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It's the Law

Navigation Lights


The required navigation lights differ depending on the type and size of your vessel. You must display the required navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility.

Motorboats When Underway

If less than 40 feet long, these vessels must exhibit the lights as shown below. Remember, motorboats include sailboats operating under power.

The required lights are:

  • Red and green sidelights visible from a distance of 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 and stern-light) must be visible from all directions in a 360° circle.
Navigation lights on power-driven vessels less than 40 feet long
Navigation lights on power-driven vessels less than 40 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 below.

The required lights are:

  • Red and green sidelights visible from at least two miles away (or if less than 40 feet long, at least one mile).
  • 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

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 shown below.
  • 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 use a white light visible from all directions whenever they are anchored or moored away from dock between sunset and sunrise.