Boat Navigation Lights Rules: Illustrated Beginners Guide

When navigating at night, the lights on other boats are your first clue about the moving dangers around you. And your navigation lights are your first line of safety in avoiding collisions in the dark, and they tell others vessels what you are and what you are doing. The rules sound complex, but with a little understanding you can get the basics for any situation.

So what are the basic navigation light rules? For most small vessels, motoring requires red and green (port and starboard) lights, and a white light visible in all directions around the boat. This is almost always a stern light and a masthead light on sailboats. Boats under sail require port and starboard lights, and a white stern light. Sailboats below sixty-five feet may show a tricolor light at the masthead instead of side and stern lights when sailing.

That's it, in a nutshell. There's a little more to it, as the rules change with different sizes and there are some specifics about angles of display for the colors. Identifying other ships at sea requires more study, but the basics are the same. And it's not much trouble to make sure you've always got the proper lights on your vessel.

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What are the official colregs rules for your sailboat, what about the uscg (united states coast guard) rules, lighting at anchor, identifying the boats around you.

The International Regulations for the Prevention of Collision at Sea , abbreviated "COLREGS" is very specific about the lights required, their shapes and sizes, and the distance they must be visible. For the smaller boat, the following definitions apply.

  • Masthead Light - a white light placed centerline on the boat showing an arc of 225 degrees with 112.5 degrees either side of the front of the vessel.
  • Sidelights - A red light on the port side and a green light on the starboard. They must show an arc of 112.5 degrees from centerline of the bow.
  • Stern light - A white light on the stern of the boat showing an unbroken arc of 135 degrees from centerline of the vessel.
  • All-round light - A light showing in an unbroken arc of 360 degrees.

The good news is you need not measure these angles. Any properly installed USCG or COLREGS approved light which will cover the correct arcs. If you have to replace the original light from your boat, make sure it's with an approved replacement.

Lights When Sailing

sailboat light at night

The specific rules for a sailboat under sail are in COLREGS Rule 25 and vary slightly with the size of the boat. A sailboat powering is considered a power boat and falls under in Rule 23.

  • Under 23 feet (7 meters) - side lights and a stern light, possible. If these lights can not be displayed a light must be kept at hand to help avoid a collision. This can be a bright flashlight.
  • Over 23 feet - Side lights visible to one nautical mile and stern light visible for two.
  • Vessels under 65 feet may combine both sidelights into a single lantern on the bow.
  • May show a tricolor light on the masthead instead of sidelights and a stern light. It's one or the other though, do not show these lights at the same time .
  • Masthead light must be visible for three nautical miles, all other lights must have a two nautical mile visibility.
  • Side lights must be separated.
  • May not show a masthead tricolor light.
  • Masthead light must have five nautical mile visibility, all other lights must be visible for two nautical miles.
  • Optional masthead lights - any vessel under sail may display a red light over a green light at the masthead with sidelights and stern light. The red over green may NOT be displayed with a masthead tricolor light. It's one set or the other.

Lights When Motoring

sailboat light at night

For all navigational purposes a sailboat under power is considered a power boat. This includes motor sailing - if the engine is on and providing propulsion you are on a power boat, even if the sails are up . This applies to navigation lighting, sound signals in fog and limited visibility, and rights of way.

Sailboats under 50 meters under power need to show:

  • A masthead light
  • Stern light

A power-driven vessel under 23 feet (7 meters) that does not exceed seven knots of speed may display an all around white light, though sidelights should be used if available.

sailboat light at night

The USCG has published its own "Rules of the Road" that are based on the COLREGS. In addition, it has rules for the "Inland Waterways" for rivers, inland lakes and the Great Lakes.

The good news is this has no impact on what you have to do with your own boat.

They mostly relate to lighting changes on towed vessels like barges and tugs. For example, a vessel towing or pushing another vessel in the ocean under COLREGS shows two masthead lights, sidelights and a stern light, whereas in Inland Waterways the towing or pushing vessel displays two yellow towing lights instead of a white stern light.

If you sail on lakes, rivers or the Great Lakes where towed commercial traffic is common you should learn the inland lights, but coastal or ocean sailors will never see these.

When you anchor outside a designated mooring field, you should display an all around white light at the masthead or as high in the boat as practical.

sailboat light at night

If your boat is large and has a very tall mast, you may wish to display another light closer to the waterline. Boats approaching in the dark may not see a light on a mast sixty or seventy feet in the air when they are close to your boat.

We use a simple garden path light on our stern when we anchor, left in a rod holder or flag socket. It comes on automatically at dusk and is a cheap and easy way to be more visible. There is no specific rule stating you can not display more lights than required, or the nature of any lights beyond the required all around light.

The COLREGS also specify that a round black "daymark" should be displayed in the rigging of any vessel at anchor. Very few small vessels observe this, however it is the correct display for a vessel in an anchorage.

If you tie to a mooring in a marked mooring area you are not required to display anchor lights, but there is no harm in doing so.

The other important reason to know your lights is to figure out what's going on around you at night. The water may be ablaze with white, red, green and other lights at night and they are your first key to avoiding collisions and problems.

All combinations of lights for fishing boats, commercial vessels, and so on are outside this post‘s scope. The odds are small you will encounter a submarine, seaplane or hovercraft at night, but there are regulations regarding specific lighting for each of those vessels!

There are a few fundamentals to help you figure out what that is you see on the horizon, which way it is going, and whether it is a danger to you.

Port Wine is Red

The fundamental rule is that red sidelights will ALWAYS be on the port side of a vessel, and green lights will always be on starboard. However, some vessels can use all around red and green lights for other purposes, though those will be higher than sidelights.

Diagram for identifying boats at night

The light‘s on a ship is not important, some large tankers and freighters will have their sidelights far aft and put them on the superstructure for better visibility. It is not safe to assume that sidelights you can see are on the bow of large vessels .

When you can see the color, you know which way the bow is pointing. If it's red, it's pointing more or less to the left and will travel in that direction. A green light shows it is heading more or less to your right.

If you can see the red and green lights at the same time, you are looking directly at the bow of the vessel. When you are far away, this isn‘t as alarming as if you are close crossing. Seeing red and green lights together on a vessel is something you never want to see for long.

Be aware of red and green lights used in combination with other red, green and white lights. These may not be running lights and could have other significance.

Tankers, Freighters and Large Ships

Tankers, freighters and large ships will have side lights, a stern light and a masthead light. In addition, on vessels over 50 meters there will be a second masthead light further aft and higher than the forward light. The masthead light positions are a better tipoff to the bow direction and how far from the bow the sidelights might be. Remember - on a large vessel the sidelights may not be at the bow or even close to it.

USCG Inland Rules allow for a second all-around white light on large vessels on the Great Lakes instead of a second masthead light.

Fishing Boats

Fishing boats engaged in fishing will have more complex light displays. When they aren't fishing, they will show lights like any power vessel, but Rule 26 spells out light combinations that vary by the fishing activity being done. In general:

  • Boats which are Trawling but not making headway will display a green all-around light over a white all-around light , and a masthead light aft of these lights. Boats making headway while trawling will show these lights, plus sidelights and a stern light.
  • A vessel fishing other than trawling will show a red all-around light over a white all-around light . When making way they will also show sidelights and a stern light.
  • If a vessel has gear more than 150 meters away from the boat, it will show a second all around light in the direction of the gear. The best rule is to give fishing boats as wide a berth as you can at night. They're easy to pick out if you check the top light configurations but their course may be difficult to predict.

Towing and Pushing

Towed vessels can be the most dangerous to cross, but they have the most lights to tell you what is happening. Refer to COLREGS or the USCG Rules of the Road Rule 24 for all combinations You can pick a tow/push vessel out with the following lights:

  • Two or three masthead lights in a vertical line. Three masthead lights shows a tow over 200 meters. Additional masthead lights may show for larger tow vessels.
  • A towing light (yellow light with the same characteristics as a stern light) directly above the stern light.
  • The will also have side lights and a stern light.
  • The towed vessel will show sidelights and a stern light. Lighting may vary under USCG inland rules, where towing lights may replace stern lights. Learn these differences if this is your regular cruising ground. If you think there is a tow ahead of you, always go well behind the aft most set of lights. Never go between a tow and avoid crossing ahead if possible as it may restrict their maneuverability.

Special Situations

There are several rare situations you may encounter. As a general rule, if there are a lot of lights and you don't understand them look for the sidelights on a moving vessel. If you can find them and figure out the direction it is moving, it makes the vessel easier to avoid. Stay well clear of lights you do not understand if you can avoid them without risk.

Most of these signals are used by larger, commercial vessels and you will not need them.

They use these light combinations with other light combinations. For example a towing vessel may also be restricted in maneuverability, and a vessel constrained by draft will show running lights if moving.

  • Not Under Command - two all around red lights in a single line
  • Restricted in Ability to Maneuver - red, white then red in a single line
  • Constrained by draft - three all around red lights

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Boat navigation lights

Boat Lights At Night (The Rules For Safety)

Boat navigation lights at night are used for safety. They are designed so they can be seen easily. Boat lights vary according to boat type and size, boat use, navigation area, and geographic location. Boaters should learn boat light meanings and keep up-to-date on boat light requirements.

Boat navigation lights indicate a boat’s heading (Aspect) and what it’s doing. The boat’s red and green lights show the boat’s port and starboard sides. Let’s explain boat light type, actions, and requirements in detail.

Boat light at night

Types of Boat Lights

Boating safety starts with proper boat navigation lights. If you are a boater, it’s important to understand the 4 types of common navigational lights on your vessel so that you can be seen by other boats in the water and avoid accidents or running aground.

Boat navigation lights

Boat navigation lights are split into four groups. There are Sidelights, Stern light, Masthead light, and All-Round light.

Sidelights show Red or Green to other vessels approaching from the side or head-on, while stern light only points out white light when you’re coming up behind someone else’s boat.

Masthead light should be mounted high on a vessel’s aft-most part of the structure that extends above deck level. The masthead light is a requirement on all power-driven vessels. It shines forward and to both sides and the color of this light is white.

The boat’s all-around white light is on the mast, stern, or somewhere else on the boat. This light can act as an anchor light when a boat is anchored.

Boat Navigation Light Color

  • Masthead light color – White
  • Port sidelight color – Red
  • Starboard sidelight color – Green
  • Stern light color – White
  • All-Round light color – white

Boat Light Visibility Range (Minimum)

  • Side lights; Boat < 12m (39.4 feet) – At least 1 NM
  • Masthead light; Boat < 12m (39.4 feet) – At least 2 NM
  • Stern light; Boat < 12m (39.4 feet) – At least 2 NM
  • All-Round light; Boat < 12m (39.4 feet) – At least 2 NM
  • Boat < 20m (65.7 feet) – Masthead light at least 3 NM; Other light at least 2 Nm
  • Boat > 20m (65.7 feet) – Masthead light at least 5 NM; Other light at least 2 Nm

Boat Navigation Lights Indicate W hich Side ?

Your boat’s navigation lights will basically tell you what side of the vessel is a port and which side is starboard. The red light indicates a vessel’s port (left) side; the green indicates a vessel’s starboard (right) side. Stern light is seen only from behind or nearly behind the vessel. Masthead Light shines forward and to both sides.

What Are Boat Lights Used For ?

Boat lights are typically used to guide boaters at night, but they can also be used for a number of other purposes. They can help you and other boaters determine which is the give-way vessel when encountering each other on the water during periods of restricted visibility such as fog or rain. So never forget boat lights at night — boat lights make you and others visible at night on the water. They are used only for boat safety purposes.

Boat Lights and The Law

To navigate safely in the water, vessels are required to show proper navigation lights. There’s no need to worry about boat lights being an inconvenience because they must be displayed from sunset to sunrise and during periods of limited visibility.

You must turn on boat lights when underway between sunset and sunrise, as well as during any period of restricted visibility such as fog, rain, or heavy snowfall. And when it is deemed necessary by any boat skipper, boat lights must be turned on during the day.

Why Do Boats Have Blue Lights?

The reason boats have blue lights is to signify that they are law enforcement vessels. They may display a flashing blue light when engaged in direct law enforcement or safety activities, so as not to interfere with the visibility of their navigation lights.

What Does a Single White Light on a Boat Tell You?

When you see a single white light on the horizon, it may mean that you are overtaking another vessel. In order to avoid collisions and other mishaps, give way to either side of the boat. Also, one single white light could mean that the other boat is at anchor.

What Does a Red Flashing Light Mean on a Boat?

A red flashing light means that it’s a WIG boat.

What Size Boat Requires a Stern Light?

If your boat is 39.4 feet or longer, make sure to get a separate masthead light and stern light. However, If you’re on a power-driven boat less than 39.4 feet in length, then the masthead and stern light may be combined into a single all-round (360 degrees) white light. 

Where to Put Navigation Lights on a Boat?

  • Masthead – over the centerline of a boat (seen ahead from 225 degrees)
  • Stern – near the stern, lowest height on a boat (seen 135 degrees from behind)
  • Side – port/left side and starboard/right side (112.5 degrees sides arc)
  • All-round – over the centerline of a boat (360 degrees arc)

Safety Tips When Using Boat Lights

– Must be turned on when underway between sunset and sunrise

– Should be turned on when in poor visibility

– Must be turned on when deemed necessary

– Must be mounted in such a way that boat lights are not obscured by any other obstructions

– Used for boat safety only

– Can never be used as floodlights

– Must be mounted in such a way that the other boat operator can see them clearly

– Should be properly illuminated at all times

– Must be mounted securely

– Must never be covered by boat covers or other obstructions

– Should be turned off when a boat is at anchor (Turn on anchor light)

Boat lights are more than just a way to see where you’re going at night. They can be used to communicate with other boats, and they can help you avoid collisions.

Boat lights are essential for safe night boating. They help other boats and vessels see your boat, and they also help you see where you’re going. There are different types of boat lights available, and it’s important to choose the right ones for your vessel.

What Are the Most Popular Boat Lights?

Here’s a look at some of the most popular boat lights and what they offer.

LED Boat Lights: LED boat lights are becoming increasingly popular due to their energy efficiency and long lifespan. They’re also much brighter than traditional incandescent bulbs, making them ideal for night boating. Many LED boat lights come in waterproof versions, so you don’t have to worry about them getting wet if you encounter rough waters.

Solar Boat Lights: Solar boat lights are a great eco-friendly option since they’re powered by the sun. They typically have built-in batteries that store solar energy during the day so that the light can shine at night.

Battery-Powered Boat Lights: Battery-powered boat lights are another popular option, especially for smaller boats. These lights typically use either disposable or rechargeable batteries, depending on your preference. Some battery-powered models even come with solar charging capabilities, so you can keep them charged even when there’s no sun available.

What Lights Should Be on When Boating at Night?

There are many different types of lights (including navigational lights) that are required or recommended to be used when boating at night. The type of vessel, the size of the vessel, and the area in which the vessel is operating will all play a great role in what specific lights need to be used. In general, however, there are a few basic rules that apply to all kind of vessels.

All these requirements exist so that other boats can easily identify your vessel and know its intentions (whether it is stopped, coming towards them, or moving away). By following these simple guidelines you can help keep everyone safe on the waterway.

Which Side of a Boat Has a Red Light at Night?

The side of a boat with a red navigation light at night is the port side. The port side is the left side of the boat when you are facing forward.

When Boating at Night What Does a Single Green Light Mean?

When you see a single green light, be sure that you are approaching a sailing vessel. In this case, you have to take action and you must give way. Remember, A sailing boat is always the stand-on mode except when it is going to overtake you.

What Lights are Required on a Boat at Night in Florida?

In Florida, boaters are required to display a white light visible in all directions from sunset to sunrise. Boats must have a white light visible from 360 degrees whenever they are safely moored or anchored away from jetty.

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sailboat light at night

a man on a boat with navigation lights visible

Navigation Lights

  • You are required to display the appropriate lights at night or during times of reduced visibility.

Navigation lights are used to prevent collisions at night or in times of reduced visibility, and are an essential tool in keeping you and your vessel safe. Nav lights allow you to see other nearby vessels, and allow other vessels to see you.

Nav lights also provide information about the size, activity, and direction of travel. By understanding the characteristics of Nav lights, you can determine an appropriate course of action as you approach another vessel.

On any vessel, navigation lights have a specific color, (white, red, green, yellow, blue), arc of illumination, range of visibility, and location, as required by law and regulations. For the purposes of this course, we will concentrate on pleasure boats under 65 feet in length. Knowledge of navigation lights is important to a small-boat skipper for separate, but important, reasons.

  • You are legally responsible for displaying lights of the proper color, intensity, location and visibility on your boat.
  • Knowing the type and heading of another boat.

Legal Requirements

Vessels are required to show the proper navigation lights from sunset to sunrise in all weather conditions, good and bad. During these times, no other lights that could be mistaken for lights specified in the Rules of the Road can be displayed, nor any lights that impair the visibility or distinctive character of navigation lights, or interfere with the keeping of a proper lookout. The Rules also state that navigation lights must be shown in conditions of reduced visibility, and may be shown at other times considered necessary.

It's Your Responsibility

It is the responsibility of the owner/operator of a vessel that she show the proper navigation lights for her size and the waters in which she is operating. It is not the responsibility of the manufacturer, importer, or selling dealer. Many boats are delivered with lights that do not meet legal requirements with respect to technical characteristics or placement on the vessel. Remember also, that the angles of visibility must be met when the boat is underway-if your boat rides at a significant bow-up angle, take that into consideration when installing and/or checking your lights.

Navigation Lights for Powerboats

Power driven vessels underway shall exhibit a masthead light forward, sidelights and a stern light. Vessels less than 12 meters in length may exhibit an all around white light and side lights. Power driven boats on the Great Lakes may carry an all around white light in stead of a second masthead light and stern light combination.

a diagram of a boat with lights

Sidelights - Colored lights - red on port and green on starboard - showing an unbroken arc of the horizon of 112.5 degrees, from dead ahead to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on each side.

Combination lights - Sidelights may be combined in a single fixture carried at the centerline of the vessel.

Stern light - A white light showing over an unbroken arc of the horizon of 135 degrees, centered on dead astern.

Navigation Lights for Sailing

a diagram of a sailboat with lights

A sailing vessel of less than 7 meters in length shall, if practicable, exhibit regular navigation lights, but if not practical, she shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.

Diving Lights

Another light display that you may see in resort areas, or waters that have wrecks or reefs, is the night diving configuration. This has three vertical masthead lights, that have a red-white-red sequence. You must maintain a good distance from these vessels, and you should also be aware that there may be divers near you.

Interpreting what you see

a diagram of a sailboat with lights

It's great that you're learning the basics of lights - what is required and when they're required. But, this in only the beginning. You must also learn how to interpret the navigation lights that you see when you are underway at night- and for your safety-learn it well.

For instance, if you see a vessel approaching that shows a light pattern such as the ones to the right, you immediately know that you are in a crossing situation, and that you must yield to the other vessel - that's why it is red.

a diagram of a sailboat with lights

Seeing a green light over a white light indicates a fishing vessel actively trawling. You not only need to avoid the vessel, but you also need to remember that it could potentially have a very large net deployed that you will also need to avoid.

And there are numerous other lights and combinations of lights that you must be able to instantly recognize - the lights for a sailboat that is privileged over a motorboat, the special lights of various fishing vessels, a dredge or a vessel not under command. Study the requirements for navigation from the viewpoint of a "looker" as well as a boat owner.

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Navigation Lights for Sailboats (And How To Read Them)

Navigation Lights for Sailboats (And How To Read Them) | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Capt Chris German

June 15, 2022

Navigation lights on a sailboat can be confusing. If you understand the reason behind why they are the way they are however, they can make a lot more sense.

At their heart, sailboats are really just a power boat and as such must adhere to all power boat rules such as navigation lights. Other times however, a sailboat is classified in a special category. They have a set of additional lights they CAN show as an option, but are not always required to do so.

That’s about as clear as mud if you ask me and I contend that that is where the confusion about lighting a sailboat begins.

Just because you can show a light to identify yourself in times of low visibility, does not mean you have to and then we add in a little sibling rivalry between power and sail and things get downright adversarial when it comes to navigation and the night.

Table of contents

The USCG says You’re a Power Boat Whether You Like It or Not

Much to the consternation of many a sailor who has earned a commercial license to drive their sailboat, when you received your credential from the USCG it says you are a master of steam and power across the top with no mention of wind as a source of propulsion.

It is not until you read the back pages of your little red book that feels like a passport and looks like a US Sailing credential, that you will see the term “sail auxiliary”. That is because most of the time the U.S. Coast Guard knows that you are primarily reliant on your mechanical power to propel your vessel.

It's a sad thing, but the days of commercially viable sail boats are done and all but the most select few even have sails let alone use them as their primary power source. All sail boats by law are powerboats, but not all powerboats are sailboats.

Navigation Lights for a Power Boat

As a power boat, you are required to show certain lights and have been required to do so before power was even invented. 

In the days of man powered vessels like the viking ships who relied on oars while in close quarters to power their vessels, they needed to show other boats, friend or foe, where they were by showing lanterns in the dark to identify themselves. As you know, it is a time honored rule among all the nations of the world both past and present, that you must avoid a collision at all costs while at sea and even the viking knew that you should not run into things.

By lighting the front and back of your boat, you could warn other boats of your presence as well as identify which way you were heading. As such there is a very specific rule in the Code of Federal Regulations Number 46 (CFR46 by common name) that spells out with detail how many, the color, the luminosity or brightness, the angle of visibility and the location of all of the lights required for navigation on every single boat, seaplane, submarine and other nondescript vessel conceived by man to date that they must show while underway in reduced visibility.

And there is no flexibility in the rules.

As such a power boat, and by extension all sailboats, MUST, without question show one green light on the starboard bow and one red light on the port bow and one all around white light or lights while operating in reduced visibility. These lights should shine at all 360 degrees of visibility with the bow lights shining at an angle of dead ahead to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam and the stern lights shining 225 degrees dead aft. A forward facing masthead light that is white in color shall shine forward to comply with the directive that all vessels must carry an all around white light. For more read here .

As you can see, there isn’t much wiggle room when it comes to lights that must be shown.

Sailboats get a little flexibility with lights

Sailboats however, are a little different when they are in fact sailboats, which is only when you are entirely reliant on the wind for power and in no way reliant on any mechanical or manual means of propulsion. And for good reason.

Back in the day when men were men and sailboats were wooden, fire was a major concern. Sails were coated with wax and other flammable substances and the wood on boats was saturated with oils and grease. Even the ropes were plant materials saturated with oils to keep them pliable and strong.

Add those highly flammable substances to a parching environment like the sea and you had what was essentially a giant floating tinderbox.

Then tell that giant floating tinderbox that they need to identify themselves to the world at large at night using oil lamps with flames because batteries and lights were not invented yet. It didn't take very long or very many ships burning to the water line for the Governments to say to the sailboats, you get to do things a little different.

As such, sailboats are given special dispensation when it comes to lights aloft. They don't have to show an all around white light in their rigging because no one wanted to set their rig on fire with oil lamps 60 feet up in their rig.

However, when a sailboat takes their sails down such as when they are powered or at anchor, they must resume the display of an all around white light or lights aloft. That became a real challenge with aluminum masts and the disappearance of rat lines on the shrouds because there was no easy way to climb the rig and check the bulbs up the mast on a regular basis. 

Red over Green Sailing Machine

I have no idea where the history of this particular light comes from, but if you ever take a deck exam with the USCG, you better remember this mnemonic. An all around red light over an all around green may be displayed on a vessel during times of reduced visibility to indicate that a vessel is operating under sail power alone. 

I won’t even speculate on how or why they came up with this particular light configuration, but if you want to use these lights as a sailing vessel, you can do so, but that means that you will need three all round lights at the top of your mast, an all around white, an all around red and an all around green, just in that order.

The red over green is to be displayed in addition to the running lights or the red and green bow lights with the 225 degree stern light. As always, when the motor comes on, so does the steaming light or the forward facing white light that is also usually about ¾ of the way up on your mast to complete the requirement of an all around white light that indicates a power vessel.

What is a “steaming light” and why are you mentioning it now?

Most sailboat electrical panels will have a switch that is labelled “steaming light” and it will only come on when your anchor light is off. This is probably the most confusing part of sailboat navigation lights so if you are confused about this, you're in good company as most people are. 

A “steaming” light is named thusly, going back to the days of steam powered sailboats where when they fired up their boilers and doused the sails, they became a power boat once again. There aren’t too many steam powered boats, let alone steam powered sailboats, but the name stuck and it is a vestige of a bygone era.

Either way, when you fire up your motor, you turn on your “steaming light” and that locks out the all around white light which is used for anchoring to minimize the number of switches on your panel and reduce the number of wires in your mast. The fewer wires, the less chance of something not working or becoming disconnected.

The steaming light and the anchor light both go up the mast, but you can’t use an all around white light while using the 225 degree stern light at the deck level because to other boaters you would look like you have two white lights from the stern and that would be confusing.

The anchor light is used exclusively for anchoring while the steaming light is used to indicate you are a power vessel while underway.

As to why I am mentioning it now in the article, is because this would have blown your mind if I started with this subject cause it can be really confusing stuff.

Aspect Recognition with Lights

Remember when I said earlier that lights can help you tell others which way you are heading as well as tell you which way other boats are heading? That is called the aspect of the vessel and the USCG tests you on this for your deck exam as well. 

Knowing that the bow lights go 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on both sides or 112.5 degrees on each side, and the stern light faces 225 degrees aft for a total of 360 degrees of visibility, you can tell a lot about where a boat is heading and who has the right of way.

One thing that's easy to remember is red means stop and if you see a vessel's red light, it means stop as you are the give way vessel and approaching the other vessel from his port side. Conversely it works with green as well as that means you are approaching from the other vessel's starboard side and you are the standon vessel.

If you see a red and green light equally low on the horizon, that means your heading dead on into another vessel's path and conversely if all you see is a white light low on the horizon, it means you are overtaking another vessel power or sail, we don’t care because it is an overtaking situation. However, any time you do see a white light aloft in addition to the red and green bow lights, you know you are encountering a power boat.

Then there are angular approaches as well, where you see white and red or white and green light low on the horizon. You know in that case you are seeing a portion of the bow lights and stern lights from the side approaches of a vessel. Based on which direction those lights are heading, you can deduce which way that boat is going in relation to your boat.

So put it all together and you see a green light and a white light low on the horizon with a red over green light aloft, you know that you are approaching a sailboat that is traveling to your port and that might make you the standon vessel. That is of course, if we didn’t concern ourselves with windward and leeward and port tacks and starboard tacks, but that is a discussion for another article. So stay tuned when we talk about sailing rules and the right of way. But for now, do good, have fun and sail far.

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Capt Chris German is a life long sailor and licensed captain who has taught thousands to sail over the last 20 years. In 2007, he founded a US Sailing-based community sailing school in Bridgeport, CT for inner city youth and families. When Hurricane Sandy forced him to abandon those efforts, he moved to North Carolina where he set out to share this love for broadcasting and sailing with a growing web-based television audience through The Charted Life Television Network.

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Navigation Lights for Sailboats (And How To Read Them)

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sailboat light at night

Sailboat Navigation Lights: A Guide to Safe Nighttime Sailing

by Emma Sullivan | Jul 26, 2023 | Sailboat Maintenance

sailboat light at night

==Short answer sailboat navigation lights:== Sailboat navigation lights are essential safety features that help vessels communicate and avoid collisions at night. These lights, such as the red and green sidelights and white stern light, allow sailors to determine the direction and status of approaching boats.

Understanding the Importance of Sailboat Navigation Lights

Sailing, with its air of romance and adventure, is a timeless pursuit that has captured the hearts of seafarers for centuries. While sailing enthusiasts revel in the sense of freedom and connection with nature that this activity provides, it is crucial to recognize that safety should always be a top priority when out on the open water. Among the many precautions taken to ensure safe navigation, sailboat navigation lights play an essential role.

These lights serve as beacons in the darkness, guiding both sailors and other vessels on their watery voyages. They are particularly vital during low visibility conditions such as fog, twilight, or nightfall when discerning a sailboat’s presence can be challenging. By understanding the importance of sailboat navigation lights, sailors can take proactive steps towards avoiding collisions and mishaps while enjoying their time at sea.

First and foremost, these lights serve as a communication tool between vessels. Just as traffic signals guide drivers on roads, sailboat navigation lights communicate a vessel’s navigational status to others nearby. These lights convey critical information about a boat’s direction of travel and whether it is under power or relying solely on wind propulsion. This enables other boats to predict potential collision courses and adjust their own paths accordingly.

In terms of regulatory compliance, having properly functioning navigation lights is not just recommended; it is required by international maritime laws like The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS). These regulations provide clear guidelines for different types of watercraft around the world to standardize safety measures. Following these rules ensures that every sailor speaks the same language when at sea, diminishing misunderstandings and encouraging mutual respect among mariners.

Furthermore, sailboat navigation lights contribute significantly to situational awareness – an invaluable asset in any seafaring endeavor. By displaying specific colors and configurations such as red/green sidelights and a white stern light visible from 135 degrees, sailors can discern the orientation of approaching vessels even in complete darkness. This knowledge empowers sailors to make informed decisions about altering their course or speed to avoid potential dangers.

In addition to enhancing navigation safety, sailboat navigation lights also add a touch of elegance and charm to nighttime voyages. Picture yourself sailing under a summer moonlit sky, with the soft glow of your vessel’s navigation lights casting mesmerizing reflections on the water’s surface. These lights not only provide reassurance but also create an enchanting ambiance for both sailors and onlookers.

While it may be tempting to dismiss the importance of sailboat navigation lights as just another cumbersome boat regulation, understanding their indispensable role is crucial for every sailor’s peace of mind and for ensuring uninterrupted enjoyment of our beloved pastime. So next time you set sail, remember that these little beacons serve as more than mere accessories – they are your allies in darkness, silently guiding you towards safe passages and unforgettable adventures on the open sea.

How to Properly Install and Operate Sailboat Navigation Lights

When it comes to sailing, safety should always be a top priority. And one of the essential safety measures on a sailboat is proper navigation lighting. Sailboat navigation lights help other vessels identify your boat’s position and course, especially during low visibility conditions or at night. In this blog post, we will guide you through the correct installation and operation of sailboat navigation lights to make your sailing adventures safe and enjoyable.

Installing sailboat navigation lights may seem like a simple task, but there are several key factors to consider for optimal functionality. First and foremost, familiarize yourself with international regulations regarding navigation lights. These regulations ensure consistency across different countries and improve communication between vessels on the water.

Before starting the installation process, carefully choose high-quality LED lights specifically designed for sailboats. LEDs offer numerous advantages over traditional incandescent bulbs, including energy efficiency, higher light output, longer lifespan, and reduced heat emission. Additionally, LEDs are more durable and resistant to vibrations commonly experienced while sailing.

To begin installing your sailboat navigation lights:

1. Determine the appropriate locations: Positioning your navigation lights correctly is crucial to maximize their visibility and effectiveness. Refer to your boat’s owner’s manual or consult with a marine electrician to identify the ideal mounting points for each light.

2. Prepare wiring routes: Plan out the wiring routes before drilling any holes or mounting fixtures. Concealing wires within the boat’s structure not only enhances aesthetics but also minimizes potential damage caused by exposure to external elements.

3. Drill strategically: Using an appropriately sized drill bit, carefully create mounting holes following the instructions provided by the manufacturer of your chosen navigation lights.

4. Connect electrical components: Install a waterproof junction box near each light fixture to protect wires from moisture and corrosion. Make connections following color-coded standards (red wire – positive; black wire – negative), ensuring proper polarity is maintained throughout the circuit.

5. Securely attach fixtures: Once all wiring connections are made, attach the navigation light fixtures to their designated mounting positions. Double-check that they are secure and properly aligned to maintain optimal visibility.

With your sailboat navigation lights installed, it’s time to understand their operation. Different situations call for specific combinations of lighting:

1. Underway with power: When sailing under engine power, display both a red (port side) and a green (starboard side) light visible from dead ahead to 22.5 degrees abaft each beam. A white stern light should also be shown.

2. Sailing without power: When solely relying on wind propulsion, display just the red and green sidelights in the same manner as during powered navigation.

3. At anchor: If you’re moored or anchored, only exhibit an all-around white light at a location high enough to illuminate unobstructed from every angle.

4. Restricted maneuverability: In situations where your sailboat’s maneuverability is impaired (e.g., towing another vessel), use three shapes—two balls vertically aligned above one diamond—to indicate restricted movement.

Lastly, always ensure proper maintenance of your sailboat navigation lights:

1. Regularly inspect for damage: Routinely check for signs of wear and tear on the electrical connections, housing seals, lenses, and reflectors. Replace any damaged components promptly.

2. Clean for maximum visibility: Keep lenses clean from dirt, grime, salt residue, or any other obstructions that could limit the effectiveness of your navigation lights.

3. Carry spare bulbs/batteries: Be prepared by carrying backup LED bulbs or batteries in case of failure during extended voyages.

By following these installation steps, understanding proper operation techniques according to maritime regulations, and maintaining your navigation lights diligently; you can cruise confidently knowing your sailboat is equipped with highly visible and functional navigation lighting system—an important feature enhancing safety while enjoying the open water at any time of day or night. So, set sail with peace of mind and navigate the seas safely while embracing the thrilling adventures that await you!

Step-by-Step Guide: Setting Up Sailboat Navigation Lights for Safe Sailing

Welcome aboard, fellow sailors! Today, we are going to dive into the nitty-gritty of setting up sailboat navigation lights for safe sailing. As you know, proper navigation lights are an essential part of ensuring your safety on the water, especially during low-light conditions and at night. So grab your cup of coffee, sit back, and prepare to learn how to illuminate the seas like a professional.

Step 1: Know Your Lights Before we jump into the technicalities, let’s familiarize ourselves with the different navigation lights required on a sailboat. These include the red port light on the left side, green starboard light on the right side, white stern light at the rear, and if our boat is longer than 20 meters (or 65 feet), a white masthead light at its highest point. Having this knowledge sets you up for success in navigating effectively while abiding by maritime regulations.

Step 2: Choose Your Lighting System Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to decide which lighting system is most appropriate for your sailboat. You have two options: traditional incandescent bulbs or modern LED lights. While both serve their purpose well, LED lights are more energy-efficient and tend to last longer – a win-win situation!

Step 3: Gathering Materials To ensure smooth sailing throughout this process (pun intended), gather all necessary materials beforehand. This includes navigation lights (either incandescent bulbs or LED lights depending on your preference), wiring connectors, heat shrink tubing (to protect connections from moisture), electrical tape, wires (preferably color-coded for easy identification), wire strippers/cutters, and mounting hardware suitable for your boat.

Step 4: Planning Placement Consideration of placement plays a crucial role in setting up navigation lights effectively. Ensure visibility from all angles without obstructing other boat equipment or compromising aesthetics onboard. Take note of any manufacturer guidelines provided with your purchased lights for optimal placement. Remember, safety doesn’t mean sacrificing style!

Step 5: Wiring Your Lights Now we’re getting hands-on! Let’s start with the stern light. Attach the wires of your chosen light to the existing electrical system using appropriate connectors and ensure a secure connection. Utilize heat shrink tubing and electrical tape to safeguard against any moisture-induced malfunctions. Repeat this process for both port and starboard lights.

Step 6: Don’t Forget the Masthead Light If your sailboat exceeds 20 meters in length, you’ll need a masthead light too. Carefully mount this light on top of your mast using suitable hardware. Then, run additional wires through the mast to connect it securely with your electrical system.

Step 7: The Proof is in Testing After successfully wiring all navigation lights, it’s time for a crucial step – testing! Double-check that all connections are secure and operational before venturing out onto the open water. Be meticulous; don’t let a faulty bulb ruin your sunset cruise or impede your journey under a moonlit sky.

Congrats, sailors! You’ve now mastered the art of setting up sailboat navigation lights for safe sailing. Remember, maintaining these lights should be an essential part of regular boat maintenance as well. With proper illumination, maritime rules adhered to diligently, and cautious seamanship skills mastered, you can enjoy many breathtaking nights on tranquil waters without compromising safety. So go forth into the starry night with confidence and raise anchor towards new horizons! Bon voyage!

Frequently Asked Questions About Sailboat Navigation Lights, Answered!

Title: Frequently Asked Questions About Sailboat Navigation Lights, Answered!

Introduction: Navigating a sailboat safely and responsibly requires understanding and adhering to various rules and regulations. One vital aspect of sailing is ensuring proper use of navigation lights. These lights not only aid in visibility but also help communicate with other vessels on the water. In this blog post, we will delve into frequently asked questions about sailboat navigation lights, offering detailed professional answers infused with wit and clever insights.

1. Why are navigation lights necessary for sailboats? Navigation lights serve as visual signals that enable sailors to identify vessel types, positions, and movements at night or in low visibility conditions. They are crucial for promoting safety on the water by helping prevent collisions and aiding in the communication between boats.

2. What are the different types of navigation lights found on a sailboat? Sailboats typically feature three main navigation lights: red (portside), green (starboard side), and white (stern light). The red light tells other sailors that your boat’s portside is facing them, while the green light indicates that your starboard side is visible. The white stern light illuminates the rear of your vessel, making it easier for others to determine your direction of travel.

3. When should I turn on my sailboat’s navigation lights? According to international rules of collision avoidance at sea, all vessels must show proper navigation lighting between sunset and sunrise or during periods of restricted visibility such as fog or heavy rain showers. It’s essential to remember that even during daylight hours if visibility drops due to poor weather conditions, switching on navigational lights can greatly enhance safety.

4. Are there any additional requirements regarding sailboat navigation lighting? Yes! Aside from displaying the three main distinct navigation lights mentioned above, it is crucial for sailboats under power or motorsailing – using engine power alongside sails – to display an additional white forward-facing masthead light apart from the stern light. This masthead light helps identify the sailboat as a power-driven vessel, providing further clarity to nearby boaters.

5. Can I use LED lights for navigation purposes on my sailboat? Absolutely! In fact, LED lights are highly recommended for their energy efficiency and prolonged lifespan compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. However, it is essential to ensure that any LED navigation lights you use adhere to relevant maritime regulations concerning color, visibility range, and intensity.

6. How can I check if my sailboat’s navigation lights are working correctly? Regular maintenance and testing of your navigation lights are vital to guarantee their functionality when needed the most. Before every outing, visually inspect each light for signs of damage or corrosion. Additionally, switch on all navigational lights while docked or at anchor to verify they illuminate brightly according to the appropriate standards laid out in navigational lighting regulations.

Conclusion: Understanding sailboat navigation lighting not only ensures your safety but also promotes effective communication with other vessels on the water. By knowing when and how to properly utilize these lights, you contribute to maintaining a harmonious sailing environment. Remember, navigating with wit means being informed and cleverly enhancing your skills as a sailor while keeping safety at the forefront of your adventures!

Top Tips and Best Practices for Maintaining Sailboat Navigation Lights

Maintaining Sailboat Navigation Lights: Expert Tips and Best Practices

Picture this – you’re out on the open water, gliding along with the wind in your sails. As the sun dips below the horizon, darkness begins to envelop your sailboat. This is when maintaining proper navigation lights becomes paramount for both safety and legal compliance. In this blog post, we will dive deep into top tips and best practices for ensuring that your sailboat’s navigation lights are not only functioning but also showcasing their brilliance.

1. Regular Inspections are Key: To ensure your sailboat navigation lights are in prime condition, regular inspections should be conducted. Make it a habit before every trip to thoroughly examine all lights, from bow to stern. Look out for any loose connections, cracked lenses, or water intrusion that could hamper their effectiveness.

2. Ensure Proper Power Supply: One common issue faced by sailors is inadequate power supply to navigation lights, leading to dimness or complete failure at crucial times. Check that the wiring system is correctly connected and working optimally. Additionally, consider installing a voltage monitor or battery analyzer to keep tabs on power levels during extended journeys.

3. Choose LED Lights: When it comes to choosing sailboat navigation lights, opt for LED technology without hesitation. LEDs offer brilliant luminosity while consuming minimal power compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. Their longevity and durability make them ideal for equipping your vessel’s masthead light, sidelights, stern light, and anchor light.

4. Cleaning is Essential: Navigation lights on a sailboat accumulate dirt and grime over time due to exposure to various elements like saltwater spray or bird droppings (we all know how seagulls love making our boats their restroom). Regularly clean the lenses with a soft cloth and mild soap solution followed by drying with a lint-free towel. Keeping them crystal clear will maximize their output and visibility range.

5. Protect Against Moisture: Water ingress can be a persistent menace, harming the functionality of your sailboat’s navigation lights. To combat this, ensure watertight seals around light fixtures and wiring connections. Applying silicone lubricant or dielectric grease to connectors further enhances protection against moisture.

6. Carry Spare Bulbs and Fuses: Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong – especially in the middle of nowhere. Imagine how disheartening it would be if one of your navigation lights suddenly fizzles out on a moonless night! Always carry spare bulbs and fuses suited for your specific lighting system to avoid such predicaments and keep your journey uninterrupted.

7. Stay Familiar with Navigation Regulations: Being updated on marine regulations regarding navigation lights is not only essential for your safety but also ensures compliance with local laws. These regulations dictate the placement, colors, and timings for displaying navigational lights based on different conditions such as underway, anchored, or sailing near other vessels at night.

In conclusion, maintaining sailboat navigation lights might seem like a mundane task; however, its significance cannot be undermined when it comes to safety during nighttime voyages. Regular inspections, adequate power supply, LED technology adoption, cleanliness, moisture protection, carrying spare bulbs/fuses, and adhering to maritime regulations should become second nature for any seasoned sailor. By following these top tips and best practices meticulously, you’ll be able to navigate the vast expanse of dark waters with confidence while ensuring a safe voyage each time.

Exploring Different Types and Designs of Sailboat Navigation Lights

When it comes to sailing at night, having the right navigation lights on your sailboat is absolutely crucial. Not only do they help you stay safe and avoid collisions with other vessels, but they also ensure that you are compliant with maritime regulations. In this blog post, we will be exploring different types and designs of sailboat navigation lights, so you can make an informed decision for your own vessel.

One of the most common types of sailboat navigation lights is the sidelight. These lights are usually mounted on either side of the boat and emit a green light on the starboard (right) side and a red light on the port (left) side. The purpose of these lights is to signal the direction in which your boat is moving to other vessels in the vicinity. Additionally, sidelights should be visible at a distance of at least two nautical miles, ensuring that other boats have ample time to react accordingly.

Another important type of navigation light for sailboats is the sternlight. As its name suggests, this light is mounted at the back or stern of the boat and emits a white light. The sternlight helps other vessels determine if you are moving away from them or approaching them from behind. It should be visible from a distance of at least two nautical miles as well.

In addition to sidelights and sternlights, sailboats also require an all-round white light, commonly known as an anchor light. This light serves as both an anchoring indicator and a warning signal to other boats that your vessel isn’t under power and may be stationary. Typically mounted atop the mast or another elevated point on the sailboat, this white light must be visible from all directions within two nautical miles.

Now that we’ve covered the main types of sailboat navigation lights, let’s delve into their designs. While traditional incandescent bulbs were once widely used for their simplicity and affordability, LED technology has revolutionized marine lighting. LED navigation lights are highly energy-efficient and have a considerably longer lifespan compared to incandescent bulbs. Additionally, LEDs emit a bright and focused light, making your sailboat more visible to others even in adverse weather conditions.

Furthermore, many LED navigation lights come with built-in features that enhance safety and convenience. Some models have automatic sensors that adjust the brightness of the lights depending on the ambient lighting conditions. This means that if you’re sailing during twilight or dawn, when visibility is reduced, these lights will automatically become brighter for better detection by other vessels.

Moreover, some innovative designs include combination lights that incorporate both sidelights and sternlights in one compact unit. These multifunctional lights save space on your boat while still ensuring compliance with regulations. Additionally, there are folding or telescopic navigation lights available that can be easily stowed away when not in use, further optimizing your deck space.

In conclusion, choosing the right types and designs of sailboat navigation lights is crucial for safe night sailing and regulatory compliance. Sidelights, sternlights, and anchor lights are essential components of any sailboat’s lighting system. Consider opting for energy-efficient LED technology that offers enhanced visibility and longevity compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. Moreover, explore innovative designs such as combination lights or folding options to optimize space onboard your vessel. By equipping your sailboat with the right navigation lights, you can navigate confidently through the darkness while captivating other sailors with your illuminated elegance on the open sea!

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Navigation: Boat Lights at Night

Boating at night is an experience like no other as navigating waters becomes enchantingly beautiful and potentially challenging. Certain essential safety rules need to be followed, and boat lights at night tops that list. These play an invaluable role and are necessary for maintaining visibility, preventing collisions, and complying with legal requirements.

This comprehensive guide explores various facets of boat lighting: from understanding their importance to knowing different types of lights and more; Additionally, we decipher the regulations, discuss correct usage, offer safety tips, and much more. 

Key Takeaways

  • Appropriate boat lights are not just necessary for legal reasons but also play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of your boat and those around you during nighttime or low-light conditions.
  • Understanding the different types of boat lights (masthead light, stern lights, sidelights, all-around white light) and their placement based on your boat's length is critical.
  • Understanding how navigation lights work is essential - red stands for the port side and green for the starboard side. This knowledge will aid in recognizing the direction of other boats based on their lights.
  • Various specialized lights serve specific purposes like docking lights for assisting dock arrival, spotlights for identifying landmarks or buoys, etc. Extra caution should be used to ensure these do not disrupt other boaters' vision.
  • The law mandates the display of appropriate lights from sunset to sunrise; failure to adhere to this rule can result in heavy penalties.
  • The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs) specify rules relating to navigation lights. Familiarity with key COLREGs rules ensures safe and lawful operation of vessels.
  • Safety precautions like carrying spare fuses and bulbs onboard, dimming electronic devices, installing red lights within the cabin, using reflective tape, slowing down, wearing life jackets, and using onboard electronics go a long way in planning for unexpected eventualities while boating at night.

Understanding the Importance of Boat Lights at Night and in Reduced Visibility

Good navigational lighting isn’t just another feature; it’s a critical safety component for use after sunset or in low-light conditions. Being out in the open water devoid of any light can be disorienting, and navigation lights assist you in identifying your location and your path. 

Lights During Reduced Visibility

Nighttime isn’t the only scenario where the vision becomes poor; even during foggy weather, rain, or heavy cloud cover, you can find yourself in situations of reduced visibility. Under these circumstances, lights can be a beacon. They alert other boaters of your presence, helping you to be seen, even in the murkiest conditions.

Role of Lights in Preventing Collisions

A clear night can quickly turn dangerous without proper lights. Aside from keeping you on the right track, they also play the essential role of signaling to other vessels your location and the direction in which you’re moving. This simple communication can avoid dangerous close encounters and help prevent collisions, a risk that increases with every unlit boat on the water.

Requirement of Displaying the Appropriate Lights for Safety and Legal Reasons

Legally, you are required to display appropriate lights from sunset to sunrise and in periods of low visibility . Failing to do so can result in heavy fines and penalties. Even more than that, displaying the right lights is a universal sign of responsibility and respect for other boaters’ safety. Remember, an illuminated boat is a visible boat, and a visible boat is a safe boat.

Types and Placement of Boat Lights

There are four main types of lights to display: 

  • The masthead light, also known as the steaming light, is a white light positioned in the middle of the front part of the boat and higher than the side lights. It shines light from the front to a little bit behind the sides of the craft. When under power, it indicates the direction of travel.
  • Sidelights, which display green on the starboard (right) side and red on the port (left) side of the boat, illuminate the areas not covered by the masthead light. These lights are visible to other boaters from the front and side of the vessel.
  • The stern light, also white, shines backward, allowing other vessels to see your vessel from behind and gauge its direction and position. It is mounted high enough to be visible over the transom or other equipment but lower than the Masthead Light.
  • Often found on smaller craft, the all-around white light(360 degrees) is visible from all directions. It can be used in place of the masthead and stern lights and should be installed at the vessel’s highest point. 

Correct Placement of Lights on Boats of Different Lengths

The placement of the lights depends on the length and type of your boat. Boats less than 12 meters in length may exhibit an all-around light and sidelights. In contrast, larger vessels are required to have separate masthead, stern lights, and sidelights.

Difference Between Sailboat and Powered Boat Light Placements

The placement and visibility of lights vary between sailboats and powered boats.

A motorboat needs a masthead light that can be seen from two miles away, sidelights that are visible for one mile, and a stern light. However, a sailing boat only requires sidelights and a stern light unless it’s being powered by an engine, in which case it also needs a masthead light.

Navigation Lights and Their Correct Usage for Boating at Night

As mentioned above, the red and green lights are key parts of marine navigation, mirroring the colors of traffic lights. These lights should be visible for an arc of 112.5 degrees from the front of the boat. Knowing this helps you determine which way other boats are heading.

The visibility range for your lights depends on the type of boat and what it’s doing at the time. Typical coverage for navigation lights can vary from 112.5 degrees (for sidelights) to 360 degrees (for an all-round light), providing visibility in all directions.

The lights also tell you about a boat’s direction of travel. For instance, if you see red and green lights ahead, the boat is approaching. On the other hand, if you only see a white light, it could mean the vessel is moving away from you.

Special Light Requirements When the Boat is at Anchor or Towing Another Vessel

An anchored boat must show an all-round white light, ensuring it can be seen from all directions. This light should be installed at the highest point for the best visibility.

When a boat tows another vessel or object, towing lights signal this activity. These lights consist of a yellow light placed close to the stern light. 

Visibility Ranges for Different Boat Sizes

International regulations specify different visibility ranges based on boat length:

  • Boats less than 12 meters in length (39.4 feet): Masthead/Steaming Lights must be visible for at least 2 nautical miles. Sidelights and Stern Lights should be visible to other boats for at least 1 nautical mile.
  • Boats between 12 and 20 meters (39.4 to 65.6 feet): Masthead/Steaming Lights should be visible for at least 3 nautical miles. Sidelights should be visible for at least 2 nautical miles, and Stern Lights for at least 2 nautical miles.
  • Boats between 20 and 50 meters (65.6 to 164 feet): Masthead/Steaming Lights should be visible for at least 5 nautical miles. Sidelights should be visible for at least 2 nautical miles, and Stern Lights for at least 2 nautical miles.

Judicious Use of Specialized Boat Lights for Specific Situations

The danger of using bright, forward-facing lights while underway.

Imagine driving along a dark country road when a car from the opposite direction suddenly fails to dip its headlights. Quite a dazzling experience, right? Similarly, illuminating ultra-bright, forward-facing lights (like searchlights or docking lights) while on the move can disrupt other boaters’ night vision, making it harder for them to navigate safely. So, unless you’re docking or need to illuminate a short-range area, it’s best not to use them.

Usage of Docking Lights 

Contrary to some beliefs, docking lights are not meant for long-range viewing or communication with other vessels. As the name hints, their primary purpose is to assist you while docking at night. These high-intensity lights help illuminate the area directly in front of your boat, allowing you to see your dock or slip.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Spotlights

Spotlights can be handy when searching for buoys , identifying landmarks, or person overboard situations. However, they must be used sparingly and thoughtfully on the water to avoid disorienting other boaters. A good rule is to use them intermittently – only when necessary – and never shine them in the direction of another boat.

Avoiding Confusion with Regular Navigation Lights

Comprehensive lighting on your boat is a good idea, but it must never interfere with or be confused with your navigation lights. Any decorative or additional lighting should not mask, obstruct, or be mistaken for your boat’s red, green, or white navigation lights. After all, these lights are a crucial part of the language of the sea, and it’s vital other boaters can read them correctly. 

Extra Lighting for Fishing at Night

Extra lighting serves two main functions when you’re fishing at night. Firstly, it illuminates your immediate surroundings, making casting, landing, and unhooking fish convenient. It also ensures the safety of your movements in and around the boat. Secondly, the right light may even attract fish!

Precautions to Take Not to Impair the Night Vision of Other Boaters

As with driving cars at night, you must follow certain etiquette and safety precautions with your fishing lights. Refrain from pointing your highly focused, bright lights toward another boat, and if using underwater lights to attract fish, ensure they are not mistaken for navigation lights.

Required Lights when Fishing at Certain Distances from Shore

Boating lights: rules and regulations, understanding key colregs rules.

Navigating the open seas requires adherence to international rules known as the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs). These rules include specific guidelines about using navigation lights on different types of vessels and in various conditions. Here’s a brief overview of some of these essential rules:

The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea ( COLREGs ) contain essential navigation light rules on different types of vessels and in various conditions. Here’s a brief overview of some of these:

  • Rule 23: Power-driven vessels underway: This rule outlines the navigation light requirements for boats operating under power.
  • Rule 25: Sailing vessels underway and vessels under oars: This rule specifies the navigation light standards for sailing boats and vessels propelled by oars.
  • Rule 20 (Application): This rule states that the navigation light rules apply to all vessels on the high seas and in waters connected to the high seas navigable by seagoing vessels. It also specifies that the rules apply from sunset to sunrise and during reduced visibility, such as fog, rain, or haze.
  • Rule 21 (Definitions): Rule 21 provides clear definitions of various terms related to navigation lights, such as masthead lights, sidelights, stern lights, towing lights, all-round lights, and flashing lights. Understanding these definitions helps ensure proper usage and compliance with the regulations.
  • Rule 22 (Visibility of Lights): This rule specifies the minimum visibility range for different navigation lights based on the vessel size, which we discussed in the “Visibility and Range of Navigation Lights at Night” section. Adhering to these visibility requirements is crucial for safe navigation and avoiding collisions.
  • Rule 24 (Towing and Pushing): Rule 24 outlines the navigation light requirements for vessels engaged in towing or pushing operations. Towing vessels must display a masthead light, sidelights, and a towing light, while the towed vessel must display sidelights and a stern light. Vessels pushing ahead or towing alongside should exhibit sidelights, a stern light, and a special flashing light.

Safety Precautions and Tips for Night Boating 

Here are some safety measures and tips to consider when you’re out on the water at night:

  • Carry spare fuses and bulbs on board.
  • Install red lights: Equip your helm, cabin, and other workspaces with red lighting.
  • Dim the brightness of electronic devices, such as GPS units or chartplotters.
  • Always have a waterproof flashlight or headtorch with a red light mode available for emergencies or when you need to perform tasks that require focused light. 
  • Apply reflective tape on critical areas of your boat, such as rails, life jackets, and safety equipment. 
  • Install deck and courtesy lights for low-level illumination around the cockpit and deck walkways.
  • Slow down to give yourself more time to react to environmental obstacles or changes. 
  • Maintain a proper lookout to watch for other vessels, obstacles, or navigational markers. 
  • Make the most of your onboard electronics, such as radar and GPS/chartplotters, to improve your situational awareness at night.
  • Wear a life jacket or PFD , especially in low-light conditions when seeing someone who has fallen overboard may be harder.

Final Thoughts

Navigating at night or in reduced visibility can be a challenging yet rewarding experience when done properly. Central to this adventure is understanding and implementing appropriate navigational lights according to maritime rules and regulations, serving not only as an aid for safe travel but also as an indication of respect for fellow boaters. Remember, each type of light serves a particular purpose, whether the masthead light indicates the direction of travel or sidelights help you understand another vessel’s path.

Know that using bright forward-facing lights while on the go may impair other boaters’ vision, while docking lights & spotlights should be used minimally and thoughtfully. Similarly, if you’re fishing at night, ensure your lighting doesn’t confuse or inconvenience others. Finally, conforming to laws like displaying correct lights from sunset to sunrise and understanding key COLREGs rules are imperative for legal compliance.

Pair these safety measures with effective preparations such as carrying spare fuses and bulbs, slowing down your speed, keeping additional waterproof flashlights, and wearing life jackets to enhance your safety while night boating greatly. 

The basic boat lights for night operation include a stern light (white), sidelights that indicate the port (red) and starboard (green), and masthead light (white). These lights allow other boats to see you in the waterway, enhancing safe navigation.

Boat lights for night operations are crucial for safety and are required by law. They help you see and be seen by other boats, preventing potential accidents.

It’s legally required to exhibit appropriate navigational lights only from sunset to sunrise or during periods of restricted visibility, such as foggy conditions, heavy rain, or cloud cover. 

Failing to comply with relevant laws and regulations regarding marine lighting can result in hefty fines and penalties. Besides legal trouble, improper use increases collision risk endangering everyone aboard. 

Both powered and sailing boats require a masthead light when under power propulsion. When using sails without engine assistance, sailing boats do not need a masthead light but must display sidelights and a stern light.

Yes, larger vessels generally require their navigation lights to be visible from greater distances. For example, for boats less than 12 meters long, the rules state that sidelights should be visible from at least one mile away and the masthead light from two miles away, but these distances increase for larger vessels.

Docking lights are not essential, but they help illuminate the area directly in front of your boat while docking at night. However, they should not be used when moving since they might dazzle other boaters and interfere with their navigation.

When your boat is anchored between sunset and sunrise, you must exhibit an all-around white light visible from every direction. This rule applies in low-visibility weather too.

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Boat Navigation Lights.

Boat Navigation Lights: Understanding the Basics

sailboat light at night

Table of Contents

Last Updated on July 19, 2022 by Boatsetter Team

For many boaters, the best way to end a beautiful day on the water is to watch the sun slowly drop below the horizon while it lights up the clouds and sky above. Others feel better heading to the dock before the sun goes down, while there is still plenty of light to illuminate the channel markers and other potential dangers.

Besides understanding boat navigation light rules, it is also important to understand:

  • The overall purpose of boat navigation lights
  • How to properly use boat navigation lights
  • What the different colors (red and green) mean

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Red Boat Navigation Light.

How do boat navigation lights work?

Boat navigation lights, or “nav lights,” are the colored marker lights visible on either side of the vessel and at the stern . These lights play essential roles in identifying the ship’s length, direction, and purpose!

The colored marker lights and where to find them go as follows:

  • The boat’s port side is marked with a red light.
  • The starboard side light is green.
  • When looking at the boat’s transom or stern, a white light may be visible.

Keep in mind large boats and ships may use other colors, like yellow.

Next time you’re boating at night , say thanks to your navigation lights. They allow you to see other boaters in the dark and help prevent collisions. But there is much more to boat navigation lights than that.

How to use boat navigation lights

Each of the boat’s navigation lights is only visible for so many degrees of a circle to prevent confusion and accurately identify which side is in view.

By noting which colors are visible on another vessel, boaters can identify which direction the other boat is facing or headed. Knowing a boat’s direction can be especially important when crossing paths with another vessel in the dark.

If you walked around a boat at night while the navigation lights were on, the color visible would change depending on where you stood. When looking at the port side of the boat, the red light would be visible from dead ahead of the vessel to just past the center of the port side or through 112.5 degrees of a circle. Walk to the starboard side, and the green light would be visible from the bow to just past the boat’s center, or another 112.5 degrees.

Stand at the back of the boat, and you will see the white light visible for a total of 135 degrees from one side of the vessel to the other. Add up all three, and you’ll get 360 degrees.

Green & Red Boat Navigation Lights.

Boat navigation light color meanings

If you were on a boat at night and could see nothing but the different colored lights of another vessel ahead of you, you would still know exactly which way that boat was going.

  • If you could only see the red light ahead of you, you would know that you are seeing the other vessel’s port side, or it is crossing in front of you from your right to left.
  • The opposite is true if you saw the other vessel’s green light . You would be looking at the other vessel’s starboard side or watching the boat pass in front of you from left to right.
  • If you see both red and green lights , then the other vessel is coming straight at you if you can see both red and green lights.
  • If you can only see the white light and nothing else, you would look directly at the other boat’s stern as it drives away.
  • Red and white means the boat is driving away from you, crossing from right to left.
  • On the other hand, green and white signal that the vessel is moving away from you, crossing from left to right.

When renting a boat on Boatsetter , make it a habit of checking that navigation lights are working. You should turn on the navigation lights even if the sun is out. It’s the best and safest boating practice.

Want additional resources for boating?

Check out the links below for more information on boating.

  • Navigation lights study guide
  • Pre-departure boating checklist
  • Boat Spring Commissioning Dewinterization Checklist

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Chuck-Warren

Chuck Warren fell in love with boats at 9 years old while helping to restore his grandfather’s 1939 44-foot Elco cruiser. A lifelong boater, Chuck has experience operating large and small vessels on the waters of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and the Great Lakes.

During his 35-year marine industry career, Chuck has been the driver for several offshore powerboat racing teams, the chief engineer aboard a Caribbean research and salvage vessel, captain of a Florida Keys sunset cruise, and more.

Today, Chuck is a boating industry writer, copywriter, and captain who lives on his 40-foot boat in the summer when he isn’t delivering vessels around the Great Lakes or teaching new boaters to drive. Winters are split between the West Michigan lakeshore and wherever his travels take him.

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Quicknav

Boat Navigation Lights: Everything You NEED to Know (2024)

rob

In many cases, boating at night requires the use of boat navigation lights, but boaters often have many questions about them.

They often wonder when they’re needed, what the requirements are for various locations and vessels, and more.

We’re going to do a deep dive into navigation lights for boat to see what you need on your boat, and when you need to use them. 

Legal Requirements

Types of navigational lights, which navigation lights are required on my boat , operators responsibility  , navigation lights .

On any vessel operating on or in US waters, there is a need for the operator to display navigation lights under certain circumstances. Their purpose is to make vessels aware of each other at night or in times of generally reduced visibility. This is incredibly important during times when you may not be able to see the craft itself.

Other than visibility, marine nav lights also help boat operators determine the size, direction of travel, and even the potential activity of another boat on the water. When an operator understands the type of information each light tells them, they will be better able to determine appropriate courses of action for potential situations.

Boat running lights are divided by location and color, and each of them has specific requirements with how they must be displayed and perceived. You are the one legally responsible for displaying proper nav lights on the boat, for displaying them at the proper times, and for understanding how to read them.

The US Coast Guard ’s legal navigation light requirements include guidelines for every aspect of light usage.

Their materials start by first defining the standard daily period during which they must be used, then they detail how many of each type of light is needed as well as where they are located. Each light also has constraints regarding its visible distance and the arc over which it can be seen. 

In the US, the Coast Guard says that any powered vessel that is under 39.4ft., may operate with boat nav lights in as little as two positions, an all-round light at the stern, and a set of sidelights at the bow. 

Vessels that are under 164ft. must have lights displayed in four positions, a stern light, a masthead light, and boat sidelights on both the port and starboard, near the bow.

The ship navigation lights also have minimum visibility distances, depending on the size of the craft. The minimum visibility for nav lights, even for small crafts, is one mile, with requirements that other lights on larger vessels be visible for up to 3 nautical miles.

Also read: Boating Rules and Etiquette On the Water

Boat lights come in 4 types, sidelights, stern light, masthead light, and all-round light. Lights only come in white, red, and green, and all have very specific jobs.

Masthead Light

The masthead light is the white light located about ⅔ of the way up the mast, rather than at the top as you’d think. This boat bow light is required when using motor power at night. To be acceptable, the light must have an arc of 225° and needs to be seen from 2 miles away.

Large boats can have up to 3 mast lights. If your boat is shorter than 39 ft., all 2-3 white mast lights can be combined, utilizing one larger white light at the top of the mast.

Color : White ARC : 225 degrees Position : Front of boat

Port Sidelight

The boating lights located on the port side of the watercraft are red and mounted so that boats can see as they approach either head-on or from the left. This light helps tell if a boat is coming towards you or if it is pointing away. The phrase “red, right, returning” means that if you see a boat with their red navigation light on the right, they are facing your boat. The only time it is not needed is when your boat is anchored for the night .

Color : Red ARC : 122.5 degrees Position : Forward, left side

Starboard Sidelight

If you are to approach a boat from the front or right, you will see the green starboard sidelight. With an ARC of 122.5 degrees, approaching boats will be able to see yours easily.

This light helps tell you whether or not you have the right of way, which is important when it comes to keeping both you and your passengers safe. These are some of the front boat lights.

This light will often be combined with the port light, in small boat navigation lights. When out in the water, if you see the green light, that means it is safe for you to go, as you have the right of way.

Color : Green ARC : 122.5 degrees Position : Forward, right side.

The rear boat light is called the stern light. It is used to mark the rear of the boat. The operator can infer from only setting a boat stern light, that they are directly behind the vessel. 

The stern light is white and is visible for an arc of 112.5 degrees on both the port and starboard sides, making a full arc of 225. Being able to see the red starboard side light as well as the stern light, should indicate the other vessel is traveling to the right from the perspective of the observer. 

Color : White ARC : 225 degrees Position : Stern

All-Around Light

One of the boat night lights that is required when on your boat between sunset and sunrise is the all-around light. This light is intended to be seen from any point and helps to tell what direction a boat is moving. This light is also used when a boat is stopped or anchored.

This anchor light is required to have an ARC of 360 degrees and should be visible for two miles. The all-around light is white and it is located at the top of your boat’s mast for maximum visibility.

Color : White ARC : 360 degrees Position : Top of mast

Tricolor Light

A tricolor light is a sailboat mast light that has your three types of bow light in one convenient piece of equipment. They are for sailboats that are smaller than 65.6 feet long. The point of this sailboat light is to increase your nighttime visibility. They are mounted at the top of the mast, allowing larger boats to see yours better. They are not permitted to be used by any boats with a motor. The only type of boat that can utilize a tricolor light is a sailboat.

Color : White, red, green ARC : 360 degrees Position : Top of mast

Towing Light

These yellow lights are important, as they indicate to other watercraft that, not only is there another boat nearby but that they are also towing someone as well. The light must be positioned at the back of the boat, as close to the stern as possible. The goal is to avoid having anyone run into the boat that is being towed, as there may be no lights showing where that boat is located. The boat lighting requirements when towing state that both sidelights, a stern light, and masthead lights should also be displayed.

Color : Yellow ARC : 135 degrees Position : Over fore and aft centerline of the boat

Law Enforcement Light 

Lights used by law enforcement on the water are flashing blue lights that can flash 120 times per minute or more. They can be used nearly anywhere that is convenient for the operator, provided they do not interfere with the function of the other lights.

This light may be displayed by any type of local law enforcement that is engaged in the course of their duty. This can apply to local, state, or federal police, as well as officials from wildlife and conservation departments, the Coast Guard, and more.

Color : Flashing Blue ARC : 180-225 degrees Position : Anywhere not interfering with other lights

Find your boat type below for the lineup of nav lights that you will need to safely operate after sunset and in other times of limited visibility.

Be sure you know which lights you will need to have on while underway, as well as at anchor or while towing. If you’re sailing, don’t forget that you are considered power-driven when using your motor.

Powerboat under 23 feet (7m) 

Powerboats under 23 feet are required to have the following navigation lights displayed:

  • One white masthead light visible for 2 miles
  • One red & green sidelight visible for 1 mile
  • One stern light visible for 2 miles
  • One white, red, green, or yellow all-round light visible for 2 miles

Powerboat Under 39,4 feet (12m)  

Powerboats under 39,4 feet are required to follow these boat light rules:

  • One all-round light visible for 2 miles

Powerboat Over 39,4 feet (12m)  

Powerboats over 39,4 feet are required to have the following navigation lights displayed:

  • One white masthead light visible for 5 miles, unless less than 20 meters, then 3 miles
  • One red & green sidelight visible for 2 miles

Powerboat 39,4 feet (12m) to 164 feet (50m) 

Powerboats between 39,4 feet and 164 feet are required to have the following marine running lights displayed:

  • One white masthead light visible for 6 miles
  • One red & green sidelight visible for 3 miles
  • One stern light visible for 3 miles
  • One all-round light visible for 3 miles

Sailboat Under 23 feet (7m) 

Sailboats under 23 feet are required to have the following sailing navigation lights displayed:

  • One white stern light
  • One white mast lantern positioned at or near the top of the mast where it can be easily seen from a distance

Note: if it is not practicable for the vessel to display the prescribed lights, one all-round white light can be used or a hand torch, with enough time to prevent a collision.

Sailboat Under 65,6 feet (20m) 

Sailboats under 65,6 feet are required to have the following sailing lights displayed:

Tug Boat With Tow Length Under 656 feet (200m) 

Tug boats with tow lengths less than 656 feet are required to have the following navigation lights displayed:

  • Two masthead lights in a vertical line
  • Stern light
  • Towing light in a vertical line above the stern light

Tug Boat With Tow Length Over 656 feet (200m) 

Tug boats with tow lengths longer than 656 feet are required to have the following navigation lights displayed:

  • Three masthead lights in a vertical line
  • A towing light placed vertically above the stern light
  • A diamond shape visibly displayed

Anchored Vessel 

Vessels at anchor or aground are required to observe the following boat lighting rules:

  • One white all-round in the fore
  • One white all-round at a lower level than the fore, at the stern

If aground, the vessel should display two red all-round lights in a vertical line

Vessel Under Oars 

Vessels under oar power have similar requirements to follow as small sailboat lighting:

  • One stern light

Or, alternately, one white all-round light or hand torch to be used to manually signal to avoid collision

Vessel Engaged in Fishing 

Vessels actively engaged in fishing are required to have the following marine navigation lights displayed:

  • Two all-round lights oriented in a vertical line, red on top and white on the bottom
  • One all-round white light for gear more than 150 meters from the vessel
  • When making its way through the water, there shall also be sidelights and stern light

Vessel Engaged in Trawling 

Vessels engaged in trawling are required to fulfill the following boat light requirements:

  • Two all-round lights oriented in a vertical line, green on top and white on the bottom
  • One masthead light abaft and higher than the all-round green

Kayakers and Canoers 

Kayakers and canoers are required to have the following navigation lights displayed:

Alternatively, a hand torch or lantern which can be used to signal to avoid collisions

Personal Watercraft 

There are no established rules for navigation lights on personal watercraft, even though many of them are classified as a boat by coast guard standards. Personal watercraft are often not permitted to operate outside of the sunrise-to-sunset period, and so most manufacturers do not install or make possible the installation of navigation lights. 

Vessels Restricted in their Ability to Maneuver 

Vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver are required to have the following navigation lights displayed:

  • Three all-round lights displayed as high a possible in a vertical line, red at the top, and white in the middle
  • One masthead light

The USCG as well as state authorities hold the operator of the vessel responsible for the correct use and understanding of nav lights.

This means they also must make sure all of the lights used meet the requirements set forth by the authorities.

This also extends to ensuring that the lights are all installed for optimal visibility while underway, so if your cruiser rides high, make sure your lights are still visible.

What navigation lights do I need on my boat?

Boat light regulations state boats must have a pair of red and green sidelights, and an all-around white light that can be seen from 360°.

Why are navigation lights red and green?

Navigation lights for boats indicate to others which direction a boat is facing. The red indicates the left side of the boat, green is on the right.

What lights need to be on a boat at night?

Per the navigation lighting rules, it is crucial that you have your red and green navigation lights, as well as the white 360° light.

Which three colors are used for navigational lights?

The boat light colors are going to be green, red, and white. If you see a blue light, this generally indicates a government vessel.

Do I need navigational lights on my boat?

Yes, all boats are legally required to have the minimum red, green, and white boat safety lights

 when operating in the dark.

Why do boats have blue lights?

When you see a boat that has blue boat lights at night, that means that it is likely the coast guard or law enforcement.

Why is port red and starboard green?

The light on the starboard side of the boat is green because it is ‘safe’, as the steersman will be able to see other boats.

What does a single white light mean on a boat at night?

If you can only see a single white light on a boat at nighttime, you are likely seeing the stern light or the boat anchor light.

rob

Robert Owens is the Chief of Content of Quicknav. Robert has been boating for over ten years and loves to share his experience on the water. His first boat was a dirt-cheap moderately beat up 2003 Bayliner 175, where he learned a tremendous amount about trailering, launching, docking, operating, and maintaining. He currently owns a Cruiser Yacht and is eyeing a sailboat.

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What is a Properly Lit Sailboat at Night? (A Guide to Safety Regulations)

sailboat light at night

Have you ever been out on the open water and seen a sailboat with its lights on at night? It’s a beautiful sight to behold.

But did you know that there are specific safety regulations in place for properly lit sailboats? In this guide, we’ll be looking at the importance of having a properly lit sailboat, what types of lights are needed, how to install them, and how to test for proper operation.

Let’s get started and learn how to stay safe on the waters!

Table of Contents

Short Answer

A properly lit sailboat at night is a boat that is equipped with the correct navigation lights, which are required by law.

These lights must be visible for two miles and should include a green light on the starboard side, a red light on the port side, and a white light aft.

Additionally, the boat must also have a white masthead light that is visible for three miles.

The masthead light should be mounted at least two meters above the hull.

What Are the Safety Regulations for Properly Lit Sailboats?

When it comes to sailing at night, safety is of the utmost importance.

Properly lit sailboats ensure that they are visible to other boats, which reduces the risk of collisions and other accidents.

In order to ensure that a sailboat is properly lit at night , there are certain safety regulations that must be followed.

First and foremost, the sailboat must have the correct lighting equipment installed and in good working order.

This includes running lights (red and green lights found at the bow and stern of the vessel), an anchor light (a white light mounted on the masthead or the bow of the vessel), a stern light (a white light placed at the stern of the vessel), and a masthead light (a white light placed at the highest point on the vessel).

The running lights, anchor light, and stern light must be visible for at least 3 miles in clear conditions.

This allows other boats on the water to easily spot the sailboat, even in the dark.

The masthead light must be visible for at least 2 miles in clear conditions.

This ensures that the sailboat is easily seen from all directions.

In addition to having the correct lighting equipment, sailboats must also be equipped with a white all-round light.

This light must be visible for at least 2 miles in clear conditions and must be mounted on the mast at least 9 meters (or 30 feet) above the waterline.

The all-round light is an important part of a sailboats lighting system as it allows other boats to easily spot the sailboat from any direction.

These are just a few of the safety regulations that must be followed when it comes to properly lit sailboats.

Following these regulations will help to ensure that a sailboat is visible to other vessels on the water and will help to reduce the risk of accidents and collisions.

It is important that all sailors understand and adhere to these regulations in order to remain safe on the water.

Types of Lights Needed for Proper Lighting

sailboat light at night

When it comes to lighting a sailboat at night, there are a few key components that must be in place in order to ensure the safety of the vessel and the crew.

The most important of these components is the correct type of lighting equipment.

This includes various running lights, anchor lights, masthead lights, and stern lights.

Running lights are the red and green lights that are mounted on the bow and stern of the vessel, and are used to show the direction of travel of the boat.

They must be visible for 3 miles in clear conditions, making it easier to spot the boat in the dark.

Anchor lights are white lights that are mounted on the masthead or the bow of the vessel, and are used to show that the boat is anchored.

They must also be visible for 3 miles in clear conditions.

The stern light is a white light placed at the stern of the vessel.

This is used to show the direction of travel of the boat and should also be visible for 3 miles in clear conditions.

Finally, the masthead light is a white light placed at the highest point on the vessel.

This light is used to help identify the boat to other vessels on the water, and must also be visible for 3 miles in clear conditions.

Having all of these lights in good working order is essential for the safety of the boat and the crew.

It is important to make sure that all lights are visible from a distance of 3 miles in clear conditions, as this will make it easier to identify the boat in the dark.

It is also important to make sure that all lights are regularly inspected and maintained in order to ensure that they are in good working order.

How to Install the Lights

Installing the lights for a properly lit sailboat at night is an essential part of staying safe while sailing.

It is important to ensure that all of the lights are in good working order and that they meet the safety regulations for visibility.

The first step is to select the right lights for your vessel.

There are two main types of lights running lights and anchor lights.

Running lights are the green and red lights found at the bow and stern of the vessel, while anchor lights are white lights mounted on the masthead or bow of the vessel.

Once the lights are selected, the next step is to install them.

Start by attaching the anchor light to the masthead or bow of the vessel.

The anchor light should be securely mounted and wired in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.

Next, attach the stern light at the stern of the vessel.

This should also be securely mounted and wired in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.

Finally, attach the running lights.

These should be mounted at the bow and stern of the vessel.

It is important to test the lights after installation to make sure they are working properly.

Make sure that the lights meet the visibility requirements of 3 miles in clear conditions, as this is the minimum distance that the lights must be visible from.

Once the lights are installed and tested, youre ready to set sail in the dark!

Importance of Properly Lit Sailboats

sailboat light at night

When it comes to sailing, safety is of the utmost importance.

This is why it is essential for all sailboats to be properly lit at night.

Having the correct lighting equipment installed and in good working order is a critical component to ensure visibility and the safety of everyone on the water.

Not only does having properly lit sailboats maintain the safety of the sailors on the boat, but it also helps to prevent collisions with other vessels.

It is much easier to spot a sailboat on the water at night when it has the correct lighting equipment, such as running lights, anchor lights, stern lights and masthead lights.

All of these lights should be visible for at least 3 miles in clear conditions, making it much easier to spot a sailboat on the water.

Additionally, having properly lit sailboats at night is also important for law enforcement and marine patrol officers.

It makes it easier for them to identify and inspect boats, ensuring that all safety regulations are being followed.

This helps to keep the waterways safe for all boaters.

For these reasons, it is important for all sailboats to be properly lit at night.

By having the right lighting equipment installed and in good working order, it can help to maintain the safety of everyone on the water, as well as help to prevent collisions with other vessels.

It also makes it easier for law enforcement and marine patrol officers to identify and inspect boats, helping to keep the waterways safe for all boaters.

Different Types of Lights and Their Functions

When it comes to lighting a sailboat at night, there are several different types of lights that must be installed and in good working order in order to ensure the safety of the vessel and its occupants.

The most common types of lights used on sailboats are running lights, anchor lights, stern lights, and masthead lights.

Running lights are the green and red lights found at the bow and stern of the vessel.

These lights are typically used to signal the direction of the boats movement, and must be visible for 3 miles in clear conditions.

The green light is typically placed on the port side (left side) of the boat, and the red light is placed on the starboard side (right side).

Anchor lights are white lights mounted on the masthead or bow of the vessel.

They are used to indicate that the boat is at anchor, and must also be visible for 3 miles in clear conditions.

Stern lights are white lights placed at the stern of the vessel.

These lights indicate the boats direction of travel, and must be visible for 2 miles in clear conditions.

The masthead light is a white light placed at the highest point on the vessel.

This light is typically used in conjunction with the stern light to indicate the direction of travel, and must be visible for 2 miles in clear conditions.

In addition to these lights, boats may also be fitted with a variety of other lights such as tricolor lights, sidelights, all-round lights, and deck lights.

These lights are typically used to indicate the presence of the vessel in low-visibility conditions, and must be visible for 2 miles in clear conditions.

It is important to ensure that all lights on a sailboat are in good working order and visible from a distance in order to make the vessel visible to other boats and comply with safety regulations.

A properly lit sailboat at night is one that has the correct lighting equipment installed and in good working order.

Benefits of Properly Lit Sailboats

sailboat light at night

Having a properly lit sailboat at night is essential for staying safe on the water.

With the right lighting equipment installed and in good working order, you can be easily seen by other vessels and prevent possible collisions.

Additionally, having the right lights on your sailboat can help other boaters determine your vessels size, direction, speed, and even your intentions on the water.

Having the right lights can also give you a sense of security while youre out at night.

Knowing that youre visible to other vessels reassures you that youll be able to be seen and spotted if you need assistance or if theres an emergency.

When youre out on the water at night, having a properly lit sailboat can also make navigation easier.

By having the correct lighting equipment installed, youll be able to easily spot buoys, markers, and other vessels, making it easier for you to stay on course and reach your destination in a timely manner.

Having the proper lights also helps to keep your sailboat in compliance with safety regulations.

If youre stopped by the coast guard or other law enforcement, having the right lights can help to avoid any potential fines or penalties.

Overall, having a properly lit sailboat at night is essential for staying safe on the water.

Not only does it make it easier for other vessels to spot you, but it can also help with navigation and make sure that youre in compliance with safety regulations.

Properly lit sailboats can also give you a sense of security and peace of mind, knowing that youre visible to other vessels in the area.

How to Test Lights for Proper Operation

Testing lights on a sailboat at night is an important part of ensuring that the craft is properly lit and visible to other vessels.

It is essential for safety, as well as compliance with regulations set by the United States Coast Guard.

Before each voyage, it is important to inspect all of the lights and make sure that they are in proper working order.

The first step to testing lights is to turn them on and check that they are functioning correctly.

It is important to make sure that all of the required lights are present and that they are bright enough to be seen in clear conditions for up to 3 miles away.

The running lights should be a green light at the bow and a red light at the stern, while the anchor light should be a white light mounted on the masthead or the bow of the vessel.

The stern light should be a white light placed at the stern, and the masthead light should be a white light placed at the highest point on the vessel.

Another important step in testing lights is to make sure that they are not obstructed in any way.

This includes checking for any wires, cables, or other objects that could block the lights from being visible.

This is especially important for the masthead light, as it needs to be accessible in order to be seen from a distance.

It is also important to check the wiring of the lights to make sure that they are securely connected and not corroded or damaged.

Finally, it is important to check the bulbs of the lights to make sure that they are all functioning correctly.

It is important to check the wattage of the bulbs to make sure that they are bright enough to meet the standards set by the United States Coast Guard.

It is also important to make sure that the bulbs are not cracked or damaged in any way, as this could affect their visibility.

Following the steps outlined above will help to ensure that all of the lights are in proper working order and can be seen from a distance in clear conditions.

This is important for safety, as well as compliance with regulations set by the United States Coast Guard.

Final Thoughts

Having the correct lights installed and in proper working order on your sailboat is essential for safety and visibility on the water at night.

Knowing what type of lights you need, how to install them, and how to test them for proper operation is key.

While it may seem daunting to install and maintain all these lights, the benefits of having a properly lit sailboat at night far outweigh the effort.

So take the time to review safety regulations, and make sure you have the right lights installed and operating correctly to ensure a safe and enjoyable sailing experience.

James Frami

At the age of 15, he and four other friends from his neighborhood constructed their first boat. He has been sailing for almost 30 years and has a wealth of knowledge that he wants to share with others.

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Harbor Sailboats

Navigation Lights at Night

by Harbor Sailboats | Dec 4, 2020 | Blog | 1 comment

sailboat light at night

Great article! Boat lights are the means of communication between sailing vessels. These lights are also a tool to let my presence known even from a distance.

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What are the proper sailboat lights at night?

As a sailor, it is essential to be aware of and adhere to proper sailboat lighting when navigating at night. These lights are necessary to ensure safety and avoid collisions with other vessels.

The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) specifies lighting requirements for different types of boats. There are different lighting rules for vessels under power and those under sail. In this article, we’ll discuss the proper sailboat lights at night.

Sailboats are required to have three lights at a minimum: a masthead light, a red port light, and a green starboard light. The masthead light is white and is located at the top of the mast. This light should shine forward and aft and be visible from 2 nautical miles away. It is important to ensure that the masthead light is not obstructed by the sail or any other structure onboard.

The red port light is located on the left or port side of the boat and is visible from 1 nautical mile away. The green starboard light is on the right or starboard side and is also visible from 1 nautical mile away. These lights should shine out from the vessel and be visible from dead ahead to 112.5 degrees abaft the beam on either side.

In addition to these lights, sailboats that are underway may show an optional stern light. This light is placed at the stern of the vessel and is white. It should be visible from 2 nautical miles away and can be used to indicate that the sailboat is underway and not at anchor.

If a sailboat is not underway but still poses a potential hazard, it should display an anchor light. This is a white light that is visible from 2 nautical miles away and should be located near the top of the mast. This light indicates that the sailboat is anchored and should be avoided by other vessels.

It is important to note that the visibility of the lights depends on the weather and other conditions. In foggy or hazy conditions, the lights may not be visible from the specified distance. It is always a good idea to maintain a lookout and be aware of other vessels in the vicinity.

Proper sailboat lighting at night is critical to ensuring safety and avoiding collisions with other boats. It is essential to understand the required lighting regulations and to ensure that all lights are functioning correctly before heading out on the water. Remember to always maintain a lookout and be aware of other vessels around you. Happy sailing!

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Boat Navigation Lights

One of the most important safety systems on your boat is your set of navigation lights.

Whenever you are operating between sunset and sunrise, or in other times of restricted visibility, such as in fog or rain, you need to display the appropriate navigation lights so that other boats can see you and take the appropriate action to avoid a collision.

In general, all navigation light systems include red and green sidelights, which indicate the port and starboard side of your boat, as well as one or more white lights.

It's also important that you have a flashlight on board, as you never know when a navigation light might burn out. The rules for what navigation lights to display depend on a number of factors including:

  • The length of your boat: e.g. under or over 12 meters;
  • Whether your boat is being powered by an engine;
  • Where you're boating, e.g. inland or international waters; and
  • Whether you at anchor.

For now, remember that it's your responsibility to have the proper navigation lighting. Even if you just purchased a new boat, you should check to ensure that you've got the right lights for safe, and legal, boating.

Powered Boat Navigation Lights

When operating between sunset and sunrise, or in periods of restricted visibility, powered recreational boats require the following set of navigation lights. Remember, these power boat light requirements also apply to sailboats when using a motor.

For powered boats less than 39.4 feet, or 12 meters, you need to have the following set of navigation lights.

  • One all-around white light that you can see from 360 degrees and from two miles away;
  • And one pair of red and green sidelights that are visible at 112.5 degrees and from one mile away.

For boats of this size, the all-around white light needs to be positioned at a height of at least 39 inches above the sidelights.

Figure A shows a boat with this setup.

  • All-around white light - 360 degrees visable from two miles.
  • Sidelights — 112.5 degrees visible from one mile

If your boat is greater than 39.4 feet but less than 65.6 feet, or 20 meters, you need the following set of navigation lights:

  • A masthead light is a white light at the front of the boat. The masthead light needs to be visible across 225 degrees and from two miles away.
  • A stern light, which is a white light at the rear of the boat. The stern light needs to be visible across 135 degrees and from two miles away. When the masthead light and the stern light are combined, that makes up 360 degrees.
  • Finally, you need one pair red and green sidelights that are visible across 112.5 degrees and from a distance of one mile.

For boats of this size, the masthead light must be positioned at a height of at least 8 feet above the gunnel.

Figure B shows this configuration.

  • Masthead light (foward) - 225 degrees visible from two miles.
  • Sternlight (aft) - 135 degrees visible from two miles.
  • Sidelights - 112.5 degrees visible from one mile.

Boat Navigation Lights at Anchor

We've covered what navigation lights you need to have when you are underway, but what about when you're at anchor?

When your boat is at anchor, but you are not in a designated anchoring area, like at a marina, you need to make sure that you are visible to other boats that may be operating nearby.

When anchoring in these areas, you are required to display an all-around white light where it will be best seen by any other boats in the area.

Navigation Light Requirements for Anchored Vessels

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Navigation Lights on Sailing Yachts and Motor Boats

Navigation Lights on Sailing Yachts and Motor Boats

Navigation lights ensure the safety of everyone at sea. The Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (IMO COLREG 72) precisely sets out the guidelines for navigation lights, i.e., displaying lights, their range (distance from which the light is visible), as well as how they should be constructed and assembled. Our guide is of interest to sailors and sports boats enthusiasts with boats up to 20 m in length.

Regulations and official certifications:

When must navigation lights be displayed, what are the regulations concerning the use of navigation lights at sea, how do i know that my lights are eu-compliant, what is a ce mark, how are navigation lights defined, minimum range of navigation lights:.

  • From what distance must lights be visible?
  • What lights are required for my boat?

What lights must be displayed on a sailboat or rowing boat with a motor?

What lights should i exhibit when at anchor, what lights should be displayed to show that a vessel is unable to manoeuvre.

  • How do I indicate that my vessel has run aground?

Navigation lights – Conventional and LED:

What distinguishes led from conventional navigation lights.

  • Replacement bulbs for conventional & LED lights

What are the advantages of LED navigation lights?

Switching from conventional to led navigation lights.

According to COLREGs part C, rule 20), navigation lights must always be used on board from sunset to sunrise or during the day if visibility is poor.

Please refer to the German Traffic Regulations for Navigable Maritime Waterways , §8 -10 and Preventing Collisions at Sea. Part C - Lights and Shapes. rules 20 - 31, and annexes I 1. - 14 for the exact wording.

NOTE: Vessels that are authorised to fly the German flag are generally only permitted to use approved navigation lights and sound signalling devices.

EU approval can be identified via the wheel mark symbol and the notified body number. BSH approved navigation lights (previously DHI) are marked with a model number (e.g., BSH/00/01/90).

However, even older lights with DHI approval that have already been installed maintain their approval, despite the changes made by the BSH.

In addition to the wheel mark symbol and German BSH approval, some lights are also approved by other countries, such as RINA (Registro Italiano Navale), MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) and the USCG (United States Coast Guard). These are now recognised, provided the approval comes from the national approval body recognised in the country of origin.

National bodies whose accreditation is currently recognised in Germany:

The wheel mark symbol indicates approval of the Marine Equipment Directive (MED). This approval is valid for all EU member states, both for commercial vessels and recreational shipping.

0098 = Notified Body number (here 0098 = Germanischer Lloyd in Hamburg) 18 = year in which the mark is affixed, here 2018

Basisschicht

  • A CE mark is a symbol that must be affixed to a product by the manufacturer before it is sold on the European market. It indicates that the manufacturer is aware of the specific requirements for the product in question and that it fulfils the requirements of relevant European product directives. A CE mark does not supersede approval according to collision prevention regulations.
  • Navigation lights are defined in detail by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), according to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGs) Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972), in sections C and D. The following rules apply:

Which navigation lights are required on board according to IMO COL REG?

Definitions according to the 1972 International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COL REG 72):

Side lights

1. Side lights for starboard and port

A green light on the starboard side and a red light on the port side, which shine from dead ahead in an arc of 112.5° aft to a point 22.5° abaft the beam (behind the beam) on either side of the vessel. On ships of less than 20 metres in length, the two individual sidelights may be replaced by a dual-colour combined light. This must be centrally located on the bow and stern axis.

Stern light

2. Stern light

A white light mounted as close to the stern as possible and shines dead ahead in an arc of 135° (67.5° to each side). The mounting height should be aligned to the height of the side lights and should never be higher.

Three-colour light for sailing vessels (sailing lights)

3. Three-colour light for sailing vessels (sailing lights)

On sail boats up to a length of 20 m, the side light and stern light can be combined into one three-colour light mounted on top of the mast. However, as soon as the sail boat's motor is engaged, the use of a three-colour light is no longer permitted. The rules for motor-powered vessels then apply.

Mast-head light

4. Mast-head light

A white light placed over the centre line of the vessel and shines dead ahead in an arc of 225° (from straight ahead up to 22.5° more aft than crosswise to each side). The mounting height should be at least 1 m higher than the side lights. In the past, the mast-head light was also referred to as a steam boat light or steamer light, as it is only seen on ships that operate under engine power.

Signal light or all-round light

5. Signal light or all-round light

A light that shines in a complete circle of 360°. It may emit white, red or green light, depending on use. Examples of use: All sailboats and motorboats at anchor must exhibit a white anchor light . Ships over 12m in length must, if necessary, display vessel-in-distress lights (two red signal lights) placed at a vertical distance of at least 12 m. The distance between such lights must not exceed 1 m.

From what distance must navigation lights be visible?

The range indicates the distance from which the light can be seen. The minimum ranges of navigation lights are defined according to ship size as follows::

Best-seller Hella marine

Product image of HELLA MARINE NaviLED Port Navigation Light, white

Note: When sailing boats are powered by a motor, the rules for motorboats apply and not for sailboats. The tricolour light may then no longer be displayed.

Displaying lights for sailboats up to 20 m

Displaying lights for sailboats up to 20 m

1 x red port side light

1 x green starboard light

1 x stern light

Also allowed:

1 x red all-round light on or near the mast top

1 x green all-round light on or near the mast top

Displaying lights for sailboats up to 20 m

1 x 3-colour light

Sailing vessels under 7 m (dinghies or small sports boats)

Sailing vessels under 7 m (dinghies or small sports boats)

If, due to their design, no modern lights can be fitted, sailing vessels under 7 m in length and vessels being rowed must always carry an electric torch or lantern showing a white light, ready to exhibit in sufficient time to prevent a collision.

1 x Electric light or a torch with white light

Motorised vessels over 12 m

Motorised vessels over 12 m

Lights used must be either / or:

1 x white masthead light fore

Motorised vessels over 12 m

1 x dual colour light

Motorised vessels under 12 m

Motorised vessels under 12 m

Alternatively, motorised vessels under 12 m can exhibit the following lights:

1 x white all-round light

Motorised vessels under 12 m

Motorised vessels under 7 m and 7 knots maximum speed (small motor boats, dinghies or inflatables):

Motorised vehicles under 7 metres and with a maximum speed of no more than 7 knots can display the following navigation lights: all-round lights, portside and starboard lights.

The following applies in accordance with German Traffic Regulations for Navigable Maritime Waterways (SeeSchStrO): If, due to their design, no lights can be displayed (e.g., dinghies), sailing vessels under 7 m in length and 7 knots maximum speed must carry an electric hand-held spotlight or a torch to prevent collisions in the dark.

Left: 1 x white all-round light, 1 x red port side light, 1 x green starboard light

Right: 1 x hand-held spotlight or torch

Best-seller Aqua Signal Conventional

Product image of  Series 41 Starboard Light, white housing

Best-seller Aqua Signal LED

Product image of AQUA SIGNAL Series 34 LED Tricolour / Anchor Light / black housing

Provided no engine power is used, the rules for sailboats apply. Motor-sailing vessels must display a large black cone pointing downwards when sailing during the day or at good light.

For vessels travelling under sail or at rudder during darkness or at reduced visibility, the rules for carrying lights for motorised boats automatically apply. This then depends on the length of the boat.

By day with a black cone, tip pointing downwards.

Visual signalling equipment

Product image of  Motoring Cone

Torches & Spotlights

Product image of  LEDWISE SUPER ZOOM GEN3 Flashlight

How must navigation lights be mounted on board?

Navigation lights must be securely mounted perpendicular to the waterline. Mast-head lights and stern lights should both be placed above the keel line.

At anchor during daylight? This must be displayed with a black anchor ball.

If the vessel is anchored outside of an area of water known by the River and Shipping Police Authority as an anchorage and berth for small vessels, this must be indicated as follows:

A black ball by day, 1 x white all-round light at night

Vessels at anchor

Marker Lights

Product image of  Universal Bulb / Anchoring Light 12 V

If your boat is unable to manoeuvre*, this should be indicated as follows:

Stationary: 2 x red all-round light, 2 x black ball, one below the other (during the day)

Moving: 1 x red port side light, 1 x green starboard light, 1 x white stern light

* A vessel is described as if, due to exceptional circumstances (e.g., rudder failure or engine malfunction), it cannot manoeuvre as prescribed and therefore cannot avoid another vessel.

Vessels that have run aground

How do I indicate correctly that my sailboat or motorboat has run aground?

If your boat has run aground, this should be indicated as follows:

2 x red all-round light, 1 x white all-round light, 3 x black ball, one below the other (during the day)

Manufacturers that specialise in navigation lights such as Aqua Signal or Hella Marine supply a wide range of internationally approved navigation lights which work with conventional (with BSH bulb) or with permanently installed light-emitting semiconductor components (LEDs). The bulbs required for operation are an integral part of the approval. Replacement bulbs must also be certified so that approval / your insurance protection is guaranteed. Ships under 20 m: Stern and anchor lights require BSH-approved light bulbs with 10 watts, all other navigation lights 25 watts.

All series listed above with BAY15d sockets could alternatively be operated with a high-Power LED . The big advantage in doing so is that the LED is suitable for multiple voltages (10-30 V) and consumes just 3 watts during operation. Since the light colour, range of light or beam angle can vary depending on the housing, this light is NOT yet internationally approved.

Spare Bulbs - Conventional & LED

Product image of  Spare Bulb for Navigation Lights / 12 V / 10 W

Energy consumption on sailing ships is, as ever, a topic of significant interest. This is especially true for blue-water sailors who like to sail longer distances at a stretch. The arguments for converting to LED technology are as follows:

  • High energy savings due to the low power consumption
  • Long lifespan (over 10,000 hours)
  • MultivoltTM technology (10-30V) with greater tolerance to voltage peaks
  • Compact and light housing constructions
  • Waterproofed, hermetically sealed housings
  • Maintenance free

When switching completely from conventional navigation lights to LED lights, lights with the BSH seal of approval / EU wheel mark meet all the requirements in terms of light colour (no risk of blue tint), range of light and beam angle, and that you are travelling in accordance with KVR.

Navigation lights with LED technology

Product image of HELLA MARINE NaviLED PRO Starboard Light / black / with BSH/Wheelmark-certification

Replacing your navigation lights is often easy to do as manufacturers usually use the same mounting points for LED lights or have an adapter plate for further use of existing drill holes:

adapter plate

Adapter plate

Product image of AQUA SIGNAL Cover Plate for Mounting on Series 40 / 43 / 50 Brackets

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Written by our SVB (technical) experts

Written by our SVB (technical) experts

Our SVB safety experts regularly carry out maintenance checks and tests on our safety products, such as life jackets, life rafts etc. They test products and base their recommendations on many years of experience and their own know-how.

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Nautical Mnemonics: Understanding Boat Lights

Ian Fortey

One of the most complicated things to learn about your boat are the COLREGs lights. That stands for International Regulations for Prevention of Collision at Sea. The lights on your boat, both power boats and sail boats, help you navigate at night. They also help other boats understand how to navigate around you. We have rules of the road so it’s easy to understand how your car and the other cars around you work. On the water we have none of that. So you need to rely on these lights to understand nautical rules of the road. Luckily there are nautical mnemonics to help you remember them.

Types of Boat Lights

There are several navigation lights on a boat. All navigation lights must be working and displayed between sunset and sunrise. These will establish the rules of the road for other boaters.

Stern Light: This is a white light that is visible from behind a vessel.

Masthead Light: This is another white light. It is visible from the front and the sides. Any boat that has a motor is required to have a masthead light. If you have a boat that is below 39.4 feet it can be combined with the stern light. This takes the form of one all around white light that can be seen from every angle. If you see a boat that does not have a masthead light, it’s a sailing vessel. Sailing vessels may also have tricolor lights on the masthead. That means red, white, and green. This can only be illuminated when sailing and not combined with other lights.

Sidelights: Sidelights are red and green. They’re visible to boats that are approaching either from the front or from either side. The red light is located on the port or left side of the boat. The green light is located on the starboard or right side of the boat.

Some people have trouble remembering which side is red, and which side is green. Keep in mind the old mnemonic tool that port wine is red. It’s red to port.

Right-Of-Way Rules

Because of the lack of any roadways on the water, the rules of right away can be hard to understand. This is where mnemonics come in.

One unofficial rule of thumb for boaters is that tonnage has the right of way. That means if it comes down to you in your 12 foot boat and a massive freightliner, the bigger boat wins. Always stay out of the way of a larger vessel, even if you believe you have the right of way. This is a simple safety precaution. If there were to be a collision, a larger boat would destroy you in a smaller boat.

If two boats of similar size are approaching one another, then you want to alter your course to starboard. A handy way to remember this is by saying stay to the right and you’ll be alright.

There is an order of priority as dictated by the COLREGS. It will let you know who has the right-of-way in any given situation based on the category of boat. This mnemonic can help you remember it: Generally, Anchoring our Red Tugboat Diligently Minimizes Surge Loads .

General : In general, avoid all collisions. Even if you have the right of way and you see another boat coming right at you, do the smart thing and avoid it if possible. This takes priority over any red lights, green lights, or whatever rule applies. The most important rule is to avoid collisions.

Anchored: Boats that are anchored or more should be avoided by all other boats.

Overtaking: If a boat is being overtaken, it has the right-of-way over the overtaking vessel. This is regardless of whether either boat is powered or a sailboat.

Restricted: A boat with restricted maneuverability has the right-of-way over other boats. That means either fishing, Towing, draft or other reasons.

Traffic: Boats that are part of a traffic separation have the right-of-way over other boats. If you need to cross a traffic lane, cross it at a right angle.

Downriver: On waters where it is applicable, a powerboat heading down river has the right of way. This is over a boat that is heading up river or crossing.

Manpower: This is giving priority to power. A man powered boat such as a canoe has the right of way over a sailboat. That in turn has priority over a motorboat. And a motorboat would have priority over a seaplane. The less powerful the boat, the more priority it will have in terms of right of way. Sailboats may be used to having the right of way on the open water. It’s worth knowing that if you’re in a sailboat you still have to give way to anyone in a kayak.

Starboard: A boat on a starboard tack has priority.

Leeward: If two boats are on the same tack, Leeward gets the right-of-way over Windward.

Light Meanings

The way lights are illuminated can be used to signal other craft about the boat’s condition.

Boat at Anchor: When the boat is at anchor at night, the all-around white light should be lit. There is no clever memory aid rule or mnemonics for this one. It is anchored and has restricted ability to move.

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My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.

Categories : Boats , nauticalknowhow

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Robert Hogward on August 26, 2021

Hi there, Very informative post, thank you for taking the time to write this all out! Most folks have to learn this the hard way. 🙂

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Robin Luethe on January 5, 2022

Two tugs accompanying an outgoing nuclear sub. Displaying a white light over a red light. Also two escorts with flashing blue lights (these generally are USCG boats)

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Boating at Night: How to Navigate Safely After Sundown

Boating at Night: How to Navigate Safely After Sundown

You might be doing a little late night fishing. You might have taken your honey on a romantic sunset cruise. 

Or you might've simply been having too much fun on the water to realize how late it had gotten. By the time the sun started going down, you were out of time to navigate your way back home in daylight. 

There are many reasons you might find yourself navigating waters at night. While it's not ideal that there aren't more hours in a day, you can still navigate safely home. Just be prepared with the right tools and these few tips.

The Basics of Nighttime Boating Safety

Cut back on the throttle. Don't rush to get home because it's starting to get late. Take a slower pace.

There could be logs or debris ahead of you that can damage your boat or even your motor. Not to mention, the shore lights reflecting on the water's surface can easily become confused with the lights shining from other boats.

In fact, you may want to check with local county or state regulations. Often times lower speed limits are enforced during the night hours, even to idle speeds.

Use an Extra Pair of Eyes

If you plan to stay out past daylight hours, bring a buddy along to be an extra pair of eyes for when you return home.

Even if you have excellent vision, your eyes can become strained and tired from constant scanning. Tap your buddy and rotate places at the helm if need be.

Listen to Your Surroundings

Hearing is the next sense you use when you have limited vision. Turn off any stereos and don't even think of using headphones to better hear your surroundings. You need to hear bells on markers and the air horns and engines of other approaching boats.

The On-board Lighting you Need for Boating at Night

Overhead lights and chart lights.

You know what it's like to walk into an unlit room and temporarily lose your sense of sight. Without going into scientific details, the rods and pupils in our eyes need some time to fully adjust to the dark. And if you've ever turned on a light switch after becoming acclimated, you know it's even worse.

Overhead lighting and cockpit lighting is nice to have specifically for reading charts, but it should be dimmed to enhance your night vision as much as possible. I recommend installing an extra dimmer switch (buy on Amazon)  if there's not one already.

The majority of marine electronics have a night mode feature that allows you to have back-lit illumination and minimize harsh lighting on your eyes.

Running Lights

It doesn't matter what kind of vessel you own, but it does matter that you recognize the standard signals set in place by the U.S. Coast Guard. Understanding the lights of boats is very important for your safety.

Since it may not be too often you find yourself using the running lights. Always make certain they're working properly!

Very important to remember: The starboard green light is on your right. The port red light is on your left.

When it's dark, your running lights should be on at all times. The red and green navigation lights are located on the bow of the boat and are meant to indicate to other vessels which way they're headed toward you.

If you see only green and white navigation lights , it means you're the stand-on boat and you have the right of way. They should pass to your left, but be cautious in case the other captain maneuvers quickly or doesn't know their navigation rules.

If you see red and white navigation lights , it's coming up on your right and you should give way to the other vessel.

If you see both red and green , it signifies that the vessel is meeting you head-on.

If you see only red or only green , it's a sailboat and always gives way. Red means you pass behind it to the right. Green means you pass behind it on the left.

When you see the white light located on the boat's stern, it signifies that a stand-on vessel is in front of you or moving away from you. It may be underway or anchored , but since you can't determine what's what too well in the dark, be careful not to approach too fast and overtake the vessel. Instead, go around it on either side.

Powerboats should also have a 360-degree white light on at all times.

Three stacked white lights indicate a much larger vessel (possibly an enormous barge) that you don't want to play a game of chicken with is on the way. Allow them plenty of space and get out of their way.

You can see how important lighting will be while boating at night. Don't confuse other boaters by keeping under-deck lighting on. It's crucial that other boaters are able to distinguish between your red and green running lights.

The only exception might be if you're at a standstill watching Fourth of July fireworks and need a little extra visibility in a crowded cove.

Spotlights and Searchlights

If, in fact, you see a boat headed your way, this might be a good time to break out your spotlight. But don't flash it just yet! There's a reason boats lack headlights like automobiles. Don't flash lights directly at other boaters or you'll blind and disorient them, which only makes matters worse.

When your eyes have adjusted to the dark, shining a spotlight makes one have to first squint off the glare. You can find spotlights that are both handheld and mounted.

A fixed mount (buy on Amazon)  is good for larger vessels.

I find that a rechargeable handheld (buy on Amazon)  is more beneficial for smaller crafts.

Docking Lights

Docking lights may appear like your boat's headlights, but they're not quite good enough at casting long-distance beams to be proper headlights. They're properly used for close-quarter maneuvering around marinas and tight turns into slips as you're ready to toss out the boat fenders , lines and  dock lines and tie 'er up.

Chart Plotters, GPS and Radars

A GPS device  will help you see the direction you're headed, give you directions and can give you a scan of the coves in the area.

A chartplotter  indicates where fixed objects such as buoys and markers are found, but not so much other boaters. Often, you'll find that GPS devices are integrated with chartplotters for boaters. For example, the Garmin GPSMAP 78sc  is a relatively simple option with both included.

The radar is considered a very reliable tool and can indicate the distance of something in the water.

Even advanced models have a transmitter main bang effect where the pulse of other items become too close to accurately determine a proximity, which by then means you're already on top of it and it's too late.

The Simrad GO7 XSE device is one option that shows how you can have it all.

All of these are fantastic tools to assist in night navigation, but you don't want to rely on them entirely. You'll need to keep your eyes peeled too!

I recommend purchasing yourself a night vision scope (buy on Amazon) . And of course, a good old-fashioned compass could come in handy should one of your navigating instruments suddenly stop working.

How to Relax Responsibly While Boating at Night

As the old adage goes, time flies when you're having fun!

And when you're on the water, part of that fun often comes with enjoying a few beers (or whatever wets your whistle).

But it also goes without saying that, while you're relaxing and beating the heat with a few drinks, you should do so responsibly. This goes double for the captain!

Heading back in the dark already impairs your vision. Imagine doing so under the influence. It's unsafe for everyone ... you, your passengers and other boaters at any time of day or night. Be sure that you have a designated driver to get you all home if you're going to be partaking in the fun.

Always make sure you have the appropriate safety equipment any time you go out on the water. You can check out our previous post on safety equipment for boating  as well as essential items to be prepared when boating to get a general idea.

Driving at night can be an enjoyable experience, and sometimes you get so wrapped up in the quiet solitude that you tend to forget your troubles. You still need to be prepared and alert to your surroundings.

If not, it could be a bad end to your perfect day on the water!

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Check Price on Amazon - Better Boat's air horn emits a loud blast that can be heard from 1/2 mile away. It's compact enough to store anywhere for safety and security on the water.  

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sailboat light at night

22 Tips For Boating At Night: Helpful Guide (For Beginners)

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Boating is an enjoyable activity. Most people think about boating during the day while the sun is shining, but others choose to boat during the evening.

Evening boating can be an entirely new experience whether you choose to watch the sunset over the water, watch a fireworks show, go out for a late meal, or any other night time activity.

When you are out on the water during the evening, you will want to make sure you know and follow nighttime boating navigation rules.

These rules are generally similar to the navigation rules during the daytime, but they are even more important, and there are special considerations to make.

There are also some tips to follow while out on the water in the dark.

These rules and tips can be found below!

Table of Contents

1. What Speed Can I Go When Boating at Night?

sailboat light at night

When boating during all hours of the day, there may or may not be a posted “speed limit.”  Also, check local regulations to see if there is a nighttime speed limit.

This does not mean that you can or should always go as fast as you can.

The navigation rule in place for speed states that a vessel’s operator should always be traveling at a safe speed.

A safe speed is defined as a speed that allows the operator to take proper and effective action to avoid collisions. That will allow the operator to stop within a safe distance that is appropriate under each circumstance or condition.

This means that the operator will need to take certain factors into account when determining the proper speed.

These factors include:

  • Traffic Density
  • Maneuverability
  • Background light available at night
  • The proximity of potential hazards
  • Vessel’s draft
  • Radar limitations
  • Weather conditions including wind, sea, and current
  • Effect of wake on other boats or shoreline

This means that during periods with low visibility, such as heavy fog conditions, storms, or at night, you should be going slower than you would go on average during the day with perfect visibility.

Remember that while you are boating at night on a body of water that doesn’t have any lights to illuminate your way, you are relying on the small lights featured on the other vessels to determine where traffic is.

For this reason, if you are going too fast and you come around a bend, you might not see another vessel in time to stop.

Even with fancy equipment and your eyes on the lookout, you will likely not see anything or anyone else until they are too close.

Always make sure you are going at a speed that will allow you to stop whenever necessary, even at a moment’s notice.

You will also want to be sure that you follow any “no-wake” zone rules during the evening and in the daytime.

It is also a good idea to go slow in rivers or other shallow water during the evening. There can be large stumps, rocks, or other obstructions in shallow water or rivers that can damage your propeller.

Navigation LIGHT Rules at Night:

Boats are legally required to be equipped with the proper nighttime navigation lights . Even if you do not intend to take your boat out at night, you will still require these lights for your boat to be legal.

These lights are also needed during other periods of low visibility, such as thick fog or intense storms.

2. Navigation Light Requirements:

There are specific lights that are required for boats during times of low visibility.

Depending on the size of boat you are operating, here are the different lights you will need:

Boats less than 39.4 feet long or 12 meters:

These boats need 1 red light and 1 green light at both the front, port, and starboard sides of the boat.

You will also need one white light that can be seen from all angles up to 2 miles away.

Boats larger than 39.4 feet long or 12 meters:

These boats will still need the same red and green lights as the smaller size.

You will also need 2 white lights, 1 at the stern and 1 at the aft, that can be seen up to 2 miles away.

You will also need a red light on your port side and a green light on the starboard side that can be seen up to 1 mile away.

Sailboats or Unpowered Boats:

Unpowered boats that are under 23 feet only need 1 white light on them. These boats can include sailboats, rowboats, or kayaks. If you choose to, you can still add the red and green lights in their appropriate place. An effective way to safely sail at night is to shine a light on your sail if you hear a powerboat. You will be readily visible to other boaters.

Larger sailboats should have lights similar to the powered boat lights on the side and the aft, but there could also have a tri-color light on the masthead that can be visible up to 2 miles away. Sailboats must display a forward-facing, white light when motoring. This is commonly called a steaming light. When motoring, sailboats must abide by powerboat rules.

Never use red and blue lights on your vessel. These lights are reserved for official vessels.

3. What Does a Single White Light Mean on a Boat at Night?

When you see only a white light on a boat, you are headed straight for the other vessel; you are overtaking that vessel.

  • Single White Light: If you only see the white light, the other boat is the stand-on vessel, whether underway or anchored. You should be able to go around it on either side.
  • White and Green Light: If you see both green and white light, you are the stand-on vessel. This means you need to stand-on and let the other boat pass on either side. Be prepared to give way in case the other vessel does not know the proper navigation rules.
  • White and Red Light: When you see both the red and white light, you are supposed to give way to the other vessel. You should either slow down and allow the vessel to pass, or you can turn to your right and pass behind the other vessel.
  • Only Red or Green Lights: If you only see a red or green light, you may be approaching a sailboat or unpowered boat. You must always give way for a sailboat. A sailboat should always be the stand-on vessel.
For additional information about the navigation light rules during the evening, you should read this article where we go into great detail about rules for lights on the boat .

4. Navigation SOUND Rules For Boating At Night:

sailboat light at night

When your visibility is cut off, you will need to rely more heavily on sound. Because of this, you should know the proper navigation sound rules.

These rules include:

Sound Signals the Indicate Direction:

  • 1 Short Blast : this indicates that you will pass on your port side.
  • 2 Short Blasts : this indicates the plan to pass on your starboard side.
  • 3 Short Blasts : this indicates you intend to back up.

Sound Signals that indicate Location:

  • 1 Long Blast : this can be used to indicate you are coming around a bend in the river or you are leaving your dock or slip.
  • 1 Long Blast then 3 Short Blasts : this indicates you are backing up.
  • 1 Long Blast in intervals less than 2 minutes apart  indicates that you are a power vessel when you are in blind areas or heavy fog.

Sound signals that indicate Danger:

  • 5 Short Blasts: this indicates danger and can be used to indicate a potential collision.

For additional information about the navigation sound rules, follow the link below:

https://www.godownsize.com/boats-horns-signals-explained/

5. Follow Nighttime Navigation Rules:

Navigation rules are similar at night as they are during the daytime.

The only differences are:

  • To reduce your speed.
  • To place more emphasis on following sound signals.
  • To know the proper light signals.

The evening can be darker with lower visibility, so it is even more important for you to know the navigation rules’ ins and outs and follow them.

A miscommunication about who has the right of way could be dangerous at any time, but especially at night.

If you cannot see other boats, you could have an issue seeing what the other boat is doing, and you could be less likely to react to them on time versus in the daytime.

Other Important Tips for Boating at Night:

sailboat light at night

There are tips for boating at night that are not necessary rules but can still help you during nighttime navigation.

These tips include:

6. Use Your Skipper:

The skipper is an important asset to have on a boat if something happens, and the operator needs someone else to take over.

In addition to this, the skipper can be very helpful while navigating at night. At night, the skipper can serve as an extra pair of eyes while boating in times of low visibility.

Even with excellent vision, your eyes can become tired while trying to see in the dark. If you get too tired, you can rotate the control of the helm with your skipper.

Your skipper can also help you look out for the lights that will be present on other boats. These can be harder to see than simply seeing the other vessel during the daytime.

An extra pair of eyes can mean that you see other vessels faster, which allows you to react faster.

Ensure you follow the navigation rules listed above when it comes to interpreting the lights on a boat.

7. Keep Your Ears Open:

With lower visibility, you should also keep your ears open while operating your vessel in the evening.

It can be beneficial to turn your radio off and make sure you are not utilizing headphones while boating at night.

You will need your ears to hear bells, markers, engines, or horns on any approaching boats.

Make sure you follow the navigation rules listed above when it comes to horn sounds.

8. Use Spotlights and Searchlights Appropriately:

Make sure that you do not immediately shine a spotlight or searchlight on a vessel.

Boats are not equipped with headlights similar to automobiles for a reason. If you try to flash your lights directly at other boaters, you could blind or disorient them.

Make sure you only use this tool when needed.

You might also be tempted to add headlights or continuously use a spotlight while out on the water. These don’t work because, unlike on the road, boats can be coming from any direction.

Also, you will be the only boat that is using a spotlight while out on the water. You will want to follow the navigation light rules that are already in place.

Spotlights can also cause an unnatural shining on the waves that can look like floats or debris, creating a sense of danger.

9. Ensure You Do Not Use Docking Lights as Headlights:

Your boat might have docking lights that look like headlights.

You will want to make sure that you do not mistake these or use these as headlights.

They do not cast as long of a beam as specific headlamps.

These lights are only supposed to be for maneuvering over close-quarter marinas or turning into docks or slips.

10. Drink Responsibly:

Whenever you are boating, but especially at night, you will want to make sure you are alert and boating safely.

This means that if you do choose to drink alcohol, you will want to do so responsibly.

Alcohol can lower your reaction time, your decision-making power and make your vessel’s operation more dangerous.

Most boating accidents are due to operator error, and many of them had alcohol involved somehow.

11. Turn Down Any Ambient Light:

sailboat light at night

It is a good idea to turn down any ambient light. Any light on your boat can reduce your ability to see off the boat.

Your eyes will adjust better to the darkness if you do not have any other light onboard your vessel.

Ambient lights can include:

  • The chart plotter
  • Courtesy lights
  • Electronic devices

If you cannot turn a light off, you could drape a towel over it to drown out the light.

12. Don’t Spend a Lot of Time Looking at the Stars:

It can be disorienting to look at the stars in the dark while moving.

It can also cause vertigo to look at the stars while moving. Vertigo can even lead to seasickness if you are not careful.

If you want to look at the stars or even map them, you should do this while you are not moving to ensure that you do not get sick or disoriented.

If you anchor your vessel, looking at the stars while out on the water can be a really relaxing and beautiful experience.

While out on the water, you can see the stars better than while on land. This is because of a lack of light pollution while out on the dark water.

13. Novice Boating:

If you are a novice boater, you will want to be completely sure that you can handle anything that nighttime boating can throw at you.

Being fully confident on the water can be crucial at anytime but particularly at night.

User error is one of the main causes of boating accidents. This can be because of a bad call made by the operator or by an operator who was not fully knowledgeable about the navigation rules while boating.

If you are unsure about your operator skills, you might want to consider a boaters safety class.

Operator error is drastically reduced with operators who have completed a boaters safety course.

Knowing the proper rules and regulations can help you when it comes to interacting with other vessels, and it will also help you understand how others will operate their vessels.

It can also help to have an experienced boater on board with you in case of an emergency.

What to Pack for Nighttime Boating:

It is also important to make sure you pack the proper supplies for nighttime boating.

You will also want to pack for evening boating, even if you plan to be out at night. There is always a possibility for unforeseen circumstances.

14. Pack Emergency Light Gear:

At night there will be some specialized emergency gear that you will want to have on your vessel.

This can include:

  • Flashlights

This is in addition to the safety equipment that you should always have on your boat .

Which includes life jackets, fire extinguishers, floatation devices, carbon monoxide detectors, and other equipment required by law.

15. Pack Warm Clothing:

It is important to pack warm clothing if you intend to boat at night.

The weather can feel chillier when the sun goes down, even on a summer’s night.

Long clothing can also help to deter bugs and the potential for insect bites.

Even if you do not end up needed the long clothing, it is better to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it.

You should also have clothing in case of foul weather, such as storms.

You will also want to bring towels if you get wet, even if you do not intend to.

16. Bring Sleeping Supplies When Necessary:

If you plan to stay out overnight, you will want to ensure that you have the proper sleeping equipment.

Even on a warm summer night, you will want to have a blanket if it gets cold.

You will also want to pack pillows and other comfort items.

17. Pack Bug Spray:

Like warm clothing that can deter bugs, you should also make sure you have bug spray to keep them at bay.

Bugs are often worse at night and can make any trip uncomfortable.

Bug bites are also uncomfortable in the long term, and you might regret not properly deterring them.

18. Bring Sufficient Food and Water:

Make sure when you are out on the water you have enough food and water for your trip. Even at night, you can suffer from dehydration in warm weather.

Like mentioned, accidents and unforeseen things can happen. If you end up being stranded, you will want to make sure you have the proper nutrients to sustain yourself until help arrives.

If you plan on staying out overnight, make sure you bring the proper food and water for all passengers.

19. Bring Chart Plotters, GPS Devices, and Radars:

A GPS device can help you see the direction you are heading, give you directions, and sometimes give you a scan of the coves that might be in the area.

You can get a chart plotter or buy a GPS device that comes with a chart plotter.

Chart plotters indicate where fixed objects are. These can be buoys and markers. This does not include other boaters.

The radar is a very reliable tool that can indicate the distance of something in the water.

You can also bring and utilize a compass. This can help you find your home port or destination when you cannot use landmarks to find your destination.

These objects are beneficial when it comes to navigation, but you will not want to rely on these devices solely. You will want to keep your eye out for yourself.

20. Pack the Proper Communication Devices:

You will want to make sure you have a communication device on board your boat at any time, day or night.

Anything can happen while you are out on the water, so you will want to make sure you can get help when you need it.

It is also a good idea to have a VHF radio on board if your cell phone is unable to get service or dies.

You will also want to make sure you know the proper emergency channels to get the proper assistance when needed.

21. Don’t Forget to Enjoy Yourself!

While you are trying to remember all the proper nighttime boating rules, do not forget to enjoy yourself.

Boating at night can be an entirely new experience versus boating during the daytime.

It is often quieter and offers a different experience to daytime boating.

Some unique experiences you can have during a nighttime boating outing includes:

  • Watching the sunset.
  • Looking at or charting the stars.
  • Watching evening fireworks.
  • Having a late dockside meal.
  • Camping on your boat overnight.

Nighttime boating often offers an experience with less boating traffic and less overall noise.

You will also be able to enjoy the open water with a blazing or hot sun, cooler and breezy air, and calmer water without a wake.

22. Keep at It!

The final tip for boating at night is to keep at it. Experience is important when it comes to boating during the day as well as at night.

In the beginning, you should have another experienced boat operator on board in case of an emergency, as well as for the second set of eyes.

You will want to continue to practice boating at night to make sure you get the hang of it.

The saying “it’s as different as night and day” is highly applicable when operating a boat.

Once you get the hang of it and really know what you are doing, you can enjoy many relaxing and no stress evenings out on the water with you and your fellow passengers.

It is also beneficial to practice on nights that have a full moon or a bright moon. This can add additional light to see by while you get used to the difference that comes with nighttime boating and navigation.

Final Thoughts:

If you own a boat, you might be wondering how to get more use and enjoyment out of it. The solution for you could be to get into evening boating.

Boating at night can be a delightful and relaxing experience without the harsh sun and high boating traffic.

Evening boating can be quiet and relaxing as well as you can do many different types of experiences that you cannot do during daytime boating.

If you properly prepare, you can have an enjoyable experience for you and your passengers at night.

Preparations can include:

  • Knowing the proper navigation rules regarding the right of way, light signals, and sound signals.
  • Knowing the proper speeds for nighttime boating.
  • Making sure you are confident in your operating skills.
  • Bringing the proper safety equipment.
  • Bringing the proper navigation equipment.
  • Bringing the proper clothes, bug spray, towels, sleeping items, and other equipment.
  • Preparing your boat to lower light and sound, so it isn’t distracting.
  • Behaving safely when it comes to operation and the use of alcohol.
  • Having an experienced skipper as a backup.

Make sure when you go boating at night, you remember the safety and navigation rules. Being safe out on the water should always be the top priority.

Reducing user error is a matter of being safe and taking the proper boater training classes to ensure you know the proper navigation rules, right of way rules, sound signals, and lighting signals and the proper time to use them.

Remember to have fun when you are out on the water, no matter what time of day. Having a boat is a fun activity and investment for you and your passenger. You will want to make sure you are enjoying it and using it to its full potential.

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ViralPress

Night sky turns blood red due to 'fishing boat lights' in China

Posted: May 30, 2024 | Last updated: May 30, 2024

The night sky had turned blood red due to the reflection of fishing boat lights in China. Footage shows the eerie sight of a bright scarlet hue enveloping the horizon as seen from a street in Zhejiang province on May 23. The bizarre scene sparked fears among locals, but the Dinghai District Meteorological Bureau said it was not a natural phenomenon but caused by trawlers' red lights. An expert from the Space Physics Research Team of China University of Geosciences in Wuhan who analysed the video said red fishing boat light has a longer wavelength and strong penetrating power. Due to this, the expert added that it could scatter among liquid droplets in the atmosphere to a farther range. The video was captured less than a month after another Chinese city was plunged into darkness with storm clouds turning the day into night. City officials in Changsha, the capital and largest city of Hunan province in China, even decided to switch on the street lights on April 29, as the heavy storm made everything as dark as night. One eyewitness, Xiao, said the pitch-black daytime happened while he was taking an order from Shaoshan South Road in Tianxin District. He said: 'The rain was just too heavy. I didn't stop to take shelter.'

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Women flock to meet ‘the hottest sailors’ at fleet week singles party: ‘i will move to america and have their babies’.

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Sailors were ready to mingle at the Fleet Week Open Bar Singles Party at The Dean, a bar in the Garment District.

They floated each other’s boats.

A New York Navyman and an NYU student were happy to oblige The Post’s request to recreate the famed 1945 V-J Day photo from Times Square, during a Fleet Week bash .

Brandon O’Connell, a sailor stationed at Chambers Street, showed up ready to mingle at the Fleet Week Open Bar Singles Party Friday night to meet “somebody that would like to have fun.”

Brandon O'Connell and Evangeline Lim recreate the famed 1945 v-j photo of a kiss in times square

Early on in the evening, the Rochester native was hitting it off with Evangeline Lim, a master’s student at NYU, who told The Post he was “nice and cute.”

The pair had locked eyes in Times Square earlier that day, and sparks flew, but they hadn’t spoken.

“I remember her face,” O’Connell said.

“And I remember him because he was the only one in white,” added Lim, a native of Singapore.

The famed photo shows a Navyman spontaneously kissing a dental assistant as news broke that World War II had ended.

After the lip lock photo session, they beamed while recalling their first kiss.

Brandon O'Connell, him in a sailor's uniform and Evangeline Lim, in a dark blue dress, hug while smiling and looking at the camera

“I loved it,” said O’Connell, with a twinkle in his eye.

“It was nice,” Lin replied, smiling.

The pair met at  Single and the City’s  annual  Fleet Week Open Bar Singles Party  — where women from all over the world flocked to meet American sailors.

Only women were able to purchase tickets to the event at The Dean on West 39th Street. It was advertised as “an evening mixing, mingling, drinking endless libations, and dancing with the hottest sailors.”

Jennifer Douglass outside The Dean with a sailor

Jennifer Douglass, a performing arts facilitator from Scotland, attended during her week-long vacation in New York.

“I will move to America and have their babies,” she said. “I’m single and I fancy sailors. They’re fit and I love crisp white uniforms.”

Douglass, 35, had never met a sailor before, and said they lived up to her high expectations.

“They’re lovely, very polite, very clean and very friendly and they’re fun,” she gushed.

sailors in white uniforms doing the conga

Nathan Pallares, who hails from California and has been in the US Navy for a year, saw an ad for the party, and decided to give it a whirl.

“I saw the little card and was like, ‘Let’s do it,'” he said.

Meeting someone from New York wouldn’t be a problem.

“Right now, I’m stationed in D.C.,” he said.

a sailor in white uniform dancing with a woman at the party with tvs on the wall behind them, while other attendees mingle

It was his first time in the Big Apple, and he was happy with the diverse crowd of women.

“A lot of different countries and a lot of different people,” he said.

Amara Majeed of Pakistan dreamed of attending a Fleet Week event ever since she watched “Sex and the City.”

“Because of Carrie Bradshaw, she talked about Fleet Week,” she explained. “And this is my first year in New York, so I looked up, ‘Where do sailors go?'”

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Brandon O'Connell and Evangeline Lim recreate the famed 1945 v-j photo of a kiss in times square

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High Desert Museum’s new, immersive ‘Forest at Night’ interactive exhibit opens Saturday

A graphic representation of High Desert Museum's new 'Forest at Night' experience

Discover the hidden world of nocturnal species - and delve into the pressing issue of light pollution

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — As the sun sets and darkness envelops the High Desert, a world comes to life. The High Desert Museum on Saturday will debut its latest interactive experience,  Forest at Night , to showcase the captivating realm of nocturnal species and the critical importance of preserving darkness for their survival.

Forest at Night —located within the Changing Forest pavilion—invites visitors to embark on a whimsical journey into the nighttime habitat of various creatures. Developed by Museum curators and staff, this immersive experience aims to deepen visitors’ understanding and appreciation for the diverse array of animals, plants and fungi that thrive under the cover of night.

" Forest at Night  celebrates the fascinating world of nocturnal species and underscores the indispensable role of darkness in their lives," says Donald M. Kerr Curator of Natural History Hayley Brazier, Ph.D. "From insects and mammals to birds of prey, these creatures have evolved over millions of years to navigate, hunt and thrive in the dark."

At the heart of  Forest at Night  lies an enchanting, simulated forest illuminated by the soft glow of stars and moonlight. Visitors will encounter animated representations of the High Desert’s nocturnal inhabitants, including the white-lined sphinx moth, great-horned owl, striped skunk, common nighthawk and long-tailed weasel—each brought to life with vivid detail.

At the room’s center, a large touchscreen interface allows guests to explore the darkened, animated landscape and learn about the unique adaptations of each species projected before them. Visitors will discover how animals with reflective eyes, such as mule deer, wolf spiders, cougars and an invasive species, the American bullfrog, utilize moonlight to navigate and hunt, akin to real-life scientists studying wildlife in their natural environment.

"Through interactive elements and engaging displays, we aim to create a deeper connection between visitors and the nocturnal world," explains Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. "By understanding the challenges faced by these species, we can work together to ensure their continued existence in the High Desert."

In addition to showcasing the wonders of the night, this experience also delves into the pressing issue of light pollution. Upon entering  Forest at Night , visitors may gaze up at twinkling stars and learn about the constellations that guide migrating birds on their journeys across the High Desert. In turn, visitors will also learn that as urbanization encroaches upon natural and urban habitats, artificial light disrupts the delicate balance of ecosystems, posing a threat to nocturnal species.

“In a region where darkness is as vital as food and shelter for many species, the Museum hopes to inspire a newfound appreciation for the importance of preserving darkness” says Brazier. “To address the concern of light pollution,  Forest at Night  offers practical tips for reducing light pollution, both at home and in the community. Visitors will learn simple steps they can take, such as using motion sensors, installing shielded light fixtures, and opting for warm-colored bulbs, to minimize their impact on the night sky.”

Forest at Night  promises to be a captivating and enlightening experience for Museum visitors of all ages, offering a glimpse into the enchanting world of nocturnal creatures and the importance of safeguarding their habitat.

The new experience launches as the Museum is swinging into summer with a new slate of daily talks, the opening of the U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station and a perennial favorite, the outdoor free flight program Raptors of the Desert Sky. Every day at 11:30 am in Raptors of the Desert Sky, birds of prey swoop right overhead in a natural amphitheater while a naturalist shares more about their adaptations and habitat. To learn more about summer at the Museum, visit  highdesertmuseum.org/daily-schedule .

For more information about the  Forest at Night  experience opening at the High Desert Museum, visit  highdesertmuseum.org/forest-at-night . It’s free with admission and will be open throughout 2024. Special thanks to Visit Central Oregon for supporting the  Got Stars, Central Oregon  grant project. To learn more about this project, visit  darkskyoregon.org/gotstars .

ABOUT THE MUSEUM:

The HIGH DESERT MUSEUM opened in Bend, Oregon in 1982. It brings together wildlife, cultures, art, history and the natural world to convey the wonder of North America’s High Desert. The Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is a Smithsonian Affiliate, was the 2019 recipient of the Western Museums Association’s Charles Redd Award for Exhibition Excellence and was a 2021 recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. To learn more, visit  highdesertmuseum.org  and follow us on  Facebook  and  Instagram .

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Two people killed after fishing boat capsizes in Toledo Bend

SABINE PARISH, La. (KALB) - UPDATE: The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries released further details on the fatal boating incident in the Pirates Cove area of Toledo Bend.

LDWF, alongside the Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the Sabine Parish Fire District, responded to a fatal boating incident on Tuesday, May 28.

Search and rescue teams recovered the bodies of Macy Richard, 27, of Opelousas, and Jerilyn Herbert, 57, of Opelousas.

Reportedly, five people chartered a fishing boat with a fishing guide on Toledo Bend. Around noon, wind and waves on the lake picked up and capsized the pontoon boat, sending all six people into the water. The guide was reportedly able to call 911.

When LDWF arrived on the scene, they located three of the passengers and the guide clinging to the capsized boat. They were rescued at around 1 p.m.

Two people allegedly drown after fishing barge capsizes in Toledo Bend

The bodies of Richard and Herbert were turned over to the Sabine Parish Coroner’s Office to determine their official cause of death.

The U.S. Coast Guard will reportedly be the lead investigative agency for this incident.

This incident remains ongoing.

Click here to report a typo. Please provide the title of the article in your email.

Copyright 2024 KALB. All rights reserved.

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COMMENTS

  1. Boat Navigation Lights Rules: Illustrated Beginners Guide

    They must show an arc of 112.5 degrees from centerline of the bow. Stern light - A white light on the stern of the boat showing an unbroken arc of 135 degrees from centerline of the vessel. All-round light - A light showing in an unbroken arc of 360 degrees. The good news is you need not measure these angles.

  2. Boat Lights At Night (The Rules For Safety)

    Boat navigation lights at night are used for safety. They are designed so they can be seen easily. Boat lights vary according to boat type and size, boat use, navigation area, and geographic location. Boaters should learn boat light meanings and keep up-to-date on boat light requirements. Boat navigation lights indicate a boat's heading ...

  3. Navigation Lights : BoatUS Foundation

    On any vessel, navigation lights have a specific color, (white, red, green, yellow, blue), arc of illumination, range of visibility, and location, as required by law and regulations. For the purposes of this course, we will concentrate on pleasure boats under 65 feet in length. Knowledge of navigation lights is important to a small-boat skipper ...

  4. Shining the Sailboat Lights At Night: What You Need To Know

    Sailboat-Specific Navigation Light Rules. Sailboats must have the same red and green lights as powerboats. The difference is that you'll need other ones on the stern and mast. If your boat is less than 65 feet, you can use either a combination of a bicolor light with red and green along with another at the stern or a tricolor one on top of ...

  5. Navigation Lights for Sailboats (And How To Read Them)

    As such a power boat, and by extension all sailboats, MUST, without question show one green light on the starboard bow and one red light on the port bow and one all around white light or lights while operating in reduced visibility. These lights should shine at all 360 degrees of visibility with the bow lights shining at an angle of dead ahead ...

  6. Sailboat Navigation Lights: A Guide to Safe Nighttime Sailing

    ==Short answer sailboat navigation lights:== Sailboat navigation lights are essential safety features that help vessels communicate and avoid collisions at night. These lights, such as the red and green sidelights and white stern light, allow sailors to determine the direction and status of approaching boats. Understanding the Importance of Sailboat Navigation LightsUnderstanding the Importance of

  7. Navigation Light Rules

    Boats less than 12m (39.4'), sidelights must be visible for at least 1nm. All other lights must be visible for at least 2nm. Boats less than 20m (65.7'), a masthead light must be visible for 3nm. All other lights must be visible for 2nm. Boat over 20m (65.7') and less than 50m (164') must display a masthead light visible for 5nm.

  8. Navigation: Boat Lights at Night

    Navigation Lights and Their Correct Usage for Boating at Night. As mentioned above, the red and green lights are key parts of marine navigation, mirroring the colors of traffic lights. These lights should be visible for an arc of 112.5 degrees from the front of the boat. Knowing this helps you determine which way other boats are heading.

  9. Boat Navigation Light Rules Explained (For Beginners)

    Boats less than 12 meters or 39.4 feet long: You'll need one red light and one green light at the front port and starboard sides of the boat for these boats. These lights should be positioned so that they can be seen at an angle of 112.5 degrees. The sidelights should be strong enough to be seen from a mile away.

  10. Boat Navigation Lights: Understanding the Basics

    The starboard side light is green. When looking at the boat's transom or stern, a white light may be visible. Keep in mind large boats and ships may use other colors, like yellow. Next time you're boating at night, say thanks to your navigation lights. They allow you to see other boaters in the dark and help prevent collisions.

  11. Boat Navigation Lights: Everything You NEED to Know (2024)

    Powerboat under 23 feet (7m) Powerboats under 23 feet are required to have the following navigation lights displayed: One white masthead light visible for 2 miles. One red & green sidelight visible for 1 mile. One stern light visible for 2 miles. One white, red, green, or yellow all-round light visible for 2 miles.

  12. What is a Properly Lit Sailboat at Night? (A Guide to Safety

    A properly lit sailboat at night is a boat that is equipped with the correct navigation lights, which are required by law. These lights must be visible for two miles and should include a green light on the starboard side, a red light on the port side, and a white light aft. Additionally, the boat must also have a white masthead light that is ...

  13. Navigation Lights at Night

    The most common of our navigation lights are our "running lights". This is a red light on the port side of the boat and a green light on the starboard side that shine from the bow to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam of the boat. This creates a 112.5-degree arc on either side of the vessel. To complete a 360-degree circle, our white stern light ...

  14. What are the proper sailboat lights at night?

    In this article, we'll discuss the proper sailboat lights at night. Sailboats are required to have three lights at a minimum: a masthead light, a red port light, and a green starboard light. The masthead light is white and is located at the top of the mast. This light should shine forward and aft and be visible from 2 nautical miles away.

  15. Expert Boat safety Tips for Navigating Your Boat at Night

    Use as Many Eyes and Ears as Possible. Keeping a sharp lookout is key to boating safely in the dark. If you have passengers onboard, give them the job of keeping their eyes fixed on the horizon to look for unlit buoys, boats at anchor, running boats, floating objects, and other possible dangers. Having multiple sets of eyes on the lookout ...

  16. When Should You Use Navigation Lights on a Boat?

    Navigation lights must be displayed on a boat if you are operating your boat at night or in poor visibility. The term "night" here refers to the period between sunset and daybreak. During the daytime, poor visibility can refer to heavy fog or even inclement weather, such as rain or snowfall. In this article, Drive a Boat Canada explains all ...

  17. Boat Navigation Lights: Types & Location

    All-around white light - 360 degrees visable from two miles. Sidelights — 112.5 degrees visible from one mile. If your boat is greater than 39.4 feet but less than 65.6 feet, or 20 meters, you need the following set of navigation lights: A masthead light is a white light at the front of the boat. The masthead light needs to be visible across ...

  18. Boating at Night: Rules, Safety Tips and Lights

    Side lights: a green light on the starboard side of the bow and a red light on the port side of the bow; Stern light: a white light at the stern; Masthead light: a white light affixed to the mast; Navigation light requirements for human-powered craft. Human-powered boats are required to display a white light that can be seen from all sides.

  19. Navigation Lights on Sailing Yachts and Motor Boats

    Stern light. A white light mounted as close to the stern as possible and shines dead ahead in an arc of 135° (67.5° to each side). The mounting height should be aligned to the height of the side lights and should never be higher. 3. Three-colour light for sailing vessels (sailing lights) On sail boats up to a length of 20 m, the side light ...

  20. Nautical Mnemonics: Understanding Boat Lights

    Stern Light: This is a white light that is visible from behind a vessel. Masthead Light: This is another white light. It is visible from the front and the sides. Any boat that has a motor is required to have a masthead light. If you have a boat that is below 39.4 feet it can be combined with the stern light.

  21. Boating at Night: How to Navigate Safely After Sundown

    Allow them plenty of space and get out of their way. You can see how important lighting will be while boating at night. Don't confuse other boaters by keeping under-deck lighting on. It's crucial that other boaters are able to distinguish between your red and green running lights.

  22. 22 Tips For Boating At Night: Helpful Guide (For Beginners)

    An effective way to safely sail at night is to shine a light on your sail if you hear a powerboat. You will be readily visible to other boaters. Larger sailboats should have lights similar to the powered boat lights on the side and the aft, but there could also have a tri-color light on the masthead that can be visible up to 2 miles away. ...

  23. Amazon.com: Boat Lights For Night

    Marine Led Boat Lights, Boat Interior Lights Night Fishing Lights 12V Waterproof Marine Boat Lights for Pontoon Boat Yacht Fishing Kayak Lights Cockpit Light (4 Pcs White) 50+ bought in past month. $1299. Save 3% at checkout. FREE delivery Thu, May 9 on $35 of items shipped by Amazon. Only 18 left in stock - order soon.

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    The night sky had turned blood red due to the reflection of fishing boat lights in China. Footage shows the eerie sight of a bright scarlet hue enveloping the horizon as seen from a street in ...

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    Brandon O'Connell, a sailor stationed at Chambers Street, showed up ready to mingle at the Fleet Week Open Bar Singles Party Friday night to meet "somebody that would like to have fun.". 5 ...

  27. High Desert Museum's new, immersive 'Forest at Night ...

    High Desert Museum's new, immersive 'Forest at Night' interactive exhibit opens Saturday. Discover the hidden world of nocturnal species - and delve into the pressing issue of light ...

  28. Two people killed after fishing boat capsizes in Toledo Bend

    They were rescued at around 1 p.m. Two people allegedly drown after fishing barge capsizes in Toledo Bend (Sabine Parish Sheriff's Office) The bodies of Richard and Herbert were turned over to the ...

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