If you own a small boat with modest electronics equipment, do not operate your boat at night. If you are coming back from a day trip and you’ll arrive back a few minutes after sunset, you will be fine as long as you have the proper navigation lights. However, going out for a cruise at midnight is not recommended and highly discouraged. Once out on the open water, there are no artificial lights and even the moon might be obscured by the clouds.
Most boats are required by law to have simple navigation lights to let other boaters know where you are, but these small red, green and white lights do absolutely nothing to allow you to see your surroundings at night. Most boats do not come equipped with flood lights that make for easier nighttime navigation.
Rocks are very difficult to spot at night
More experienced boaters and commercial operators often have sophisticated radar, GPS, lights and night vision FLIR cameras to allow them to navigate at night. However, these devices are not substitutes for knowledge of the area. Underwater hazards may not be picked up on GPS systems and user error can lead to collisions if the radar is not used properly.
Fo boaters without the proper electronics and lighting equipment, boating at night is like driving without headlights in the woods. There are countless obstacles, even in deep water. Collisions, large waves and debris can all be invisible to novice operators and for that reason nighttime boating for those boaters without the training and equipment should be avoided.