Kayak Running Light for Night Paddles

Yes, but
Some states require even kayaks beyond the COLOREGS line to have a white light visible for 360 degrees. I have never heard of the state marine patrol enforcing that except in bays, but they claim its is a requirement in all state waters which goes, according to them, 6NM off shore. I think their position is shaky from a legal perspective, but not productive to discuss the law with law enforcement types as they assume they know what the law is and for all practical purposes they are the law.

Might not red and green running lights cause confusion concerning size and distance?


– Last Updated: Sep-17-08 5:55 PM EST –

They have bigger lights. Talk about losing night vision. Don't upset the guy with the huge light.

Because you will blind
the operator which is a bad idea if you desire to be seen. It’s referred to as “embarassing a vessel”

Some state inland lakes etc. may have lighting rules that superceed the Colregs. Just check things out locally.

I’m guessing
they need their night vision and that shining your “torch upon your rigging/sail” would be more effective to illuminating who and what you are.

The photons in your flashlight have no repulsive force to prevent a large or fast boat from colliding with you. That’s the problem with interpreting the colregs wording for a single light to shine “in time to prevent collision”.

The best thing you can do for a fast or big boat is to COMMUNICATE with them in the time they can react, otherwise it’s like walking across a freeway counting on the cars to dodge you.

Here’s another anecdote. I’m paddling from Red Rock in the bay to the beach, the open crossing to the land is about 3/4 mile with the actual channel about 1/4. I’ve got an ACR light dangling off my pfd and a BRIGHT dive light on more foredeck “to shine in time to prevent collision”. I’m scanning up both ways as I head across but am confident with the current any likely traffice is up bay on the other side of the Richmond San Rafael bridge. As I’m half way across what I though was a slow moving ship far away actually turns out to be a commuter catamaran going about 25-30mph. I’m guessing. The point is it’s FAST,once I realize it I turn on the bright light and continue paddling triple time with the flashlight bouncinng around. It went behind me with lots of clearnce, about 150yd. But what I realized is that it wasn’t going to change course one bit. Until I turned on the BRIGHT light I was a floating log. The photons in my bright light would have no effect on the boat given the time to react.

It makes no sense to surprise a less maneuverable vehicle with a sudden illumination expecting that your reaction time is the only factor involved. Visible running lights ensures that I am constantly communicating my position.

Suddenly flicking on a bright light might give you the idea you’re in control of something but you’re actually setting up a situation that REDUCES the choices for the vehicle that will wipe you out.

You really don’t know what it’s like run a big boat or ship until you talk to people that do. I was in a kayak class with a captain of big 500’ ships, when he described what he went through on the chesapeake it totally changed my view on where a safe place to cross was and what they had to deal with.

Not really
small runabouts have them and they give the other guy more information as to your heading etc.

not to someone on a bridge
it’s the person 18" off the water that’s confused with size and distance.

I understand the desire to use what is sold in stores, that good ol’ 2AA ACR light with the 360degree. But it’s really marginal.

My $.02 is that if you paddle where there’s traffic and you are going to be on a path to cross other boats, look like a boat and not a floating candle.

Yep, I find that going a little beyond…

– Last Updated: Sep-17-08 6:27 PM EST –

... the minimum "flashlight" (have that too) or single constant white light requirements - and using some form of the red green forward and white aft not only works very well by giving much better 360 and more usable info, and is definitely appreciated by the other traffic. Get some chuckles (much as GPS gets in daylight), but more positives, compliments, thanks (or best of all, simple nods/waves vs dirty look/cursing).

The other traffic who I have them there for - as courtesy thing, to limit THEIR confusion, more than a personal safety thing for me (I tend to rely on maneuvering for that). Being small and low to teh water - I never assume anyone sees my lights - though they all seem to.

When in the boaters' realm, I'm a boater too, and so I do as the boater's do.

Lately, using three Tektite LED lights. A red and a green (same as in NAVLITE without the bag) under the deck bungees at either side (not on bow - so not optimal for leght, but better separation - and still forward enough - yet still reachable if need be too) and a brighter white on a suction cup mount on the read deck (sometimes well aft (if I put it on before launching) - sometimes as far back as I can reach from the cockpit (if put on underway). I also have a set of paired R/G round LEDs with plastic shield on a suction mount I sometimes use that I put all the way up by the bow (but these aren't as bright, and it's harder to see if they go out). All of these stay put rolling (so far) and all also have some sort of tether built in.

I don't see many other night paddlers, but when I do they all too often use some hodgepodge mix of glow sticks (nearly useless), cheap LEDs (in some confusing odd pattern and/or mixed colors), and worst of all - red and/or white bike type strobes. I've also seen blue!

paddling by moored boats
more than once I was asked where I got it since the inflatable dinghies they had used the standard 2Dcell lights from West Marine. They said the lights I had were as good as regular running lights.

Yep, very small boats that go slower…
… than I do in my kayak have them. No one should be assuming anything about size or speed based on the basic three running lights.

I use a set of suction-cup mount regulation LED running lights. Got 'em at West Marine. They’re great. I get lots of compliments from power boaters and they all say the same thing: “It makes you look like a power boat”.

'Nuff said.

There’s a problem here.

– Last Updated: Sep-17-08 11:26 PM EST –

It's great to make yourself visible from all directions by whatever means you can think of, but it's even better to simply obey the law, because that's the best way to AVOID GETTING A TICKET. I don't know if law-enforcement is a concern on the coast, but it is on inland waters (and you can meet a game warden anywhere, anytime).

Lacking the ability or ambition to provide a practical means of making your white light visible from from all directions is a really bad reason for adding red and green lights! Adding red and green lights simply to give you 360-degree visibility is not a legal substitute for having a white light, or more than one white light, that is/are visible from all directions. Boating is just like driving, as far as the rules go. Sheriffs and game wardens DO interpret the law exactly as written. If they see your boat and are aware that your white light is not visible from all directions, it won't matter if your red and green lights show up just fine - you WILL get a ticket. That's why I use a pair of white lights when I need to be worried about being seen or when I might not hear approaching powerboats (like when it's choppy). At least one of those lights is always visible from any direction (I also shield them so I myself can't see either one of them. If I could see them, I wouldn't be able to see anything else over the glare).

Oh, I should add that I have no disagreement with the people who say providing lights that make your paddlecraft "look more like a boat" to all the powerboaters out there seems reasonable.

Oh, and for what it's worth, I don't believe that the white-light rule for "vessels under oars" is in place for no reason other than because there was no easy way to rig up colored lights for dinghys. A small motorboat is nothing more than a rowboat with a motor clamped on the back, and red/green-plus-white lights have always been required in that case. Self-contained, battery-powered colored AND white lights have been in use on small motorboats for decades, and could just as well be clamped on the gunnels of a rowboat as any other craft.

There is a difference

– Last Updated: Sep-17-08 11:26 PM EST –

between displaying a constant all round white light (vessel at anchor) and having available a white light to shine only as needed when another vessel is approaching. This is lost on some here I think, but not on the CG. In International or Inland waters governed by the Colregs you would be "out of compliance with a constant white light" unless you were anchored.

If you choose to run constant lights "and" wish to comply with the Colregs, the running lights are currently your only legal option, as outlined in Rule 25.

Again "some" local laws may superceed the Colregs and a prudent mariner (you) should check said laws and comply. Some areas "may" allow for a constant white light by human powered craft, but NOT the Colregs (unless you are at anchor).

Assumptions about speed and size are disingenuous as many small trawlers and sailing craft aren't much faster than a kayak.

A power vessel, commercial or otherwise will probably assume a white light to be a vessel at anchor, whereas they will NOT assume that with running lights.

Ambiguity is only there for those wishing to believe it's there so they can do what they want anyway. In the end, the USCG is a Rules driven operation and the Rules dictate. Whether they choose to mess with a kayaker is any body's guess. Coasties I know will and do check paddlers and expect them to have an all round white light "available" or running lights. If you do not they typically give you a ride to the nearest marina and a warning.

Then strictly speaking, it would be …
… better from a legal standpoint to paddle in the dark with a white light at the ready than to be constantly visible without red and green lights. As stated in my most-recent post above, I’m all for staying within the law to avoid being ticketed, but I have no qualms about leaving my white lights on when I’m worried about being seen by boats of which I am not yet aware. I know I won’t get a ticket for doing that as it’s already been put to the test. However, as I mentioned in my most recent post above, simply adding red and green lights to supplement your 360-degree visibility WILL earn you a ticket. If you are going to use red and green, you ALSO need a 360-degree white light to be in compliance.

stern white light is not 360

– Last Updated: Sep-18-08 12:33 AM EST –

someone could correct me but I think a 360 with light with red/green is for motoring, the stern white light with red/green is for sailing/rowing/kayaking so there isn't a need to have a 360 white light with red/green runnning. I think putting a white light behind your back should be sufficient and save your night vision from a white light in front,,or on your head.

I just checked, a stern light is 135degree coverage. A 360 white light with running lights isn't mentioned. Please correct me if I'm mistaken.

If you choose

– Last Updated: Sep-18-08 12:33 AM EST –

to run running lights you must do so in accordance with Rule 25 which includes a white stern light! Rule 25 d (ii)...You will not get in trouble for that! Yes, technically speaking you would be out of compliance with a "constant" white... BUT, as I said they may not bug and I'm simply sharing the correct info, NOT judging. Do what you want. I'm explaining the "difference" in an attempt to clarify the difference for readers who may be confused.

Where are you paddling, and who enforces? USCG? If so then the Rules are clear. If some local laws superceed then follow those. All I'm trying to do here is be clear and accurate about what the Rules say specific to kayaks which I have done.

I'm sharing this info not to be superior as some here accuse me, rather to share accurate info from a perspective of a licensed captain with much sea time. Take it, leave it...

Bigger question may be the decision to paddle in the dark in high traffic waters?? Low traffic waters make this a mute point...have a light ready to shine if / when another vessel comes near. Otherwise enjoy the peace and darkness.

No disagreement here

– Last Updated: Sep-18-08 12:41 AM EST –

I wasn't disagreeing with anything you said. I was only thinking about what would be necessary to be operating within the law no matter what system of lights a person happens to choose. I understand what you are saying about lights when at anchor, but I wasn't clear what you said about using a stern white light. One statement seemed to say 360-degree white IS necessary if you use red and green running lights (which was also my interpretation), while the other statment implies it doesn't matter ("you will not get in trouble for that").

In Wisconsin, the lighing rules are the same as they are for a whole bunch of other states. Rules are enforced by local sheriffs and state conservation wardens. In some towns, the local police have a boat and will enforce the rules too (the police in my town used to have a couple of boats, but I don't think they do anymore). See Jasaults' post below for the Pennsylvania rules, which are the same as Wisconsin's and goodness knows how many other states as well.

Finally, you are correct that all this only matters in certain waters. Most of the places I paddle or row, I don't use lights at all, as there's no need.


– Last Updated: Sep-18-08 12:48 AM EST –

and that's the part that never made sense to me,,paddle dark so no one can see you, then start shining a light on your self with your third hand to prevent collision,,giving the other vessel enough time to see your position. It seems to reflect the limited watt/hour capacity of a "torch" than the need to provide constant illumination of ones position as running lights do with a dedicated 50lb lead acid battery driving 15-25 watts of lighting.

Once you drop down to sufficient lumens from .2 watts,,you got the ability to be seen all the time.

where do you get 360?

Since the rules are so poorly written,…

– Last Updated: Sep-18-08 1:23 AM EST –

...I'm putting two and two together, and perhaps the answer is not four because I should be adding something other than two plus two.

Here's my logic, and it may not be correct.

1) There is an emphasis on all-around visibility by means of a white light, and that goes for all boat types. For every type of boat, the one constant is having a white light visible from all directions, or a directional light you can shine where needed (which serves the same purpose) if you are using a boat not required to have full-time lights.

2) There is no mention of exemption of "vessels under oars" from using white light as the primary means of being seen, only that such a light need not be turned on at all times.

3) Therefore, I figure that merely putting red and green lights on your boat would not eliminate the need for a white light as the legal means of marking your location while under way.

Yes, all the different diagrams in various state boating regulations I've seen show red and green lights combined with 360-degree white lights as applied to power boats, but overall, it seems very clear that WHITE is the standard color of light for saying "here I am", meaning that red and green have another purpose (as indicators of direction). As long as the law makes it clear that every kind of boat must be visible from all directions by means of a white light of some kind, why would adding red and green to a non-motorized boat cancel-out that requirement?

Seriously, I'm sure a non-360-degree stern light is fine in a non-powered boat IF you obey that rule about displaying a white light in time to avoid a collision (so maybe when a powerboat is coming at you from the front, it's okay to just bend over against the deck so they can see your stern light).

screw lights