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Boat Lights and Rowing in the Dark: How to Keep your Club Safe

Boat Lights and Rowing in the Dark: How to Keep your Club Safe

Lights are a crucial tool for rowing in the dark. Dawn and dusk are enticing to rowers because of the water’s smoothness and the quiet when the wind drops, but rowing shells can become invisible at these times.

If you haven’t mandated lights for dusk rowing for your club’s boats yet you’re just inviting trouble.

Important notes for boat lights and rowing in the dark…

  • light on boat

    Waterproofing: rowing boat lights need to be waterproof, one capsize, a heavy downpour and the light is gone, as well as a rower’s visibility wherever they’ve ended up. Fortunately, most rowing boat lights are built to handle a great deal of water. Always look out for it though by checking the lights to see if water is seeping in.  One trick is to look for rust or corrosion – that’s normally due to water seepage.

  • Battery life: the longevity of a boat light is important and if you don’t regularly check how charged a boat light’s battery is it could burn out at the worst of times. Sadly there aren’t many ways to test battery life that don’t shorten it’s life. For rechargeable lights, have a roster and an easy place where people can charge lights between outings.  For replacement batteries I have always bought new batteries at the start of each new winter season and just replaced all my lights once a year.  They last fine through to the next springtime.

  • Light settings: many boathouse rules state that bright and constant lights are to be used on a boat when rowing. Strobe lights offer increased visibility. If you  want this, look out for that feature while you buy your lights.

  • Dressing for the dark: wearing light clothing helps your boat light reflect off you and improve visibility. This follows the same concept as reflector jackets and helps other spot you with their own lights as well.

  • Head mounted lamps: some clubs prohibit the use of lights on a rower’s person during their rowing. The constant movement when you turn your head to steer can be confusing and throw other water users off-course.

  • Light coverage: boat lights usually span 180 degrees, so remember to attach lights on both the front and rear end of your boat to improve sight from all directions. Again, headlamps can help fulfill this purpose, but often cannot be relied upon.  If you put one of your lights onto a rigger – always put the other light onto the rigger on the other side.  This is because your body can mask the light on the rigger when viewed from the side.  We use a red rear light and white bow light and have one on bow’s stroke side rigger and one on stroke’s bow side rigger.

Boat lighting safety regulations for your club: some examples

  • Ottawa Rowing Club has a few tips and tricks to rowing boat lighting. They encourage the use of headlamps for emergencies and suggest clamped bow lamps for boat lighting.

  • Durham College Rowing Club suggests beginner rowers should be kept away from the water during all low visibility times. In addition, lights are to be fitted and turned on through the hours of 30 minutes before sunset, until 30 minutes after sunrise.

  • Peterborough City Rowing Club includes the safety rule that rowers must first get permission to row in the dark, and that lights must be on the front and back of the boat (white and red respectively).

  • Maidenhead Rowing Club includes an entirely separate section on rowing in the dark. They suggest that a rower cannot row at night if water temperature is lower than 5°C so rowers aren’t in danger if they capsize. They require rowers to be accompanied by a coaching launch with an experienced coach traveling with the boat.

If you’re here looking for boat lights, or you now know you’re in need, have a look at our White Bow Light. This boat light boasts 180 degrees of light visibility and both strobe and constant light settings.  And the price is very competitive.  We ship worldwide.

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