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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bad Things About Boating at Night

Boating at Night
Boating at Dusk on the Mississippi River Courtesy: KnotsandBoats

Boating at night sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I used to think so. 

Let’s begin with a story. One fine evening on the way back from the fireworks display, I was coming down river on a beautiful moonlit night. What made it all the more beautiful was an apparent snowstorm off the bow. Or was it? No, just an intense blizzard of nighttime insects. 

Bad thing about boating at night #1: Bugs. 

Though the moon was out, shining bright, and every boat had its running lights on, and we had a spotlight on, we still couldn’t see diddly-squat (see reason #1, above). We also couldn’t see because, oh yea, it was nighttime, and on the water there are a surprising amount of reflections with light bouncing off every ripple of water in a different, distracting way. Was that a boat? No, just a house off in the distance. Is that a fish, or a wave, or a rogue dinghy? None of the above – just our imagination. 

Bad thing about boating at night #2: Humans can’t see in the dark, even if we think we can. 

Even so, it was a stretch of water that I knew intimately. I knew where the deep water was, and the way around the buoys. So I did what every rational newbie-boater would do – I jumped out of the slow line of boats in the channel (you know, the boats doing what they were supposed to be doing in a low-visibility situation) and set off on my own course. 

Bad thing about boating at night #3: It makes otherwise intelligent boaters make dangerous misjudgments. 

“Wow,” you’re thinking, “I’m reading this guy’s blog and it turns out, he’s a complete MORON!” Well in that instance, I certainly was! That’s why I’m writing this blog – so you, or someone you know, doesn’t make the same newbie mistakes I did!! Anyway, there were so many things wrong with that plan. So the story progresses… 

About halfway into our ‘successful’ foray out into the open, we were having a grand old time, laughing at the slowpokes in the slow lane. My trusty friend was at the bow (bowrider, seated safely), with a spot on the waves – or so I thought. Round about thirty seconds after making a safety-check, we rose up the surface of what could have only been described as a well-anchored waterskiing jump. SPOILER ALERT: It wasn't a waterskiing jump, it was a rogue wave seemingly the size of a tsunami. 

What comes up must go down – and we did, right through the trough of the next wave, and my boat became a submarine without any further monetary outlay on my part. The cheapest submarine ever! The water rushed over us like the quick way down Niagara, and we were left, drenched, with three inches of water in the boat, staring at each other in disbelief through raining eyelashes. 

Bad thing about boating at night #4: You’re going to hit something, and possibly make your boat into a submarine in the cheapest way possible, which actually sounds like a good thing but in reality it’s not. 

There are two good things that came out of this episode: first, we survived and laughed about it the whole way back to the dock, where we got into our cars with about 1 gallon of water each still in our clothing. Second, I learned the hard way that when boating at night, NEVER EVER EVER go faster than the boats around you, or you’ll get caught in their wakes, DUMMY! Also, never go fast at night, period. Also, follow the lead of the boaters around you, as I’ve said in a previous article.

Boating is about experiences - some great, some not so great - but all of them teach you something.  Low visibility situations are no joke; they can be really deadly.  And, when you think about it, going fast at nighttime just doesn't make sense for these two reasons if nothing else: first, it's not fun catching bugs in your mouth, and second, you're going to miss how beautiful it is at night on the water with a full moon.
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