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Kayak Lights

By Peter Hinck

Be seen and be safe.

Single white all-around mast light signifies a kayak or other vessel "under oars". Bow and stern lights are decorative only.

An hour before daybreak, you make the long paddle along a moonlit shoreline to your secret trout spot. Halfway there you hear an outboard motor.The sound gets louder as you realize the boat is running the same shoreline. By the time you see the skiff, it is coming right at you. With no time to waste you run your kayak into the mangroves as the skiff passes only a few yards away. Wow, that was close. The guy in the skiff never saw you. Having a light could save your life, and it is the law.

According to U.S. Coast Guard rules, a vessel “under oars” (a somewhat archaic term which nonetheless applies to modern kayaks) must have an acceptable light between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility. Those periods include fog, rain and haze. What kind of light? The Coast Guard rule indicates you may display the all-round white light, same as for a sailboat. Or, if you don't have such a light, you must at least have a white flashlight or headlamp to signal another vessel.

I think it's best to have both kinds of lights: A tall, all-round light so others can see you, and a hands-free headlamp you can use to signal to others, as well as rig lures and attend to fish. For true emergencies, I also like to carry a waterproof strobe light for attaching to a PFD.

Also be mindful that the Coast Guard rules for coastal waters, sunset to sunrise, require us to carry three combination day/night flares. We'll look at the emergency flares in a future column.

Most commercial kayak lights exceed the Coast Guard one-mile minimum radius and 360-degree requirements. Some also add a reflective flag, which can help improve your profile during the day.

What about LED arrays installed along or below the waterline? Some kayakers add these for a cool look, or to attract fish. While these kinds of lights add a secondary safety measure, they don't fulfill the Coast Guard requirements. You'll still need an all-round white light, flashlight or headlamp.

Remember to check your batteries before every trip. If you're not sure how fresh they are, replace them with new fresh batteries.Take your batteries out of the light after each trip and store them in a dry spot. Batteries left in the lights can corrode, killing the batteries and the light.

Yakattack Visicarbon Pro

Thin, folding carbon mast and bright orange flag combine to offer visibility with low wind drag. When you're ready to stow the rig, which folds down from 48 to 14 inches, the flag serves as a storage pouch. The light base is compatible with Mighty Mount, GearTrac and most kayak track systems; alternately, the mast slides into most flush mount and tubular rod holders. The LED array burns 100 hours on 3 AA batteries.Weight is 1 pound. Suggested retail price is $85. See www.yakattack.us.

Scotty Fishing 823 Sea-Light

This 42-inch light pole is waterproof and corrosion-resistant with a twist On/Off control. With its new attachment pin engaged to the cap, accidental disassembly is prevented. Incandescent light is visible for up to two miles depending on weather conditions. The lens simultaneously focuses a beam of light straight ahead and a ring of light is present all around. Runs up to 8 hours on 2 AA batteries. Light is removable and can be attached to a life vest. Includes combination side/deck mount 20-inch pole. Optional 828 Sea-Light package includes reflective flag and push-button mount. Prices are $53.49 for the 823 and $82.99 for the 828. See www.scotty.com.

Rail Blaza Visibility Kit

The kit consists of the TelePole (extends from 22 to a little over 41 inches), fluorescent orange flag and the NaviLux 360 light. The light assembly adds an extra 8 inches, and it comes with a directional shield to avoid intruding on your night vision. The TelePole can also be retasked to carry a GoPro or similar camera. The kit comes with StarPort and stainless steel mounting fasteners. Price is $109.99; www.railblaza.com.

Kayalite KLT-1050

The 18-inch mast is made of black, textured ABS with marine-grade stainless steel, and the base is EVA foam. Jam cleat locking mechanism. The Tektite Mark III light includes twist-on switch and waterproof

LED lamp rated for 200-plus hours on 3 AA batteries. Weight is 10 ounces. Price is $49.95.

Super Nova Kayak LED Light: HPA Extreme Kayak Kit

The HPA Extreme Kit includes eight strips of lights for the front, rear, tank well, cabin and below seat deck area of your kayak. This ensures ample visability of all stuctures within casting distance. The cabin

lights, tank light and below seat deck light gives adequate work light and can be switched off and on as needed. The lights are fully jacketed, fully encased and silicone encapsulated strips. Each strip is backed with an automotive grade adhesive that ensures an easy application, as well as a secure light strip.

The kit includes a pair of 20-inch lights for the bow and stern, a single strip for the tank well, and three additional lights. Also included are three switches and waterproofing boots, heat shrink, fusing and 6 feet of AWG 22 wire. Price is $299; www.supernovafishinglights.com. FS

First published Florida Sportsman November 2014

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