News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

Don’t Make Your Boat Look Like a Christmas Tree

Date Posted: 2020-11-18
Source: BoatUS

BoatUS advises boaters about unsafe decorative lighting when navigating

SPRINGFIELD, Va., Nov. 18, 2020 – Boaters looking to buy themselves a Christmas gift may be thinking about adding some “bling” to the boat – multicolored decorative LED deck and space lighting. Just don’t light your boat up like a Christmas tree, says the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. Extra lights installed in the wrong place could cause other boaters to misinterpret your boat’s navigation lights and present a safety hazard.

“Today’s decorative lighting options, from ropes to underwater lighting, allow DIYers to personalize their boats,” said BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water President Chris Edmonston. “The challenge comes when the boat is underway. Decorative lights installed in the wrong location may cause others to misinterpret your vessel’s red, green and white navigation lighting. Bright lights of many colors can also reduce your night vision and hamper your ability to safely navigate.”

The BoatUS Foundation has two tips when shopping for and installing decorative boat lights:

1. When underway, avoid displaying any light that could be confused as a navigation light or another type of vessel. When installing decorative LED lighting, running wiring to a single master switch allows you to easily turn off all nonessential lights before heading out. Remember, flashing blue lights are reserved for law enforcement – at a distance, wave action combined with the steady rocking of high-intensity blue lights below the waterline can give the appearance of a police vessel.

2. Don’t install decorative lights that prevent the operator from maintaining a good lookout. When running between sunset and sunrise, it’s critical that those behind the wheel maintain their night vision, so the number-one goal is to keep light out of the operator’s eyes. Glare from aesthetic lighting such as LED rope lights wrapped around a helm station can hinder night vision.

  • Comment submitted by Charles Truthan - Wed, Nov 18th

    On our one (and ONLY) night time Boat Christmas parade a few years back, I wish'd I'd had seen this article first!

    I had strung lights from the top of the radar mast to the forward safety rail (Christmas tree like) and then from the dingy deck to the hand rail on our Trawler.

    At the helm, I had enough trouble following the boat ahead of me, but to make matters worse, the boats that were watching the parade had all turned off their running and / or anchor lights!  This made them invisible to me and i had several near collisions, but thankfully no actual ones.

    I would never advise this arrangement if participating in a night time boat parade.  Virtually NO forward or side vision.  I was running my radar as well and attribute the succesful parade to having it and being comfortable using it.  But I'll never light my boat up again like that and take it underway at night!!

    Learn from the mistakes of others, as you will never live long enough to make them all on your own!

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