Navigation Light Requirements

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Recreational boats operating at night are required to display navigation lights between sunrise and sunrise. Recent changes to the Inland Navigation Rules make them nearly identical to the International Rules. Here are some of the International Rules:

  1. Sidelights are red (port) and green (starboard) and shine from dead ahead to 112.5 degrees aft on either side.
  2. Stern lights are white and shine aft and 67.5 degrees forward on each side. Thus, the sidelights and stern light create a full circle of light.
  3. All-round lights are white and shine through 360 degrees.
  4. Masthead lights are white and shine from 112.5 degrees on the port side through dead ahead to 112.5 degrees on the starboard side. They must be above the sidelights.
  5. Sailboats under power are considered powerboats.
  6. Sidelights may be combined into a single "bicolor" lights.
  7. Power vessels under 20 meters in length need to show sidelights, a stern light and a masthead light. Power vessels less than 12 meters may show a single all-round light in lieu of the separate masthead and stern lights.
  8. Sailing vessels under 20 meters in length need to show sidelights and a stern light. These may be combined into a bicolor light at the top of the mast. Sailing vessels under 7 meters must have an electric torch or lantern available so that collisions may be averted.
  9. Oar-driven vessels can show either the sailboat lights, or use the electric torch/lantern.
  10. When anchored outside of a special anchorage, power and sail vessels under 20 meters need to display an all-round light. Vessels under 7 meters are exempt, unless anchored in a narrow channel or anchorage or where other vessels usually navigate.
  11. Finally, sailboats with sails up during the day, but which are also under power, must fly a black "steaming cone," with its point downward where it can be best seen. When under power they must follow the rules of the road for powerboats.