Boat Navigation Lights

Boat Navigation Lights How-Tos

Boats and Navigation Lights

This Boat-Ed safety course video identifies common night navigational lights and where they are located on a vessel. Examples include starboard, port, masthead, and stern lights.

Video Transcript
Now let's head back out on the lake and test what you've learned. Okay, a boat's approaching ahead. We see green and white lights. What do you do?
Green and white lights are the starboard and stern lights. That tells you a boat's headed across your path from your port side. So you're the stand on vessel and should maintain course and speed. But you still need to be alert in case the other operator doesn't see you or know the rules of the road.
Now we're approaching a single white light. Do you stand on or give way? Remember, the white light is the stern light. That means you're overtaking a boat, either moving or anchored and it's the stand on vessel. You can go around it on either side.
Red and white lights ahead this time. What do you do? Since the red light is the port light; you know a boat's headed across your path on your starboard side. You're the give way vessel. Now we're coming up on a single red light. What does that indicate and what do you do? If you see only a red or green light; it means it's a sail boat and you know that you always give way to a sail boat.
These are some of the more common traffic situations that boaters encounter. You can find rules for other scenarios in the US Coastguard Publication Navigation Rules.
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Infographic: Boat Navigation Lighting Requirements

Visual aid on USCG requirements on boat lighting.
Boat navigation lighting is not only there to protect the passengers on a boat, but they are also required by law if you plan on taking the boat out on the water in the evening. Navigation lights allow other boaters to understand the position and direction of your boat when it's dark outside. According to the United States Coast Guard, the size (length) of the boat determines what type of navigation lights that should be use.
If the boat is smaller that 13 meters (39.37 feet), the boat must have a red, green and all-around lights. These three lights will be found on the bow (2 lights) and aft (1 light) of the boat. A bi-colored boating navigation light is for the bow and the all-around navigation light will be on the back or center of the boat body. The bi-colored light will be at a 225 degree spread and the all-around light will be a 360 degree spread light.
If the boat is about 13 meters (39.79), the boat must have red and green lights on the side of the boat, a masthead light and a stern light. The red and green lights will be on the side of the boat with 112.5 degree spread. The aft side of the boat will have a white 225 degree masthead light and white 135 degree stern light.
It is paramount to follow these requirements for the safety they provide and to prevent problems.
If you have any questions call 1-800-914-1123.
Infographic on boating navigation and horn sound communication