Table of Contents

Navigation Lights

The required navigation lights must be displayed between sunset and sunrise and whenever the weather reduces visibility.

Power-Driven Vessels When Underway

If less than 65.6 feet long, these vessels must exhibit the lights as shown below. 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.
  • The masthead light and sternlight may be combined as an all-round white light on vessels less than 39.4 feet long.
Navigation lights on power-driven vessels less than 65.6 feet long

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

Sailboats When Underway

If less than 65.6 feet long, these vessels must exhibit the lights as shown below. 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.
  • A sternlight visible from at least two miles away.
  • An alternative to the sidelights and sternlight is a combination red, green, and white light, which must be exhibited near the top of the mast.
 (sailboats) less than 65.6 feet long

Navigation lights on unpowered vessels less than 65.6 feet long

Manually Powered Vessels When Underway

Manually powered vessels are boats that are paddled, poled, or rowed.

  • If less than 23.0 feet long, these vessels should exhibit a white light visible for 360° around the horizon and visible from a distance of at least one mile away if operating on natural lakes, Corps of Engineers impoundments, border rivers, or impoundments on inland rivers. If this light is partially obscured due to the nature of the vessel, an additional white light must be on hand to be shown in sufficient time to prevent a collision.
  • Regardless of length, these vessels must have on board a white light to be used when necessary between sunset and sunrise when operated on bodies of water other than those listed above.

Vessel operators should never leave shore without a flashlight. Even if you plan to return before dark, unforeseen developments might delay your return past nightfall.

Navigation lights on unpowered vessels less than 23.0 feet long

Navigation lights on unpowered vessels less than 23.0 feet long

All Vessels When Not Underway

All vessels are required to display a white light visible for 360° around the horizon whenever they are moored or anchored outside a designated mooring area between sunset and sunrise.

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