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Old 07-09-2021, 06:11 AM   #1
thinkxingu
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Default Nighttime Navigation Questions

Went to the Wolfeboro fireworks by boat the other night (they were awesome), and it was busier than I've ever seen. It was also a moonless and, therefore, pitch black night. A few questions:

1. While at anchor, the only light that should be on is the white stern light, yes? As I looked out from where we were—a few hundred yards in front of Brewster Academy—it was a sea of reds and greens not moving.

2. Because it was pitch black on the return trip, I went slowly, relying on my GPS for directions and confirming the markers as we went. BUT, when approaching dangerous channels—the Graveyard, the north side of Moultonborough Bay, etc.—we had to find them before we got there, which is impossible in darkness. We went so slowly thar we were able to start seeing them shine in our port/starboard lights, but people were coming up behind us using spotlights and/or their dock lights. I've always avoided using lighting so as not to affect my night vision, but it seemed doing so would've made those moments much less stressful. Thoughts?

Any other (pitch black/moonless) nighttime navigation tips?

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Old 07-09-2021, 08:01 AM   #2
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When I've been to fireworks, most people drift, not anchor, so nav lights on seems appropriate.
Dock/spot lights aimed at you can totally destroy night vision for several minutes, as you know. Very irritating at the least, more like dangerous in the wrong circumstances.

Glad to hear you enjoyed the fireworks.
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Old 07-09-2021, 08:04 AM   #3
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Went to the Wolfeboro fireworks by boat the other night (they were awesome), and it was busier than I've ever seen. It was also a moonless and, therefore, pitch black night. A few questions:

1. While at anchor, the only light that should be on is the white stern light, yes? As I looked out from where we were—a few hundred yards in front of Brewster Academy—it was a sea of reds and greens not moving.

2. Because it was pitch black on the return trip, I went slowly, relying on my GPS for directions and confirming the markers as we went. BUT, when approaching dangerous channels—the Graveyard, the north side of Moultonborough Bay, etc.—we had to find them before we got there, which is impossible in darkness. We went so slowly thar we were able to start seeing them shine in our port/starboard lights, but people were coming up behind us using spotlights and/or their dock lights. I've always avoided using lighting so as not to affect my night vision, but it seemed doing so would've made those moments much less stressful. Thoughts?

Any other (pitch black/moonless) nighttime navigation tips?

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I believe it is illegal to run with your docking lights on. One time ours' were on and we didn't realize it and got stopped.
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Old 07-09-2021, 08:13 AM   #4
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Were they leaving the spotlight on all the time? My husband and I made that trip a million years ago (okay, maybe 20), and we used a spotlight occasionally for less than 5 seconds just to get brief glimpses to make sure we were on the right course. We were the only boat out there.


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Old 07-09-2021, 08:19 AM   #5
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Two tips:

When using a spot light to identify or find aids to navigation, shine it up high first and then aim it lower until it's on target. That way you don't blind yourself with reflections off the bow. This is very important with white fiberglass boats.

To preserve night vision, close one eye when things are about to get bright. After the brightness is gone use that eye to see in the dark.


Fireworks by boat is an event that is outside my wife's risk tolerance.

Her perspective is that unsafe boaters, such as the ones as seen in the day time, are more unsafe in the dark.
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Old 07-09-2021, 08:27 AM   #6
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I second the observation that when watching fireworks people tend not to anchor but simply "dead drift" -- personally, and especially on a moonless night, I find this totally appropriate and honestly feel it is safer than strictly having stern light on ....... especially given the congestion.

With regard to the use of spotlight or docking lights .. it is quite appropriate to use, BUT they should only be done with a short burst -- Docking lights are much better as they do not blind the driver as badly as a handheld spot from the helm ( I have learned).........

Another little known factoid that would have certainly helped you align the graveyard is that ALL Red Top's have a reflective band just below the red. Thus making it easy to discern a red top from a black top quite quickly. Beware of older wooden spars (very few left these days) where the reflective tape has worn off.
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Old 07-09-2021, 09:36 AM   #7
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I second the observation that when watching fireworks people tend not to anchor but simply "dead drift" -- personally, and especially on a moonless night, I find this totally appropriate and honestly feel it is safer than strictly having stern light on ....... especially given the congestion.

With regard to the use of spotlight or docking lights .. it is quite appropriate to use, BUT they should only be done with a short burst -- Docking lights are much better as they do not blind the driver as badly as a handheld spot from the helm ( I have learned).........

Another little known factoid that would have certainly helped you align the graveyard is that ALL Red Top's have a reflective band just below the red. Thus making it easy to discern a red top from a black top quite quickly. Beware of older wooden spars (very few left these days) where the reflective tape has worn off.
The hard part is that, going north as I was, the black markers appear red from the port lights. That's a good tip as a backup, though.

What I'm hearing is this:

* Even though people are not moving a lot, the navigation lights may be appropriate as they are not actually anchored and might help identify orientation in congested areas.

* Using spot/temporary lighting to identify markers is acceptable, but thought must be given to not affect the night vision of both the helmsman and other boaters.

Always open to more info, thanks!

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Old 07-09-2021, 09:52 AM   #8
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Nothing wrong with using a spotlight to locate markers at night, but why not make it easier and follow the lighted buoys that are there just for that purpose?

Much easier to identify the flashing light at Chase Point (light 49), swing east to go around Melvin Island (light 11), and then head for light 59. You don't even have to slow down or identify any other markers...

I enjoy boating at night even more than day time and have lived behind Black Island since 2004 (on the lake since the mid 70's including Balmoral long before GPS was available) and have never gone through the graveyard at night...
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Old 07-09-2021, 10:00 AM   #9
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Nothing wrong with using a spotlight to locate markers at night, but why not make it easier and follow the lighted buoys that are there just for that purpose?

uch easier to identify the flashing light at Chase Point (light 49), swing east to go around Melvin Island (light 11), and then head for light 59. You don't even have to slow down or identify any other markers...

I enjoy boating at night even more than day time and have lived behind Black Island since 2004 (on the lake since the mid 70's including Balmoral long before GPS was available) and have never gone through the graveyard at night...
Fair point—I've always just head through on a straight line coming around from either side, but, looking at the map just now, it appears pretty easy that way.

Question: are the lighted buoys designed to be used in such a way to not need anything else but a chart in complete darkness? Specifically, if you know what color the current and next lighted buoys are, can you go straight between them?

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Old 07-09-2021, 10:07 AM   #10
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I'll just throw this out there about night vision. Go back to your biology class and remember learning about rods and cones in your eye. Rods are black and white (night vision) and on the outside of your eye. Scan back and forth to catch the lights in your periphery of your vision.

You can probably stare right at the light you are looking for and not see it until you glance away from it...
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Old 07-09-2021, 10:13 AM   #11
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Fair point—I've always just head through on a straight line coming around from either side, but, looking at the map just now, it appears pretty easy that way.

Question: are the lighted buoys designed to be used in such a way to not need anything else but a chart in complete darkness? Specifically, if you know what color the current and next lighted buoys are, can you go straight between them?

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I would say yes. There are a few spots that are still tricky, but knowing the layout of the red and black markers in your head and where the lights are positioned in relation, you shouldn't have much problem to navigate at night. Except on the really pitch black night like you encountered, you will likely see all of the other markers with that relationship of light to marker in your head.

Just like day time, you also can have a few landmarks in mind that are usually visible at night. Mail dock on Bear Island, radio towers flashing...
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Old 07-09-2021, 12:27 PM   #12
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So my question become what where you using for a GPS?

I have invested this year in the humminbird Helix 5 system, and am finding it very useful at night, especially when dealing with channels. And have been comfortable using it to navigate those channels in the pitch black and not concern myself with being able to see the markers. For informational purposes I got the Helix 5 unit w/ GPS, and DI sonar, I also purchased the additional Northeast Lakes chip.

With that said, I have spent a lot of time on the water, during the day with this GPS unit building up trust. The markers all show up on the GPS unit itself and I find their placement to my vessel to be fairly accurate....

On the same night as the OP, I zipped right through the six pack with out blinking an eye...

WIth that said the Graveyard is a bit tighter, and I don't think I would have the confidence there, although with the right zoom level I might I would have to play with that some....

With all that said.... the Graveyard at night doesn't sound like fun, even just thinking about, why not go around, and use one of the alternate routes (heading over towards 19 mile bay).... that is far easier to navigate......
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Old 07-09-2021, 12:36 PM   #13
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So my question become what where you using for a GPS?

I have invested this year in the humminbird Helix 5 system, and am finding it very useful at night, especially when dealing with channels. And have been comfortable using it to navigate those channels in the pitch black and not concern myself with being able to see the markers. For informational purposes I got the Helix 5 unit w/ GPS, and DI sonar, I also purchased the additional Northeast Lakes chip.

With that said, I have spent a lot of time on the water, during the day with this GPS unit building up trust. The markers all show up on the GPS unit itself and I find their placement to my vessel to be fairly accurate....

On the same night as the OP, I zipped right through the six pack with out blinking an eye...

WIth that said the Graveyard is a bit tighter, and I don't think I would have the confidence there, although with the right zoom level I might I would have to play with that some....

With all that said.... the Graveyard at night doesn't sound like fun, even just thinking about, why not go around, and use one of the alternate routes (heading over towards 19 mile bay).... that is far easier to navigate......
I'm using a Garmin Echo 57 or something. I went through the Graveyard because 1. I'd already had the active tracks from earlier, 2. I have a "safe passage" indicator on the GPS, and 3. It's what I'm most familiar with (I don't think I've ever gone around the island).

The only problem with GPS is its accuracy has a margin of error—that margin of error is about the same distance as that between the Graveyard markers. So, even though I had an active track, it showed to the opposite side of the marker we'd come by first. I know enough not to trust it to that level of detail, hence why I needed to find (at least) the first markers. From there, it's easy (!).

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Old 07-09-2021, 02:31 PM   #14
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Default In response to your fist question...

The stern light is part of the navigation lights you have on when you are under way at night. It can only be seen from the stern of the boat, hence the stern light. The anchor light can be seen from 360 degrees, and is the only light that should be on when anchored. The anchor light is separate from the navigation lights, and they should never be on at the same time.
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Old 07-09-2021, 02:39 PM   #15
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2. Because it was pitch black on the return trip, I went slowly, relying on my GPS for directions and confirming the markers as we went. BUT, when approaching dangerous channels—the Graveyard, the north side of Moultonborough Bay, etc.—we had to find them before we got there, which is impossible in darkness.

Any other (pitch black/moonless) nighttime navigation tips?

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The Moultonborough side of Moultonborough Bay is much easier than the Tuftonboro side. Moultonborough has lights! (I think we've had this discussion before, but wrt daylight hours)
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Old 07-09-2021, 04:24 PM   #16
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(I don't think I've ever gone around the island).
I will admit that it take longer, but especially at night it is a much simpler path to navigate in my eyes.

But I always state the most comfortable path at night is the one you are most familiar with.... I will also agree that margin of error with GPS is always a concern. That is way I have spent a lot of time using my unit during the daylight... to get used to and comfortable with it..... I have done the six pack many times with out GPS.... so it was real easy for me, not to get concerned...

The graveyard is tight, I would have to go through many times during the day to get comfortable before just relying on the GPS.....
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Old 07-09-2021, 05:27 PM   #17
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...
Another little known factoid that would have certainly helped you align the graveyard is that ALL Red Top's have a reflective band just below the red. Thus making it easy to discern a red top from a black top quite quickly. Beware of older wooden spars (very few left these days) where the reflective tape has worn off.
To expand on that a little. Per Capt Dunleavy in "Safe Boating 101" (available on www.NHLAKES.org), red tops, as opposed to solid red, have a space below the red, which leaves a white stripe, then the reflector. No space on black buoys. Thus, a colorblind person can differentiate red top from black top even in daylight.

For others:
Yes you can go all around the lake from flasher to flasher. Start in Weirs Bay at #1, #2 marks the channel between Eagle and Governors, #3 marks the channel going between Meredith and Bear Island, etc. until you get to #31-38 in the Weirs Channel. Others were added after that initial set up, not necessarily directly related to light to light navigation. For example, I think #68 and #69 were added when NWZ were added on Welch and Governor's islands.
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Old 07-10-2021, 05:38 PM   #18
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The stern light is part of the navigation lights you have on when you are under way at night. It can only be seen from the stern of the boat, hence the stern light. The anchor light can be seen from 360 degrees, and is the only light that should be on when anchored. The anchor light is separate from the navigation lights, and they should never be on at the same time.
I don't think so.
a stern light should be visible for 360 degrees
typically your anchor light is your stern light without your red and green on
inland water ways
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Old 07-10-2021, 07:21 PM   #19
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Depends on the size of your boat. Over a certain length ( can’t remember what it is) you have a stern light that is visible 180 degrees to the stern when under way and can also have an anchor light visible 360 degrees when at anchor. Under that length you have a single white light visible 360 degrees when under way with your running lights and also used as an anchor light, without your running lights, when at anchor.

With regards to Wolfeboro fire works: if the boats were not “at anchor” they are required to keep the running lights on with the stern light. It is a violation to just show your white light (without running red & green) when you are not at anchor.


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Old 07-10-2021, 07:33 PM   #20
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Depends on the size of your boat. Over a certain length ( can’t remember what it is) you have a stern light that is visible 180 degrees to the stern when under way and can also have an anchor light visible 360 degrees when at anchor. Under that length you have a single white light visible 360 degrees when under way with your running lights and also used as an anchor light, without your running lights, when at anchor.

With regards to Wolfeboro fire works: if the boats were not “at anchor” they are required to keep the running lights on with the stern light. It is a violation to just show your white light (without running red & green) when you are not at anchor.


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Does "at anchor" mean just with an anchor set or when stationary? I'd always thought that port/starboard lights meant "in motion."

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Old 07-10-2021, 08:28 PM   #21
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Does "at anchor" mean just with an anchor set or when stationary? I'd always thought that port/starboard lights meant "in motion."

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If you can't see port or starboard lights, you SHOULD see a white light. That white light is going to be the stern light, (in which case you are approaching from the rear), OR, it's going to be the anchor light. It will be hard to tell if it is a stern light, or an anchor light from a distance, but as you get closer you should be able to determine what light it is so you know whether it is under way, or at anchor, and then you can determine how you are going to maneuver around it if it is anchored, or, if you are going faster than it, how you are going to pass it. If you are not anchored, but just "sitting still", with, or without the motor running, you should have the navigation lights on because you will be drifting no matter how strong, or insignificant the current is. A boat will never stay in one place unless it is anchored. Anchor light should only be on when anchored. One thing to look for (to help determine a stern light from an anchor light from a distance) is if the light is illuminating the whole boat, in which case that would be an anchor light, where a stern light may only light up the stern of the boat. The Real Big Guy may have a point when it comes to the length of a boat that determines if the stern and anchor light is the same light, or two separate lights. I'm not sure about that either. All I know is that every boat I have owned with lights, they have always had a separate stern, and anchor light, and switch for each one, and they are never on at the same time. My stern light has always been on the same switch as my bow lights, and goes on and off with them. Hope this helps to clarify. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the way I have always understood navigation/anchor lights.
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Old 07-11-2021, 06:20 PM   #22
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Nothing to add to this Thread but speaking of navigational lights, I had
had an interesting experience I'll share.

When I was a novice boater 30+ years ago, we were boating at night at the 'ocean', (Narraganzett R.I).,and is was pretty dark, clear but dark ! Moving along at a good clip about 20 mph, and I noticed two white lights on the horizon, in front of me about a 'football field' apart. That said, I started to drive 'between' the two white lights.

As I got about 200 ft near that center point, I noticed what I was actually looking at was 300' barge, that had white lights at each end, bow and stern, and I was driving right between them. HOLY SH*T that was a close call. I was able to change course in time, but really gave us a scare.

After we got back to the dock and I changed my shorts I had learned a very valuable lesson at driving at night, always be aware of your surroundings 360 degrees, and what you can't see that may be out there especially on the water at night.

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Old 07-12-2021, 12:06 AM   #23
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Quote:
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Does "at anchor" mean just with an anchor set or when stationary? I'd always thought that port/starboard lights meant "in motion."

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At anchor means anchor set. If you are floating you are in motion. It may be slow motion, but you are moving.


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Old 07-13-2021, 06:32 PM   #24
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Having boated on Winnipesaukee since diapers, I will tell you navigating at night on a moonless night is tough. GPS is a game changer for sure, but in some ways increases your risk level as people who are not good boaters just found a crutch that allows them to do something they otherwise would not attempt.

Best advice go SLOW.
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Old 07-13-2021, 07:58 PM   #25
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Default Boating at night

XCR-700 is very right about both how dark it is on a moonless night, and how an inexperienced boater may feel "it's okay, I have GPS" and do something unsafe.

I want to add that for those who stay boating longer into the season, past mid-September, pay attention to the fact that shore lighting configurations change as people leave the area to return to where ever. Porch lights are out, boathouse lights are out, so if you were used to navigating at night using shore lighting as a navigational aid, please realize these changes.
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Old 07-14-2021, 05:30 PM   #26
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You make an excellent point. Before or after the summer season changes what you see on shore. Houses that are normally lit up are dark.

About 20 years ago, on a fall night after a trip to Meredith with my daughter we headed home on a very dark night. All went well even after we went under the Governors Island bridge. But when we were where I knew our house was it was impossible to tell because all the lights in my house, and neighbors houses, were off.

I knew we were close but it could have been 5 houses in either direction so I went up and down about 300 feet offshore trying to spot something familiar. My daughter finally spotted the small red power on light on the panel for a hot tub we have in front of the house. That is when you know it is really dark. Thank God for kids and their eyesight! I never would have seen that.
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Old 07-14-2021, 05:57 PM   #27
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Default Dashboard lights aren’t navigational lights

First we are all human and easily forget , two summers ago my family and I stayed out till dark but before hand checked all our navigation lights and our hand held spot light. We valet at PBM and while coming out of the Weirs channel we heard a boat, but no nav lights . We decided to float for a few minutes to see if we could locate it with out the spot light . My daughter saw the dashboard lights on the boat we were searching for. I followed from behind at a safe slow distance and followed him all the way to PBM where it was someone we know. As he turned around to talk with me he realized he hadn’t put his stern light in. I didn’t have to say anything as he realized on his own how dangerous it was . My point is , if your leaving the dock in the dark take the time to safety check your nav lights. So someone isn’t following your dashboard lights at night to stay safe
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Old 07-15-2021, 02:54 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Grove84 View Post
First we are all human and easily forget , two summers ago my family and I stayed out till dark but before hand checked all our navigation lights and our hand held spot light. We valet at PBM and while coming out of the Weirs channel we heard a boat, but no nav lights . We decided to float for a few minutes to see if we could locate it with out the spot light . My daughter saw the dashboard lights on the boat we were searching for. I followed from behind at a safe slow distance and followed him all the way to PBM where it was someone we know. As he turned around to talk with me he realized he hadn’t put his stern light in. I didn’t have to say anything as he realized on his own how dangerous it was . My point is , if your leaving the dock in the dark take the time to safety check your nav lights. So someone isn’t following your dashboard lights at night to stay safe
OUTSTANDING share!

Hope to see you at PBM, great folks there!!!
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Old 07-19-2021, 08:45 AM   #29
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I was also at the Wolfeboro fireworks, anchored just off Brewster beach (with only my anchor light on). I was distressed seeing a couple of pontoon boats with LED lights under their decks, illuminating the full length of their metallic pontoons. Two of them had color-cycling lights, changing from red to blue to purple to green. It was disturbing to see both red and green on the same side of the boat.
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