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Old 10-03-2019, 08:12 PM   #1
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Use of searchlights at night

I'm not a boat-at-night guy, so, do you use your searchlight at night, not at all, only intermittent, or most all the time? If there is a good possibility of floating debris, I'd go constant, aiming at the water 30 yards ahead at a speed of 5 knots.
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Old 10-03-2019, 08:25 PM   #2
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We have been out at night a lot, hundreds of patrols for the CG. We almost never used a search light. It would kill your night vision for a long time and then you could not see anything. After you learn how to scan and not use the center of your vision to look for objects, it is really pretty easy to see things at night. We would only use a searchlight when we were close to an object and wanted to identify it or for better vision to maneuver close to the object. Then we would have to wait for our night vision to return. What drives me crazy is people that run at night with their spotlight or docking lights on all the time. They not only ruin their night vision but everyone in the areas night vision. When you run with them on all the time, you limit your vision to a small area that is lit but you canít see anything past that distance. Another problem is your own running lights, the steaming light on a previous boat was mounted on the front of the flybridge brow. It lit up the bow of our boat very well but all the reflected light ruined our night vision. I moved it up onto the mast and the bimini top shielded the bow area so there wasnít any reflected light.
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Old 10-03-2019, 08:27 PM   #3
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I don't have a built-in searchlight, but on the rare occasions I run at night I do keep a handheld one within reach just in case. However, I almost never use it for the sake of preserving night vision (especially because it'll cause glare off the decks being that it's not all the way forward). So generally if visibility is a problem or there's a risk of debris, I'll resort to slowing down even more than my normal 7 kts or less in the dark and putting a person on the bow (there's an appropriate spot to sit given calm-ish water) with the center windshield open so I can hear them from the helm.
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Old 10-03-2019, 08:35 PM   #4
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We have a built in spotlight but it wonít traverse side to side. Had the boat 4 years and have never bothered to even try to fix it. That is how important it is to us. I do have a handheld plug in spotlight that I donít think we have ever used. What I find works well is a 3D LED flashlight that is incredibly bright. I can point it quickly and it is powerful enough to see as far as I need to see and doesnít need to be plugged in so I can move around and use it where I need it.
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Old 10-03-2019, 08:37 PM   #5
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Think it is a bad idea to shine the searchlight on the deck, but instead aim it on the water when there is a concern. My searchlight rotates and can aim up and down.
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Old 10-03-2019, 08:42 PM   #6
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The problem with the builtin spotlights is that it takes forever to pan it side to side or up and down. I can use my big flashlight and pan it almost instantly. Also I can aim it off the decks easily so it doesnít light the decks up.
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Old 10-03-2019, 08:43 PM   #7
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If there is a good possibility of floating debris, don't run at night unless you absolutely have to. Nights come in brightly moonlit and glassy calm to invisibly black and a high sea running. Up here in the PNW with a tremendous amount of large drift, much of it hard enough to see at noon, I wouldn't run at night unless forced. Out on an ocean passage on the sailboat, no moon, large sea and a little weather, you just run and keep your fingers crossed. No way you are going to see anything before you hit it.
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Old 10-03-2019, 08:47 PM   #8
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Rarely in the fog I use it to pick out channel markers in a narrow channel. Otherwise it ruins my night vision. I've got years on the ocean in ships and boats and would rather have my night vision. If you had crab boat lights and can turn the ocean light for a 1/4 mile, maybe.


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Old 10-03-2019, 09:06 PM   #9
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I prefer using radar to spot channel markers. But if needed, would use spotlight to verify their identification.
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Old 10-03-2019, 09:10 PM   #10
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Like so many discussions...it depends.


I ran hundreds of hours at night , at over 20 knots, in narrow backwater channels with a fixed spotlight on all the time to pick out the channel markers.



To do so without the spotlight would have resulted in groundings for sure. Night vision? Behind ICW barrier islands with all kinds of lights...night vision was a joke....so the spotlight won.


Offshore with low expectancy of hitting things in the water...no...I would not use a spot as it wouldn't help much...but you aren't going to see a lot on many nights anyhow.
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Old 10-03-2019, 09:53 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DDW View Post
If there is a good possibility of floating debris, don't run at night unless you absolutely have to. Nights come in brightly moonlit and glassy calm to invisibly black and a high sea running. Up here in the PNW with a tremendous amount of large drift, much of it hard enough to see at noon, I wouldn't run at night unless forced. Out on an ocean passage on the sailboat, no moon, large sea and a little weather, you just run and keep your fingers crossed. No way you are going to see anything before you hit it.
Exactly.
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Old 10-03-2019, 10:10 PM   #12
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I have a super high power custom-built flashlight that has a very narrow bean with little scatter. While some light does illuminate the foredeck when shining it on my windlass at night, it's still tight enough to preserve my night vision. Most bright flashlights and handheld spots I've used had too much near-field scatter that causes a loss of night vision.
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Old 10-03-2019, 10:14 PM   #13
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spotlights

Comodave,
We see boaters on inland lakes using their docking lights as navigation lights.
We (USCGAUX) on patrols tell them it is not legal but they still do it.
We explain they are not displaying the correct light configuration for their vessel but they just don't get it. This is on nights with good visibility too.
It does not take very long to lose one's night vision but a much longer time to regain it.
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Old 10-03-2019, 10:19 PM   #14
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Have only two memories boating underway at night, both in the 1960s. Only one is relevant here. In that instance, my father took me and two high-school friends into the night on his 28.5-foot sailboat. At very dark we were heading east in San Pablo Bay. Midway, a tugboat shone a blinding, bright light and megaphoned a message whose content I can't remember. We were moving parallel about a half-mile distant. (We had only binoculars, compass and chart to navigate. No radio, searchlight, radar, depth finder, or GPS,) On conclusion, believe the tug was just curious to observe a sailing vessel at such time. We subsequently anchored west of Crockett without event.
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Old 10-03-2019, 10:26 PM   #15
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Super powerful bright lights are used frequently by commercial fishing guys, whether fishing or just moving around. A non commercial friend in AK has a kazillion CP LED set of spots he frequently uses, especially in debris strewn water, anchorages and skinny water areas.

My night running in offshore races found many competitors turned their lights out or even reversed them! So many odd things occur when competing for a gold plated trophy.
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Old 10-03-2019, 10:46 PM   #16
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When I moored up Eby Slough in Marysville (off the Snohomish River) I used a hand held spot light quite a number of times. Spotting known pilings led the way and kept me in the channel. The deck light was a problem but one could probably shield the deck light w their hand turning on the light w one’s hand shielding the deck light lowering until the view ahead is seen but the foredeck not. I held the spot light out the window.
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Old 10-03-2019, 11:00 PM   #17
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Used it once.
We left dock later than expected and reached our anchor spot at night, used the light while anchoring to check we were right where we expect to be but never underway as it is not a good idea to hide your navigation light behind a powerful search light.
Moreover, underway even the instruments light become quickly annoying so even more annoying is the search light.

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Old 10-03-2019, 11:06 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Billr2019 View Post
Comodave,
We see boaters on inland lakes using their docking lights as navigation lights.
We (USCGAUX) on patrols tell them it is not legal but they still do it.
We explain they are not displaying the correct light configuration for their vessel but they just don't get it. This is on nights with good visibility too.
It does not take very long to lose one's night vision but a much longer time to regain it.
Bill
If the lights can't be confused with navigation lights, what's the problem? Not showing navigational lights?
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Old 10-03-2019, 11:29 PM   #19
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The problem is they are so bright that they obscure the nav lights so you can not see them.
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Old 10-03-2019, 11:50 PM   #20
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Exactly and other boaters can't tell what this boater is doing; direction he is heading, relative motion, etc.
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