Boat Navigation Lights Explained
Even if you’ve owned a boat your entire life, marine navigation light laws can be confusing. And if you’re new to boating, forget about it. So here’s a quick refresher for the seasoned boaters, and a great primer for the newly initiated.
Powerboats and sailboats under power are required to display red and green sidelights, a masthead light, and a stern light. There are a few exceptions though. A powerboat less than 12m long can install a single all-round light in place of the individual masthead and stern lights. And vessels less than 20m can use a single bi-colored light instead of separate red and green boat lights.
Sailboats under sail are required to display sidelights and a stern light. There are, however, several variations to this requirement. For example, a sailboat less than 20m can combine all of the lights into a single tri-colored light or combine just the sidelights and use a bi-colored light along with a stern light. Sailboats less than 7m can forgo the normally required boat running lights and instead keep close at hand a flashlight or lantern.
Paddled vessels like rowboats, kayaks, and canoes may display the lights of a sailboat or have on hand a quickly accessible flashlight or a lantern. Boat anchor lights, an all-round light visible for 2nm, are required for any boat anchored at night outside a designated anchorage.
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