The days are getting shorter. I always dread not being able to get out of work and make a quick trip to my favorite put in because it gets dark too early. This got me wondering, why stop just because it’s dusk? Does anybody paddle after dusk? What about campers and anglers, do you head to shore when the light begins to fade?
Paddling at night
Do it all the time, bring a headlamp.
at night many times on Long Island it is great just got back tonight at about 9:00 pm if I didn’t have to be up at 4:00 am I would still be out there.
This topic comes up fairly regularly. Of course you can paddle at night. It’s a whole other world out there at night and you you’ll wonder why you’ve ignored it this long. Not only that, but at night, various aspects of the change in season seem as if to be from another world too.
among my favorite trips…
…have been after dark on rivers. This is especially true in early Fall when there are few power boats out along them. Paddling along a river bank at night can be quite magical. You need bright white lighting pointing ahead and behind you. I use an LED headlamp plus a clip on LED “jewel light” on the back of my PFD, plus a Luci inflatable lantern clipped to the deck (latter not really needed but it makes such a nice ambiance.) I really love gliding through quiet dark waters silvery with reflected moonlight and sparkling reflections from streetlamps, docks and bridges and even lightning bugs.
I’d think a red light pointing
forwards would be less likely to destroy your night vision. White is fine but you cant see out of the range of illumination. We are equipped with rods in our eyes. They are in charge of night vision. The trouble is that we lack the patience to allow a few minutes for them to kick in.
But I have only paddled with a red light and not a white for illumination
Was just in Acadia NP for four days of night star parties. White lights were forbidden but mostly because with so many people someone would get blinded for sure.
It was quite amazing… soon no one was stumbling over anything and even with a thousand people and 50 telescopes with wiring there were no accidents. Yet it was dark. Most folks by then had turned off their red lights too.
check regulations red may not be allowed
Check your local regulations (and I believe what I am about to tell you applies on Coast Guard jurisdiction waters as well.) In my state (Pennsylvania) it is a violation for non-powered boaters to use any color but white light on their craft. Red and green lights are reserved for identifying starboard and port on powered craft. The reasoning it that having those colors on a kayak or canoe implies to any approaching craft that it has the ability to power out of their way, which it does not. And red without green creates a confusing signal.
My ex was an avid astronomer and we often went to "star parties" as you describe (one in Death Valley was quite amazing). "Dark skies" astronomy sites are restricted to red light to keep human eyes from losing visual accuity for viewing low light through the telescope. Bright focused white light makes your iris contract to reduce the amount of illumination passing through the pupil and hitting the retina. When this happens it takes an annoyingly long time for your eyes to readjust when you look into the eyepiece, plus you have those "ghosts" in your field of vision from the bright point of light itself.
“Need” is relative
I almost never use a light just to see where I’m going. The exception is on small rivers with lots of downed trees, but even then I keep the light off much of the time. I find that part of the magic is actually experiencing the night instead of conquering it. I find that in most situations I don’t really “need” to see things clearly (or at all) at such distance as illumination would allow.
Naturally, on busy waters, I use lights to make sure power boaters can see me.
have to show any illumination but shine a white light in time to avoid collision with another craft.
Not much of an issue here save in Portland Harbor ( where few paddle at night in the harbor proper)
Not much chance at confusion with power boaters when we are simply seeking our campsite.
Completely different environment than yours… And we indeed can see by the stars…so usually paddle with no lights( save the required one which is off). the bioluminescence is very nice then too.
Light pollution is an anathema to me but that is another topic ( rant) ( mercury vapor lamps…why?)
Early darkness sucks.
well not really
It makes seeing the Milky Way at 8 pm possible…so many stars.
I lament the march of darkness
and celebrate the Winter Solstice because that means a few nanoseconds of light are being added each day.
Do any of you night paddlers travel on new territory or do you stay on known waters?
Mostly familiar waters, …
… but staying out after dark on new water when the trip began during daylight is pretty common for me.
We had an epic planning mistake one summer, doing about three hours on a small river after dark. The trick there, was that the river entered the flood plain of a larger river, at which point, abandoned river channels became common creating the potential for many wrong turns. Careful observation of the current (with a light) was needed to avoid wrong turns.
PJC got dive-bombed by an owl that night. That was back in the days of his hippie-style hair and beard. The owl zeroed-in on that big clump of hair, paying no attention to the human body and boat underneath it. Fortunately it figured out something was wrong at the last second, so we didn’t have to extricate the bird’s talons from his skull. Did I say night paddling can be pretty cool?
My concern here at home is that the loons haven’t left and I don’t know where they cozy up at night.
Their alarm call is quite loud. If I set them off, hope I don’t wind up doing a night swim instead of a paddle.
they have moving parties
while they take a lot of room to take off they do go to other lakes to party hearty.
They will leave here in two weeks for good. There are none on our lake today but two days ago holy cow…they were all showing off and acting cuckoo.
Except the juvies stay longer. Sounds cruel but the adults leave them in the fall… Juvies I swear beat ice out barely… Yet they won’t return to fresh water till they are adults ready to mate. That takes about three years.
Our loons are fat They have about 15 miles to travel to get to salt water. Not the two thousand miles of Midwest loons. There are a few on the ocean now that are wearing banker gray. Might be last years juvies.
several different local law enforcement (park and wildlife, game warden, local sheriff water patrol and coast guard). There may be different regs in different bodies of water and even conflicting interpretations between officials. Better to know what each expects rather than to have to go to court to prove they were wrong.
The headlamp is good for seeing things up close - in or on the boat - or for spotting some distant detail for a moment while resting the paddle, but not so much for general navigation. When I have tried using one under way, it just gives me a great view of my hand on the paddle or pole - and obscures everything forward of that.
Usually, I just go with ambient light. But when that is not possible or safe, I like to have a light mounted ahead of me on the boat, where it won’t illuminate my paddle or pole. Wouldn’t even bother with a light on all the time on a lake, but sometimes a good idea in rivers with snags, sweepers, strainers, etc.
Night paddling is magical when done on familiar water. Can be scary when caught on unfamiliar water.
True, but I can star gaze any clear
night, though a bit later than 8pm.
I won’t paddle after dark after work on our local city lake and I work until 6pm, so my after work paddling season ends when we fall back. It’s tough now, when it’s dark by 7:15pm.
I decided to go out as fog was
coming onto the water, still quite a bit of daylight, but as I paddled away from the dock, along came a pontoon with blue light all along and above his floats as a fair clip.
Back to the house I went, grabbed my running lights, a red/green for the bow and a white for the stern. Glad I did as the fog became thicker and I met the same boat chugging along toward me on my return trip to the house.
Hubby saw my lights as I approached home, in the now thick fog, and turned on the river lights to guide me better. He’s so good to me.