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Vessel operators must make sure that their vessels are equipped with the proper navigation lights and use the lights during these conditions:

  • When away from the dock between sunset and sunrise
  • Whenever the weather reduces visibility

The different types of navigation lights are described in Navigation Lights in Unit 2. No other lights that may be mistaken for required navigation lights may be exhibited.

The required navigation lights differ depending on the type and size of your vessel. The common lighting configurations for recreational vessels are discussed in the previous unit. For other configurations and requirements for larger vessels, see the USCG’s Navigation Rules.

Video: Georgia Night Boating

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Video Transcript

All right. So the first thing we’re going to talk about: boating at night. Boating at night—innately a little more dangerous than boating in the day. I think everybody understands that. What different things do people have to consider when boating at night?

Ranger Jessica Spencer

While you’re boating at night, obviously it’s dark. On a boat, you don’t have lights like you do in a car. At night, though, when you’re on a boat, you’re supposed to use your navigation lights, and they help aid in determining where other boats are going. So that helps you in knowing which way to go if you see another boat coming toward you. Obviously you need to know the lake or the body of water that you’re on if you’re boating at night. So that way, if there’s timber in the lake or something like that, you’ll be aware of that situation and can avoid it.


What about things related to speed?

Ranger Spencer

Speed at night—I would definitely, if you’re driving a boat at night, slow down, because sometimes navigation lights may go out. They may not work; some people may not use them. So that way, if you’re going slower, you more likely can avoid a bad situation.


Are there any incidents that come to mind that maybe highlight that point for you?

Ranger Spencer

We were on the lake. It was dark. We were going to a call, but we weren’t going very fast, because it was night, so we knew we needed to go pretty slow. But as we were going down the lake, we—we felt wakes all of a sudden. When I say wake, that means the waves made by another boat. And when we felt those wakes, we automatically slowed down, and when we did, we noticed there was a boat right in front of us that didn’t have their stern light on. So we couldn’t see them from their rear, their stern of their boat, and we almost hit them. But because of the experienced driver, I mean, he knew, once we felt those wakes, to slow down. And that saved us, pretty much.


Are all boats required to have lights at night if they’re on the water?

Ranger Spencer

Yes. You’re required to have lights on. If you’re in a jon boat that doesn’t come with navigation lights, you at least have to have a flashlight, so if you hear a boat coming, you can shine that light.