Night Swimming

timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
edited September 2013 in Beginner Questions
Two part question, sort of...

First, for my Lake Pontchartrain attempt, I'm going to have to swim at night, at least once. I know that I'll need to be lit, as will my kayakers. But having never done a night swim before, I am sure that there's lots I don't know about how to plan that part. What are the biggest things I'm forgetting?

In anticipation of having to swim at night in Lake Pontchartrain, I'm going to do a long training swim off of Mississippi in October, assuming that the water cools down a bit. I've spoken with my kayaker for that swim, and he's cool with leaving before sun up. Again, I know that I'll need to be lit. But, we likely won't have a boat escorting us for that swim. Will laser lights/blinky lights be enough to keep us visible? That swim will cross the intracostal waterway, and I'm not posivite whether or not the sun will be up by then. When we paddled out there a few weeks ago, we had at least one impatient powerboater, so I certainly want to make sure we're visible. I'm less concerned about being bothered by commercial traffic, but if they can't see us, they can't avoid us, either.

Any advice is much appreciated. Thanks in advance.


  • WalterWalter Southern CaliforniaMember
    edited September 2013
    I swim in the dark a lot. That doesn't make me an expert on lighting or safety, of course. I use lights like the ones found at the website below. I bought mine from REI; but they do not stock them anymore.

    Using these lights, in your situation, I would probably light my head (goggle strap) and waist and my kayaker would have a lighted head (a lighted higher-than-head pole would be nice too) and light both sides and bow and stern of the kayak.

    If I had all of that lighting, plus a very bright and powerful flashlight that my kayaker could turn upon an approaching craft and upon the kayak and me, to illuminate us for the benefit of an approaching craft, I would probably feel pretty comfortable.

    I'm not very popular around here; but I've heard that I'm huge in Edinburgh!

  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    @Walter - Makes a lot of sense. Sounds common sense enough that I hope I might have thought of that.

    Thank you for the insight.
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    Chemical light sticks are almost failure proof once lit, while anything electrical or electronic can fail. You may want to look at using light sticks for at least part of your lighting solution. - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • malinakamalinaka Seattle, WACharter Member
    If you're worried about commercial traffic, have you considered an AIS system? (Talking with VTS before my last swim not only kept me out of the way of vessels, but actually kept vessels out of my way.) It means your safety won't be totally dependent on visibility alone.

    I don't wear a wetsuit; it gives the ocean a sporting chance.

  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    malinaka wrote:
    If you're worried about commercial traffic, have you considered an AIS system?

    I'm not familiar enough with it to have considered it. For my swim in the Mississippi Sound, I'll be supported by a kayak. Is there something I could use on that?
  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    @Neik - Where can you get one of those? That is a pretty good idea.
  • WalterWalter Southern CaliforniaMember
    edited September 2013
    Niek wrote:
    Google buy radar reflector for local addresses.
    Dutch watersport shops might not sell abroad.

    Don't let the kayaker do this. It looks and is stupid. And heavy for the neck.

    OK, it doesn't look good. But does it prevent mind control?

    I'm not very popular around here; but I've heard that I'm huge in Edinburgh!

  • molly1205molly1205 Lincoln, NebraskaMember
    I found a US seller for the Guardian lights And, almost a dorky as a radar hat, but not quite, would be to attach Mylar helium balloons to the kayak.

    Molly Nance, Lincoln, Nebraska

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited September 2013
    Amazon US sells the Guardian light (which I recommend as well):

    Nite Ize Waterproof Wands are really quite excellent:

    Decent (but slow-paced) Waterproof Wand video here:

    I'd also bring light sticks. I once had to abort a swim after 18.5 hours because my lightsticks failed. Now I plan so that I can have equipment fail without needing to abort my swims. :-)
  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    JBirrrd wrote:
    On my Tahoe swim, my coach jimmy-rigged this little rope system w/ a carabiner tied on the end to latch to my bottles (which have a built-in plastic loops). About 6" in, he had a piece of a foam noodle (the kind kids play w/ in a pool, cut to around 6" long w/ a hole sliced thru the middle for the rope to thread thru) and a glow stick tied near the noodle for night visibility. I don't know if everyone does it this way, but since this was my first long swim w/ a bigger support boat, it was the first time I'd seen anything like it. Worked great. Only problem was when I'd forget the top was open and submerge the bottle and water gushed in.
    (oops, wrong thread. Meant to put this on your night swim thread. @timsroot )

    Good idea. I already have a very similar rope system, but didn't think of putting a light on/near the caribeaner. Thanks for that excellent tip.
  • courtneypaulkcourtneypaulk Richmond, VirginiaMember
    Adventure lights are excellent.
    You can have them blink or not blink (sometimes the blinking can be annoying). They last through the night and are easily seen. I recommend the green. I also use glow sticks attached to the feed system so you can see it in the water at night. Best of luck!
  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    Thanks for the advice everybody. I have done adventure lights on order, and I'm going to test them out next weekend with my kayaker.
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    I found the light I'll use for my night swim later this year.


    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    @IronMike, how exactly do you anticipate using your new light? :-)

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