08-04-2008, 03:29 PM #1
Personal Watercraft: Operating after Dark
This question comes up often enough, so I would like to address the safety related issues on this thread. I've taken these writings from other postings I have done in the past, they are still relevant and I'm sure we could add to them. Boat Operations at night is not illegal in all States, but there are many layered safety concerns that apply and can be enforced to force the issue of 'no night riding', please read on...
The true issue is safety related, laws and regulations, manufacture recommendations and a potential lawsuit resulting from an accident or ticket payment. There are a few states that still permit night time operations, however federal and local can still override, if you don't or haven't researched those zones with written permission prior to riding, you are going to set yet another negative precdent that our entire PWC boating community will suffer for.
I believe it is best to start with the local law enforcement authorities in your waterway zone. Once you have that set, there is no reason to argue any further points, if you are complying by the statue of the law and not taking advantage of any gray matter.
Each state has varying rules and regulations some are severe to moderate. You can be billed now for the search, rescue and recovery bills that normally your emergency response teams covered through taxpayers monies. Nowadays it is common if negligence is present for these agencies to forward that bill to the registered owner or person(s) involved. This can be costly, from a few thousands dollars to millions depending upon the type of support required and manpower. It also places rescuers lives at risk.
If you go into a court of law on an infraction, most likely it will not win. The reccomendations that are set by the PWIA, the AWA, the NMMA, the USCG, NASBLA, NSBC and other governing public and professional safety associations will void any argument, and shoot down any passionate pleas.
If the manufacture owners manual is addressed, it states clearly not to use them for nighttime operations. This will stand up in a court of law, especially if there are additions or modifications to a hull. A person could argue their points, but the facts are the facts. There are many restrictions nationwide against personal watercraft usage, and for good reasons, unfortunately set by poor operators who generated negative impact.
I think a good rule on this would be for one of these posters to actually go out and get a ticket riding at night, then fight it, then come back here and post the results of what took place in a chronological order.
I always believe that theory is only good for arguement and positioning. If you really want to know, make it happen and let us all know how the outcome was. If you have success in your favor, you could probably set a precedent and start to lead the charge for change.
But I sure wouldn't want to cover the insurance policies on that one...I teach and train night time operations for 2 decades and it is not simply a joy ride, it is a serious and powerful concerted effort for safety and the preservation of life and vessel integrity.
Yours in Water Safety
08-04-2008, 03:32 PM #2
This issue is more for personal safety than boating, if any of you have ever gone boating at night, and had a problem during that time, the answer is already given.
It is not easy to perform a SAR mission looking for a needle in a haystack.
If you value your life and your gear, you will get on a more stable and larger boat. This issue is going to be mute in the near future as the USCG is going to eliminate PWC use at night as a federal law due to Homeland Security issues, as boating is no longer a selfish but responsible activity on many levels.
If you roll your PWC and break that stern 1 meter white deck light, or fall off backwards and break your body into it, its just another hazard, and drilling through the hull deck of a PWC is not a good idea unless it is OEM for liability and lawsuit sake....
If you are stopped and fishing, drifting or moored at night, you can run your battery dead, and being so low profile to the waterline other boats have difficulty seeing you above thier bond line, especially if you are not wearing reflective apparell, no reflection on your boat such as tape, strobe/glo stick, or wearing a Lifejacket or helmet with reflective...well you are literally dead in the water, especially if the wind or current picks up....go test your night skills, go high speed, eject, see how far away your PWC is from you, start swimming and hope to Gawd you are not in a boating lane with other night traffic, you will get run over...easily.
So if you don't want to be blown out of the water at night because you can't be hailed properly on a radio and confirm your identity, you run into an unseen hazard and sink, drown and die, lose your passenger, wrap debris around your driveline, drift off shore with a fouled pumped, wind picks up, fog rolls in, no buddy system, not enough battery life, not enough juice left in your flashlights/GPS/radio, and the SAR mission is billed to you in total, I sure wouldn't recommend it.
I teach night operations for SAR just for the purpose of what I just described. It's all fine until you have a problem, then reality sets in and it's quite humbling.
In teaching this, I know and understand the risks, I have responded to night calls, it is very if not extremely dangerous.
But telling people what not to do never works first off, people learn from experience and mistakes, same as I have on many levels, but this is a speciality, and I would never encourage anyone to open ride in the ocean on any coastline anyplace in the world. Far too dangerous, especially if you add a passenger or go alone, you place thier life at risk along with yours and others who have to go out on searches, so it's not just about you or myself, its about our families and sound judgement, the PRUDENT MARINER.
So I say go and find out, because putting one's hand in fire results in one thing, a burn.
Some waterways sure there is plenty of calm water and reflected light, but many do not offer hope for visibility, running aground, sinking, and many PWC users are not capable nor trained in self rescue techniques whether it is offshore or nearshore. So all will pay the price of a few.
I was just kidding about trying any of this, I highly don't recommend it.
08-04-2008, 03:35 PM #3
I do not think it is an unreasonable request to boat after dark, however many boaters no matter why type of vessel they own refuse to do so with proper preparations due to comfort, skill and water knowledge.
I do not agree about small paddle craft being able to boat after dark, but that is not the topic, it is PWC use, and those communities should self govern their own membership safety as should our own.
How many of you who have operated at night have filled out a float plan in case you don't come back? Who do you leave it with and what are your instructions?
Have a GPS with extra batteries on your person? (all waterproofed and protected)
Have a Marine band radio on your person?
Have a water whistle and handheld flares on your person?
Have a cell phone on your person?
Have proper illumination that can be seen by distance from another vessel at speed?
Have you an emergency plan prepapred with all the necessary gear?
What is the operational integrity of your PWC?
Do you have reflective tape on your Lifejacket sufficient enough for a search light? And what about those you have taken with you on board? You are responsible for thier life.
Does your insurance cover your PWC being operated after dark in case of an incident?
Do you have reflective tape on your PWC that can be seen by a search light?
Thorougly know the navigation of the waterway you are operating?
You see, it is about if you lose your craft, fall overboard or the craft sinks, that is why a person should prepare thier own 'kit' to keep with them and this also is another discussion for safety packaging and access.
Operating at excessive speeds considered unsafe at night or safe slow speeds which take up more time in transits?
And sure, something can go wrong before the sun sets, and you should be prepared regardless, because this is a reality for all boaters and smart boating! Most people do not take this seriously and only want the thrill offered, not the responsibility.
Remember, any time a Search and Rescue is called out, those in trouble influence the families who respond, thier lives are also put on the line, it no longer becomes a selfish boating activity, but a concerted and serious community response you can be billed for.
I have thousands of hours logged in after dark training and conducting rescues on PWC/RWC, I know the inherent risks and I take it very seriously as do those who are concerned about the risk. There are so many problems associated with the risk vs. gain on this topic, the load of people, the changing weather/water conditions, and good ocean/open water/river/lake knowledge or 'local knowledge' plus a phsyically fit person who is capable of self rescue.
A PWC is an active ride, and you are exposed to the water, a strong swimming ability is recommended, and a host of other concerns arise when some type of mishap occurs. Life doesn't survive long in the aquatic environment so preparation and luck are good measures.
I do believe there are prudent boat operators at night, you will never hear from them, and they will not be the ones encouraging others to go out without teaching them the risks.
When we make something look easy it isn't. There is a long list of things to know or do associated with success. Encouraging others to go when you do not know thier type of mindset, physical ability, vessel type and integrity, boater experience and such, we set people up for a fall. This is something we should all take to heart. I learned this the hard way myself many years ago. Never take a child out at night.
The ultimate decision of a boating officer also include 'reckless and negligent operation of a motorized vessel'....depending upon the type of 'ride' that is undertook, the vessel examination, type of safety gear on board and illumination for all passengers, which nobody has spoken about here...you can still be ticketed for night operation, there are other laws that layer into it.
If you go onto the water at night and are separted from your PWC you are a swimmer. Period.
Sunk, lost and missing POB's (persons on board) are what we look for, and let me tell you, a body recovery is not the ideal situation to respond to. This is how big the risk is for night operations folks. Sometimes night operations are not even conducted for SAR until first light hits...
Sure the night boating experience is grand and can be a wonderful experience, amazing and beautiful, but we will not hear about those well prepared, properly equipped and such, we are going to hear of the near mishaps and thrill rides that show little respect for night boating and put the PWC community on newsgroup threads in a disrespectful light.
Be careful what you write and post, there are many people outside our community reading posts and looking for information to justify increased or sustained prejudice. We are accountable for that.
I say this because I care, not because I am an enemy, I care deeply and when I go out at night on a RWC (Rescue Water Craft) it is not for pleasure, it is for recovery of someone in distress.
Truly a great thread, brings up a lot of good content and information, greatly appreciated the knowledge shared here and experiences..
08-04-2008, 10:31 PM #4
The above takes a while to read...but you will drown a whole lot quicker.
Let's not let PWC, come to stand for Probable Water Casuality...!
08-05-2008, 01:06 AM #5
I cant argue with anything here except that it seems odd to me that here in WA you can go out at midnight in pea soup fog in a kayak, canoe, dinghy, or watermattress. Or even snorkel or scuba dive. Or drive a Cigarette at 75mph. May not be prudent, but you can do it if you want.
The shifting of search and rescue costs is a hot issue here, especially in context of mountaineering. Two sets of climbers on Mt Hood Ore got lost in last 5 yrs and both times local, state and even the US military mobilized for high risk rescues. One of the helicopters crashed into the mountain. Last year, military flew nightime sorties with high tech infrared. Climbers could easily have carried EPIRBs but chose not to. Some purists think its contrary to their ethic. But I think the last disaster at Mt Hood has prompted move for regulation requiring EPIRBs at high altitude. Or special insurance that will reimburse search and rescue costs. Tough issue though. Regulation makes economic sense. It seems unfair to shift cost of high risk rescue to majority of taxpayers who have no interest in outdoor adventure. But who knows what that insurance will cost, or whether it will be available. Could end up limiting access, or causing people to adventure in secret and think twice about ever calling for help. I see both sides of the argument and I'm not sure whats right, other than if its the law, its the law.
Ive been studying the issue as it relates to Mt Everest where some elite climbers have abandoned their own summit bids to rescue others, some of whom may have no business up there in the first place. But some climbers have chosen to walk past others clearly in trouble. Its an interesting ethical debate.
If youre talking about most places other than the high Himalayas, it seems most search and rescue personnel dont think twice, if they get the call, they go.
08-05-2008, 01:11 AM #6
Well Blue, let's see what lays down with the K2 deaths, 11 little souls clinging to rock and ice shelves are assumed deceased. One Italian mustered to get himself down, as helo rescue is iffy at those altitudes, he came down to a lower camp and was walked to another camp. The risk vs gain motif again arises and humans continue to thin the herd with our outward bound excursions. We cannot change the inevitable, eventually we all die, it is just when and how and if American who is culpable?
So, we shall see the K2 deaths, they shall become yet another icon in climbing history as if that is the real story rather than the climbs themselves. Climbing et al the negative impacts are always what we remember, the good times rarely take top seed.
Kudos..good response, well worth the thoughts it will encourage.
08-05-2008, 02:04 AM #7
K2 Climbers froze to death hanging upside down on ropes
By Tom Peterkin
Last Updated: 7:31AM BST 05 Aug 2008
Wilco Van Rooijen, a Dutch climber, said fatal errors while preparing for the final ascent contributed to the deaths of 11 climbers after they had spent four nights on the world's second highest mountain, which is considered a far more daunting challenge than Mount Everest.
"There was a Korean guy hanging upside down," Mr Van Rooijen said. "There was a second Korean guy who held him with a rope, but he was also in shock and then a third guy was there also, and they were trying to survive. But I also had to survive."
Mr Van Rooijen said he passed them on his descent. They declined his offer of help.
He said that he was screaming instructions to people to work together, but they appeared consumed by self-preservation. "They were thinking of my gas, my rope, whatever," he said. "Everybody was fighting for himself and I still do not understand why everybody was leaving each other.
"People were running down but didn't know where to go, so a lot of people were lost on the mountain on the wrong side, wrong route, and then you have a big problem."
According to Mr Van Rooijen, the seeds of the tragedy were sown when advance climbers laid ropes in some of the wrong places on the 28,250 feet peak, particularly in a notorious gully known as The Bottleneck where one false step can lead to death.
"We were astonished. We had to move it. That took of course, many, many hours. Some turned back because they did not trust it anymore," said Mr Van Rooijen, 40, who is suffering from frostbite.
He said those who went on reached the summit just before nightfall. As the fastest climbers descended in darkness across The Bottleneck, about 1,148 feet below the summit, a huge serac, or column of ice, fell. Rooijen said a Norwegian climber and two Nepalese sherpas were swept away. His own team was split up in the darkness.
About 280 people have summited K2 since 1954, when it was first conquered by Italians Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedell. Dozens of deaths have been recorded since 1939, most of them occurring during the descent.
Among those who died in the worst tragedy on the mountain in 20 years was Gerard McDonnell, 34, described as one of Ireland's most experienced climbers.
This story reads and rings true, prepare for the worst, hope for the best, but know what to do just in case....MINDSET...can save your life, but its all about choices...
08-05-2008, 11:19 AM #8
REEPORT — Matthew Reis has sea birds and an alert Coast Guard helicopter crew to thank for his rescue from an oil platform after the boat he was on capsized in the Gulf of Mexico.
The crew of the helicopter spotted the 22-year-old from Iowa Park, near Fort Worth, on an unmanned platform about 12:30 p.m. Monday.
The Houston-based Coast Guard helicopter had passed by Reis, who was on one of three platforms in a row.
Helicopter pilot Steve Devereux noticed that flocks of sea birds flew off two of the platforms, but not the third.
When he turned back to take a closer look at the platform, the crew spotted Reis waving from it.
Reis had apparently frightened the birds away from the platform he was on.
Three others who were with Reis in an 18-foot boat when it capsized about 9 a.m. Sunday were rescued in the evening.
A search continues for a fifth person. The Coast Guard has not released the names of the other boaters.
Reis was located on an oil rig six miles offshore of Caney Creek in Matagorda County — about 16 miles from where the powerboat was found, the Coast Guard reported.
Albert Shannon, the Coast Guardsman who plucked Reis off the rig and onto a Coast Guard helicopter, said Reis appeared to be in good shape albeit dehydrated and barely able to talk.
He had cuts from climbing onto the rigs, Shannon said.
Reis and four others launched from Matagorda and their boat capsized about 9 a.m. Sunday. It was not until almost 7 p.m. when another boater reported the capsized boat to the Coast Guard.
In a raspy voice Reis told the crew that he became separated from the others before reaching an oil platform in the predawn hours Monday, officials said.
He said he threw flotation devices into the water to help the others and then tried to swim toward them, but couldn't reach them.
He then swam to a second platform, where he was rescued.
The helicopter took him to Brazoria County Airport, where an ambulance took him to Angleton Danbury Medical Center.
He was still being evaluated in the hospital's emergency room Monday, but a hospital spokesman said he seemed to be doing well.
Two of the boaters were rescued by a rescue boat crew, and the third boater was hoisted by a rescue helicopter crew on Sunday evening.
All were in the vicinity of their boat.
Coast Guard crews on Sunday also rescued two people whose personal watercraft broke down in the Houston Ship Channel.
Texas City police notified the Coast Guard about 2 a.m. Sunday that a personal watercraft had left the Texas City Dike and had not returned.
A helicopter rescue crew found the pair about 3:45 a.m. in the Ship Channel and towed the disabled craft to the Galveston Yacht Basin.
I'm sure this was heavy for all involved, very fortunate that a USCG helo was available and most likely using night vision....awesome recoveries! Kudos...
08-05-2008, 02:31 PM #9
That story reminded me of the time we found a middle aged couple, floating in a 2 place raft, in the Gulf Stream off of Ft. Lauderdale. Their sailboat had burned to the waterline, and no one knew that they were missing. We were on a SAR for a single engine plane that was reported to have crashed (this call turned out to be a phone hoax).
This couple were slowly, but surely, being escorted to England via the Gulf Stream....
08-07-2008, 02:13 PM #10
I see nothing specifically prohibiting the operation of a "PWC" per se after sunset and before sunrise in Arizona. The Title 5 statute reads (essentially) that any watercraft must exhibit proper navigation lights during periods of restricted visibility, etc. And I know I'm singing to the choir here and we all know that the key is "proper nav lights." I think a case could be made in court if someone tried to get by with after market lights that when watercraft are approved by the CG, the nav lights are also tested.
Placement, color specifications, including intensity, chomacity, horizontal and vertical sector luminosity -- all the "stuff" defined in the NAV Rules in Annex 1 are all a consideration by professional engineers and naval architects when placing lights to meet the NAV Rules (Collision Regulations) requirements that the average recreational boater doesn't even know exists.
That being the case, I'd certainly be willing that even if the lights Joe average installed met the luminosity, color, chromacity and intensity specifications, they'd miss horribly on the horizontal and vertical sector tests because of the difficulty in finding a spot to mount them.
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