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How to Safely Boat at Night With Your Malibu

There’s no feeling that compares to being on the water under the night sky. With the light from the moon shimmering across the water and your friends and family in close proximity, you’ll be making memories that will last a lifetime. Whether you’re celebrating a holiday or just navigating to dinner by boat, there are some ground rules that you really need to know to safely boat at night.

Navigation & Anchor Lights

Navigation lights may be the single most important thing to remember when night boating, because other boats need these lights to see you. The red and green lights along with the orientation of the stern light tell other boaters which direction you’re going, and they’re also vital for your own navigation relative to other boats. When you’re at anchor or drifting, it’s important to have your anchor light on. You can turn off your navigation lights if you’re not moving, but be sure your anchor light is turned on so other boats can see you. 

Docking & Ambient Lights

Do not use your docking lights at night. Although you drive your car with headlights on at night, docking lights can reflect off the water and impair the vision of other boaters. It’s best to turn your ambient lights down or off while you’re underway. The driver needs to be able to see, and ambient lights will make that more difficult.


Channel markers and signs can be hard to see in the daytime, which makes them really hard to see at night. Slow down and make sure you obey all the marine traffic rules that apply during the day, especially when you’re in unfamiliar waters. Even if you’re familiar with the body of water, others may not be, so it’s important to slow down and navigate with caution.

Chart Plotter

Digital charts give you an approximation of where you are on the water, and many times they will show you channel markers and obstructions. Be cautious of relying too much on a chart plotter, though, because tides change, sandbars shift and these charts are truly meant to provide a general guide of where you are. Smartphone apps are available that track your location within cell range.

Life Jackets

Appropriately-sized US Coast Guard approved life jackets for each passenger should always be on your boat whether it’s night or day, but it bears repeating. They can’t save your life if they aren’t on the boat and accessible.


It can cool down significantly on the water at night. Make sure your sweaters and other cold-weather essentials are packed. One of the best ways to warm up quickly is to use your boat’s heater snorkel under a blanket. You’ll be toasty in no time.

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Wake Responsibly

This is another one that bears repeating. Remember to slow down. Your visibility is significantly reduced at night, particularly when the moon isn’t out. Turn your boating tunes down at night, especially while underway. Besides just being courteous to homeowners, it’s important to be able to hear other boats since your vision is significantly reduced.

Night boating offers a completely different experience as well as access to new opportunities, and it can definitely make the highlight reel of your summer. Just remember to follow the rules, be safe, and wake responsibly.

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