Navigation Lights

The required navigation lights must be displayed between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility.

Power-Driven Vessels When Underway

If less than 65.6 feet long, these vessels must exhibit the lights as shown in figure 1. Remember, power-driven vessels include sailboats operating under engine power. The required lights are:

  • Red and green sidelights visible from a distance of at least two miles away—or if less than 39.4 feet long, at least one mile away—on a dark, clear night.
  • An all-round white light or both a masthead light and a sternlight. These lights must be visible from a distance of at least two miles away on a dark, clear night. The all-round white light (or the masthead light) must be at least 3.3 feet higher than the sidelights.
Navigation lights on power-driven vessels

Figure 1. Navigation lights on power-driven vessels less than 65.6 feet long

Unpowered Vessels When Underway

Unpowered vessels are sailboats or vessels that are paddled, poled, or rowed.

If less than 65.6 feet long, these vessels must exhibit the lights as shown in figure 2. The required lights are:

  • Red and green sidelights visible from at least two miles away—or if less than 39.4 feet long, at least one mile away.
  • A sternlight visible from at least two miles away.
Navigation lights on sailboats

Figure 2. Navigation lights on unpowered vessels less than 65.6 feet long

If less than 23.0 feet long, these vessels should:

  • If practical, exhibit the same lights as required for unpowered vessels less than 65.6 feet in length.
  • If not practical, have on hand at least one lantern or flashlight shining a white light as in figure 3, to be displayed in time to avoid a collision.
Fig. 3: Sailboat and rowboat operators at night with flashlight

Figure 3. Navigation lights on unpowered vessels less than 23 feet long

All Vessels When Not Underway

All vessels are required to display a white light visible in all directions whenever they are moored or anchored away from dock between sunset and sunrise and/or during periods of restricted visibility.

All-round white light visible in all directions on an anchored boat

All-round white light visible in all directions on an anchored boat

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