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night paddling....

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i had a great time friday night with a full moon paddle (will post the report as soon as i have the okay from my paddling mates) and thought maybe it would be appropriate as the weather was finally warm and lovely to post something about night paddling?

this is not necessarrily the "right" way, but the way i was taught from some pretty steady folks. if you do something different or could add something, chime in. we are collectively smarter than we are solo (well, mobs excluded!)

in addition to the lighting you need in an emergency to avoid collission (the CG requirement) and which you probably won't use as you probably won't have an emergency AND it completely blows your night vision, what i do is tie a glow stick to the stern of the boat off of the grab handle and then another glow stick to a length of line off my shoulder on the pfd and then hang that behind me.

in addition, do a count. you do a head count, everyone is assigned and number and then you shout out the count during the course of the paddle. so if there were 7 paddlers and paddler 4 started the count, then 5 should call out and then in succession 6,7,1,2,3 until the cycle had been completed and all were accounted for in the group. do this often...every minute you paddle and don't do this is a minute you may need to go back and collect someone.

so for instance, paddler 3 is over and in the water and separated from the boat....you do a count 2 minutes later, discover that he isn't there...you paddle back and find him as he waves the little glow stick on his shoulder, say that takes 3 minutes rather than 2....okay, so now, paddler 3 has been in the water 5 minutes and you have him...now you need his boat...how far did that go in 5 minutes and how are you going to find that in the dark with only a light stick on the stern to light her...how are you going to find it if it doesn't have a light on it? the paddler in the water has been subject to the current for 5 minutes and the boat to the wind for 5 minutes and unless they are going in exactly the same direction at exactly the same speed, they are likley in different places, right?

you begin to the see the issues, yeah?

sure, the group is PROBABLY close enough that you will hear what's going on and PROBABLY you will hear paddler 3 if he goes over...but maybe you won't and maybe it is 5 minutes before you find him....think abut what you'd do before hand and you solve the problems in your head before you face them on the water.

have fun and see the water at night, it's beautiful but remember that it isn't exactly the same as doing this in the light of day!

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I bolt a 2" pvc end-cap upside down on the back deck, and insert a piece (about 15-18" long?) of pvc pipe with one of those waterproof flashlights with a cone-shaped diffuser on the end....it makes a very good deck light, and it is high enough to be seen from any angle. It is too bright to look at without spoiling night vision, so only one per group is needed, and I always paddle sweep at night. Now the group is visible.

I buy the cheapie glow-stick necklaces from oriental imports (they have a website full of more cheesy junk than you ever thought existed).... they are much cheaper there than from the scalpers on the Esplanade at july 4th, and you get them in packs of a dozen or so. These can be scattered around decklines, people's necks, etc. I agree there should be at least one per boat and one per person....if you are feeling festive, you can wind them around all your decklines.

Lastly, I always wear a waterproof headlamp, which is generally off, but can be easily turned on if I need to attract attention or inspect an upcoming rock.

I agree with Rick that extra caution is needed to keep a headcount.

(Hey Rick, who were those three people who broke **all** these rules a couple years ago on a ninja night attack on Beal's Island....and is that why you are getting a black boat?)

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beals island raid? legend has it that it was a "black op" and lights were eschewed in favor of stealth.

and the black boat (should she ever arrive) will be adorned with the same style reflective tape squares that have graced the last coupla boats.

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and, fortunately, reflective tape IS available in black so as not to clash with that ebony hull :-)

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I realize that I might be a bit in the extreme here, but I try to avoid disposable anything, especially when it is made of plastic. Therefore, I searched far and wide for an option to use instead of chemical lightsticks (which research has shown to be too dim to be visible to other boats after a couple of hours anyway). This is what I found, and I bought a few to try out.


They are definitely brighter than lightsticks, and last longer, and have replaceable batteries. As a further enhancement (yes, I can't help myself) I have decided to cut the tube in half and glue a disk of glow-in-the-dark Fimo to the cut end of each half to make two lights, one for each shoulder or each side of a hat. That way the lights are up where a power boater is most likely to see them.


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