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Preparing your boat for night time

While most in the country are putting away their paddles and engines for the fall, Florida has the benefit of being warm year-round for boaters to enjoy the seas whenever they want. However, Florida does share one key trait with the other states during autumn: the lack of sunlight.

Those evening cruises you love to take will have to be earlier if you want to avoid boating at night time. While Florida does not forbid residents for sailing in the late evening, they do require their vessels to have emergency equipment on board. If you plan on going stargazing in the middle of the water, you should have knowledge of these safety regulations.

Proper navigational lights

Every boat owner knows they need lights on their vessels to be able to navigate the dark waters, but some are confused on how much they need. According to the Official Florida Boating Safety Course Online, boats less than 65.6 feet long should have:

  • Red and green sidelights. If it is more than 39.4 feet long, it should be visible from at least two miles away. If less, it should be one.
  • An all-around white light or a masthead and stern light. The all-around white light must be at least 3.3 feet higher than the sidelights.
  • A combined masthead and stern light to form an all-around white light.

Those with boats less than 39.4 feet long also have the option to place a combination of a red, white, and green light near the top. All boats should also carry a flashlight in case the lights malfunction. Flashlights and lanterns are also crucial for vessels such as sailboats or kayaks that do not have lighting installed.

Loud sound items

If another boater does not see you, you will have to get them to hear you. Typically, whistles and horns are the items you want to get if you need someone within a half mile radius to hear you. The OFBSCO also lists various sound signals you can make to warn other boaters if you are changing directions or in the middle of an emergency. Learn as much as you can to prepare for the worst.

Visual aids

If the lights go out and there are no good batteries available for your flashlight, it is time to break out the visual distress signals. Vessels that are less than 16 feet long must carry at least three night signals, while those over 16 feet must carry three for both day and night. Some of these signals include:

  • Flare guns (day and night variants)
  • Orange smoke
  • An electric light
  • An orange flag

If you have used up all your signals or you cannot find any on your vessel, you will have to rely on waving your arms up and down to grab someone’s attention.

Just like the roads, night time is one of the more frequent times for negligent boaters to put others at risk. If they crash into you after not alerting you of their presence with one of these emergency tactics, an attorney that has experience with maritime law can help you seek justice for this incident.

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