Specific lighting configurations are required for boats operating between sunset and sunrise or in times of restricted visibility. Do not assume that your boat came from the factory or showroom with all the proper equipment. It’s your responsibility to make sure your boat shows the proper lights depending upon its size and the waters in which you are operating.

The U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules, International-Inland encompasses lighting requirements for every description of watercraft. The information provided here is intended for power-driven boats and sailboats less than 20 meters (65.62 feet). There are various options available to boaters.

Motorboats less than 20 meters need to exhibit navigation lights. Masthead lights are optional for boats under 50 meters. Boats over 50 meters are required to display two masthead lights. Boats of less than 7 meters whose maximum speed cannot exceed 7 knots may exhibit all-around white light, and if practical, sidelights instead of lights. This is in international waters only. Sailboats that are less than 20 meters may exhibit navigation lights. Another option for sailboats is to use a single combination lantern at the top of the mast. Sailboats less than 7 meters may carry an electric torch or lighted lantern showing white light to be displayed in sufficient time to avoid collision. Watercraft under oars, such as a canoe, may display the lights prescribed for sailboats must have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern (flashlight) showed white light to be displayed in sufficient time to prevent collision.

To alert other boats of conditions that may be hazardous, there are requirements to display at night and shapes during the day. Motorboats and sailboats at anchor must display anchor lights. An anchor light for a watercraft less than 50 meters in length is an all-around white light, visible for 2 miles where it can be best seen. Watercraft at anchor shall exhibit forward where best seen, a ball shape. Boats less than 7 meters are not required to display anchor lights or day shapes unless anchored in or near a narrow channel, fairway, or anchorage, or where boats normally are anchored. Sailboats powered by machinery must exhibit where best seen a conical shape with the apex pointing down. Boats that are less than 12 meters are not required to exhibit the day shape in inland waters.

Navigation lights must be checked prior to departing the dock, and you should always carry spare bulbs. The United States Coast Guard does not care if they were working when you left. But they do require they are operating when required.

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“Basic Boating Safety Course – Navigation Lights on Your Boat.” Basic Boating Safety Course – Navigation Lights on Your Boat. Web. 12 July 2012.