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It's the Law

Navigation Lights


Failure to show the necessary lights is one of the leading causes of fatal accidents in Georgia.

Knowledge of the required lights enables you to:

  • Be sure that your boat has proper lights.
  • Distinguish at night between a sailboat and a motorboat.
  • Determine what to do if you are in a meeting, crossing, or overtaking situation.
  • Have a good idea of the size of the other boat.

Several types of lights serve as navigational aids at night.

  • Sidelights: These red and green lights are called sidelights (or combination lights) because they are visible to another vessel approaching from the side or head-on. The red light indicates a vessel’s port (left) side; the green indicates a vessel’s starboard (right) side.
  • Sternlight: This white light is seen from behind or nearly behind the vessel.
  • Masthead Light: This white light shines forward and to both sides and is required on all power-driven vessels. A masthead light must be displayed by all vessels when under engine power. The absence of this light indicates a sailboat under sail.
  • All-Round White Light: On power-driven vessels less than 39.4 feet in length, this light may be used to combine a masthead light and sternlight into a single white light that can be seen by other vessels from any direction. This light serves as an anchor light when sidelights are extinguished.
Illustration of all-round white lights

Lighting Configurations

Light Point System
The degree of the arc of the light is expressed in points and is based on the division of a complete circle into 32 points, similar to a compass.


When a light is a 20-point light
When a light is a 20-point light, it will shine light that can be seen in 20/32 of a circle. This may appear as a single white light or as a combination red and green light.


When a light is a 10-point light
When a light is a 10-point light, it will shine light that can be seen in 10/32 of a circle.


When a light is a 12-point light
When a light is a 12-point light, it will shine light that can be seen in 12/32 of a circle.


A 32-point light
A 32-point light can be seen throughout the complete circle, or from every angle.


Required Lighting When Underway

All motorized vessels less than 26 feet long being operated during hours of darkness or low visibility must display:

Illustration of all-round white lights and red and green lights on vessel less than 26 feet long
One 20-point combination red and green sidelight on the bow visible for a distance of at least one mile, plus one 32-point white sternlight visible for a distance of at least two miles


or…

Illustration of all-round white lights and red and green lights on vessel less than 26 feet long
One 20-point combination red and green sidelight on the bow visible for a distance of at least one mile, plus one 12-point white sternlight visible for a distance of at least two miles, plus one 20-point white masthead light visible for a distance of at least three miles and carried amidship, 3.3 feet higher than the sidelights.


Remember, the motor noise of your vessel makes it almost impossible to hear another vessel approaching; therefore, lights are necessary to locate a moving vessel during hours of darkness or low visibility.

All motorized vessels 26 feet long or longer being operated during hours of darkness or low visibility must display:

One 10-point red and one 10-point green sidelight visible for a distance of at least one mile, plus one 12-point white sternlight visible for a distance of at least two miles, plus one 20-point white masthead light visible for a distance of at least three miles and carried amidship, 3.3 feet higher than the sidelights


or…

One 20-point white light on the bow visible for a distance of at least two miles, plus one 10-point red and one 10-point green sidelight visible for a distance of at least one mile, plus one 32-point white sternlight visible for a distance of at least two miles


or…

One 20-point combination red and green sidelight on the bow visible for a distance of at least one mile, plus one 12-point white sternlight visible for a distance of at least two miles, plus one 20-point white masthead light visible for a distance of at least three miles and carried amidship, 3.3 feet higher than the sidelights.


Sailboats operating under engine power should carry and display the same lights required for motorboats of the same length.

Sailboats under sail only being operated during hours of darkness or low visibility must display the following lights.

Sailboats less than 26 feet long must display one 20-point combination red and green sidelight on the bow visible for a distance of at least one mile, plus one 12-point white sternlight visible for a distance of at least two miles.


Sailboats 26 feet long or longer must display one 10-point red and one 10-point green sidelight, properly screened and visible for a distance of at least one mile, plus one 12-point white sternlight visible for a distance of at least two miles.


All non-motorized vessels (except sailboats) being operated during hours of darkness or low visibility must have ready and at hand:

A white light that must be displayed in time to prevent a collision; a flashlight or a lantern is adequate for nonmotorized vessels less than 16 feet long.


Even though you may not plan to use your boat after sunset, you should have the required lights installed for your protection. No boat should ever leave shore without having at least one portable white light (a flashlight would be a minimum) in good operating condition. Trouble may develop that makes it impossible to get to shore before dark. If this happens, you would need a light to be seen and to signal to other boats.

Required Lighting When Anchored

All vessels moored or anchored outside a designated mooring area during hours of darkness must display:

A 32-point white light.