision amongst other creatures, but it certainly is not useless either. Your night vision, combined with natural nighttime light sources such as the moon will aid you significantly with navigation and driving your boat.

To let your night vision settle in with the surrounding darkness, dim all the interior and deck lights as much as you can. Make it dim enough so that your night vision adjusts better to the darkness. Don’t turn off your lights completely though. Generally, you would want your boat to be visible in the darkness so other sailors out there are aware of your location. This will help with avoiding unwanted accidents.

Also, it is recommended to get a night vision device. For some individuals, even the slightest amount of light can cause pupil contraction, which can hamper your night vision for several minutes. Having a night vision device can eliminate that issue and allow you to have a better, clearer vision on the waters.

Recharge your batteries and carry emergency essentials!

It’s better to be prepared than to face an unwanted situation later. We are not talking about accidents here, but rather situations like blackouts on the boat and so on. During such times, these tools come in handy. But if they are out of juice, they are as good as a vanity item serving no real purpose.

Always check your inventories, check the batteries, and ensure you have enough backup equipment to use in case of such emergencies. Your emergency kit may include equipment like a toolbox, first-aid kit, flares, flashlights, and life jackets (PFDs).

Also don’t forget the nighttime boating gear, such as:

  • GPS/Chartplotter
  • Sound Signalling Device
  • VHF Radio
  • Flares
  • Signal light and whistles tied to each life jacket
  • Communication devices

Carry Navigational Charts

As mentioned previously, the shorelines and the sea feels different at night. What you might be able to recognise at day may not look the same at all at night. Hence, it is highly recommended to carry navigational and other charts of the area you are planning to sail to. So, even if you feel like you are lost, your boat’s GPS system or these charts can help you plot a course.

This can help you get out of sticky situations rather easily and may even prove a lifesaver.

Learn Navigational Lights and Horns

During the nighttime, a boat captain has to rely on not only their eyes but on other sensory organs and knowledge as well. It is an absolute must that you understand what different navigational lights or hooters mean. Having appropriate knowledge regarding such is helpful in saving lives and keeping yourself safe


Apart from that, do rely on other cues as well. Sound travels pretty far on waters, so do listen. Dim your ambient light (cabin light etc.) whenever not necessary and just keep your navigation lights on.

For detailed information, we encourage you to visit this page.

Pack Warm Clothes!

Unlike on land, the temperature on water (especially larger lakes and oceans) can fall drastically during nighttime. Hence, it is important for one to carry warm clothes (yes, even during summer).

Caution! You are docking!

Even if you are a master at docking, this point is especially important. Measuring accurate distance is especially challenging and a single miscalculation can crash your boat. Now, you wouldn’t want to damage your boat, would you? Hence, take it slow and make sure your docking light is on.


And lastly, we would like to add: Do have some common sense. We all learn from mistakes. If you are a beginner at nighttime boating, you are likely to make mistakes at some point. However, do not fear the mistakes but welcome them. Mistakes are the best teacher when you want to learn something. If you follow the tips for night boating above and follow them with common sense, you will be alright!

If you are looking for Skipper’s License in South Africa, Skipper’s Training SA can help you. We provide all sorts of guidance and training for obtaining a skipper’s license in South Africa. Our courses are designed and carried out by professional veterans in the industry. Feel free to give us a call today and we will be glad to assist you!

Night Boating Tips and Precautions