There’s something special about taking a nighttime pontoon cruise that creates lasting memories for all on board. Safely boating after dark means keeping your boat’s speed down, staying vigilant and taking advantage of some remarkable technology.
Navigate by GPS
Things look vastly different at night and often you just have light patterns on shore to help with seat-of-the-pants navigation. The best option is to turn on your boat’s GPS, as soon as you leave the dock. Not only will it help you avoid shallow spots you can’t see at night but it allows the driver to safely find their destination and return home. For those without GPS displays, download the free Simrad app to your smartphone and a host of information about weather and GPS navigations is available. There’s even an auto-route feature that will lay out the safest way to reach your destination.
When boating at night, it’s safer and more comfortable for guests if the driver maintains a slow, non-planing speed. This allows passengers to safely move about the cockpit or stand but make sure they don’t block the driver’s view. Obstructions on the water are hard to see on nights when there’s limited moonlight or it's cloudy and going slow gives the driver more time to react. During times with a full moon overhead, there can be sufficient lighting to move at a minimum planing speed.
Always check local speed limits after sunset and be sure to stay under the limit when boating at night.
A driver should always stay focused on all traffic and obstructions around the boat but it’s doubly important at night since visibility is reduced. Ask everyone to keep watch and report anything that could affect you. Learn to interpret other boats’ lights at night. Depth perception is reduced at night and other boats can be closer than they look. If another boat’s lights remain in the same relative position to your boat, it could be on a collision course and the driver should lower speed or change course.
Take Advantage of Lighting Options
Interior RGB LED seat base rope lighting is available on all Harris pontoon models except for the entry-level LX Cruiser. Not only does this add ambiance but it also makes it safer for guests to move around the boat. LED docking lights are available on all models but drivers are cautioned not to use them in open water. These bright lights can affect other boaters’ night vision and should only be used when approaching a dock.
To take your pontoon’s nighttime wow factor to the max, select the Total Lighting Package, which is available on Solstice, Grand Mariner and Crowne models and includes RGB LED lighting, which can be retrofitted. This option bathes the entire pontoon, both above and below the waterline, in a soft glow in a variety of changeable colors. The Grand Mariner’s package can be controlled by a C-Zone key fob.
Be sure to check state and local regulations regarding the use of auxiliary lighting before you hit the water, because it varies in different areas.
Night Vision Camera
The new SiOnyx Nightwave uses a CMOS sensor to amplify the dimmest of lights and can turn the night into day for safer boating at night. The video image can be streamed to smartphones, tablets, or compatible displays.
Boating at night unleashes the full entertainment potential of your pontoon and is easy and safe providing the proper precautions are taken.