Nighttime Boating Requires Heightened Senses - 08/02/2017
Thank God for my Buddy’s Snause!

Above: In many areas, the nighttime is the right time to catch fish. At night, leave the beer at the dock, take it slow, and never go at it alone.

After a successful night of fishing, my buddy and I laid up our rods, tossed the remaining bait overboard, and readied ourselves for the trip home. We had just landed a half dozen striped bass, fishing off a rocky island in eastern Long Island Sound. And now, as we had done countless times before, we headed across the sound to the Connecticut River to my homeport in Old Saybrook, CT.

Ew that Smell

I was at the helm. My buddy stood by my side carefully keeping watch. Lights—from boats, beacons, barges, etc.—illuminated the water of the Sound. I remember staring at one familiar light as we approached the mouth of the Connecticut River, using it as a guide. All of a sudden my buddy shouted to me: "Stop the boat!” He had smelled land—a salt marsh, which was an indication that we were off course. We were so far off course that we would have run right into that marsh in another 30 seconds.

Solo a No-No at Night

The incident made me realize that I should never make such a fishing trip at night alone. A lookout is crucial to operating a boat safely at night. The second mate operates the spotlight and also constantly talks to the driver, making navigational assists. “You see that marker, right?” “Slow down!” “I hope you see that high-speed ferry!”

Come to think of it, there are some other nighttime rules of the road I follow. I wear a lifejacket in rough weather; I never drink alcohol (it tastes better when you’re back at the dock, anyway); I drive slowly (never more than 18 knots or so in open water); I never (almost never) head out when the weather is bad; finally, I have all the appropriate safety gear.

C.L., Deep River, CT