Paddling at night is an amazing experience worth trying anytime of the year. Bioluminescence is a super fun affect that occurs in some saltwater locations at night and creates a glow under your boar or board, or when you paddle.
The below guide comes from years of paddling at night, leading Bioluminescence Tours on Puget Sound and training for paddling the 70 mile Seventy48 race.
Here’s 16 tips Night Paddling Tips for building your skills and confidence:
- Learn about night paddling regs in your area. Lights aren’t required unless you need to be seen by a boat. In that case, display a 360 degree non-blinking white light. I carry one in my PFD to shine directly if needed and have one clipped to my rear shoulder PFD that can be turned on easily. Bring extra batteries just in case. Friends who raced last year mounted low powered non-blinking red lights on their boards to be seen by paddling partners.
- Learn about boating right-of-way regs.
- Learn how to read different types of boat lights at night. For example, the difference between a tug with or without a tow and a sailboat.
- Prep your gear for night paddling. Add white or reflector tape strips to your paddle blade and shaft in case you drop it or a boat shines a light at you. Hull reflector tape is a good idea too. Usually I add small strips on my nose and tail rails (sides). Some PFD’s have reflector strips as does paddling clothing. Add white electrical tape to your paddle so you can spot it in the dark.
- Learn where the ferry routes are and which turns they may make along your route. For example the Bainbridge ferry takes a hard right/left by Blakely Rock. Use marinetraffic.com to see live ship movements and look at ferry schedules to time ferry departures and routes.
- Get a glow in the dark deck compass and/or speedometer mounted on your deck.
- Make sure anything important like a VHF radio and/or phone is attached your PFD with a string.
- Paddle your route at day and night so you know every bend, bay, inlet and waterway. Though surprises are nice with an added sense of adventure. Especially important for the Seventy48 race.
- Start paddling regularly at night – Downwind, upwind, sidewind and freighter surf at night. Test your gear – lights, hydration, falling, getting back on.
- Paddling with a partner? Start your race tactics at night like drafting and communication in case you drift apart.
- Going to take a break? Get to know your gear so you can operate in the dark while cooking food, opening your tent/bivy, find stuff in your dry bags, etc.
- Hydration and fuel – Test your systems so you have a seamless method of staying healthy during the race.
- What are the operating hours of re-fueling locations for water and food?
- What are the after hours regulations for landing at established campsites such as State Parks, county parks and WWTA.org sites.?
- Think about clothing layering between day and night. In May 2018, during the Seventy48 race, the night temp was in the 40’s.
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