Boats docked at night with navigation lights shining in the dark

Anchor lights are located on your boat to alert neighboring vessels where you are anchored on various bodies of water to provide a safer experience. Whenever you are looking to anchor your boat, anchor lights are necessary to have. This article is going to cover what anchor lights are, why they are important, the what to-do’s and what not-to-do’s, when you use them, and any boat light requirements that need to be met while at anchor.

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What are Anchor Lights on a Boat?

Boats docked at night with navigation lights shining in the dark

Boat anchor lights are used to make nighttime boating easier and safer. The term “anchor light” represents a light in the rigging of the ship that is riding at an anchor. Anchor lights are also considered as navigation lights and stern lights. When a boat is anchored, the best light to display would be an all-around light that is visible for at least 2nm. LED lights are also recommended as one of the best lights to use for your anchor lights.


Anchor Light Rules & Requirements

The United States Coast Guard requires that a 360-degree white all-around masthead light, with a 2-mile visibility, normally meets the anchor light requirement. It is important to remember that wire gauge, the length of wiring, connections and battery power all contribute to a light’s performance. The white all-around light should be located at or near the stern of the boat at a lower level. A boat that is less than 50 meters is required to display an all-around white light in the fore part of the vessel, or near the stern at a lower level. When anchored, a boat of 100 meters or more is required to use an all-around white light positioned in the fore part or near the stern of the vessel. It is recommended for a boat to have 2 all-around red lights in a vertical line or 3 balls in a vertical line so it can be seen the best. If a boat is less than 7 meters long and is anchored, specifically when not in a narrow channel, it is not required to have an anchor light. If a boat that is less than 12 meters long and is aground, it not required to have an anchor light. Following these anchor light requirements will help ensure your safety.


When and Why You Need to Use Boat Anchor Lights

Front of a boat at night with workers standing on the bow and navigation lights shining in the dark

When you are boating during the day, it is much easier for other boats to see you on the water, making it not required to use an anchor light. But when the sun goes down, visibility drastically changes, and anchor lights are a must-have so other vessels can see you and take a different route. On the other hand, if you are just taking your boat to a designated mooring and do not plan to anchor, then it is not required to use an anchor light. It is always important to remember that anything is possible, and it is never wrong to be overprepared for any type of situation.


How Anchor Light Needs Change Depending on the Boat

No matter if you have a sailboat or motorized boat, displaying an all-around white anchor light is required if it is above 50 meters in length when chartering at night. There are additional navigation lights that are required based on the boat type and size. Anchor lights should be placed at the highest point of the vessel, at least 3 feet higher than the side (red and green) lights, and visible all around so neighboring vessels have knowledge to stay away from your boat to avoid any collision. For sailboats, it is required to display both the side and anchor lights in the same vertical position at night. The anchor light should be illuminated from dusk until dawn, either when anchored or under power.


No Matter Your Boat Lighting Needs, We Have Boat Lights of all Colors & Types

Product image of white navigation stern lights for sale online at Sardine Marine

Whether you are looking to purchase LED boat anchor (stern) lights or want to learn more about how they will work on your boat, Sardine Marine is there to help answer your questions and guide you to the right anchor light based on your needs. Our inventory includes bright and crisp lights that never lack on brightness. Our anchor lights are low-energy LED and are produced with corrosion-resistant, beautiful 316 marine-grade stainless steel. And better yet, they are easy to install. If you need additional boat lighting products separate from anchor lights, please visit to see a wide selection of other lights, including RGB bow lights for navigation needs or underwater color changing accent lights for recreational use.

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By Jim Radack


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