Two large yachts docked side by side with various types of boat lights shown

Boat lights, and specifically navigation lights, are important safety equipment used to reduce the chance of colliding with another boat at night or when visibility on the water is limited due to weather or time of day. Some boat lights, such as color changing accent lights, are just for fun and are not required for safety purposes. However, most boat lights are crucial tools that are required for your overall safety when using your boat on the water. On all boats, boat lights will have a specific color, location, visibility range, and arc of illumination that is required by marine light laws and regulations.

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Lights that are Required for Boating

Just as important as having a life jacket while on your boat, it needs to be equipped with the proper lighting to ensure a seamless operation. Boat lights are required to improve visibility and reduce the risk of collisions. Based on the type of boat you have, there are different lights that are installed on the vessel.

  • Navigation Lights, or running lights, are used to prevent collisions at night or in times of limited visibility.
  • Bow Lights are white lights displayed forward by the ship at anchor or by a power ship that is underway.
  • Stern Lights are used for navigation during nighttime and are placed over an unbroken arc of the horizon of 135 degrees.
  • Courtesy Lights help illuminate passageways and stairs on your boat to ensure safety of you, your crew, and passengers.

It is important to note that only bow lights and stern lights are required for navigation. As mentioned earlier, accent lights are not required but are used to add personality and pizazz to your boat, whether they are placed under your boat or in your interior layout. The next paragraph will discuss different rules and requirements that are necessary for boat lights.


Basic Rules & Requirements for Boat Lights

Boat lights are extremely important when it comes to increasing your safety when using your vessel at nighttime or during limited visibility. Just like when driving a car at night, the headlights and backlights help your vehicle stay visible to others on the road and prevent yours from steering off the road and colliding with another. A boat’s lights are the most important aspects to the navigation of a vessel. The primary function of boat lights is to aid in the prevention of any major accident from occurring.

Whether you are new to boating or are experienced, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) established specific rules and regulations that apply to all vessels that travel on chartered waters, depending on its specific type and size.


Requirements for Boat Navigation (Running) Lights

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) established specific rules and regulations that apply to all vessels that travel on chartered waters, depending on its specific type and size. According to the Collision regulations, an operator of a power-driven vessel of less than 39.4 inches and more than 39.4 inches in length may display navigation lights from sunset to sunrise.

For powered boats, the basic requirement is to make sure side lights, a masthead light, and stern light are in use. If a sailboat is operating under engine power, there are considered power-recreational and are guided to follow the basic light requirement for powered boats.

During periods while your boat is anchored, an all-around visible light for at least 2nm is required when at nighttime. During the day, a black anchor ball must be displayed. Navigation lights are not required when in recreational use during the daytime, unless they are outside of a designated anchorage, anchored in a narrow channel, or located in an area where other vessels normally navigate through. As stated in the rules and regulations, “a vessel of less than 50 meters in length may exhibit an all-around white light where it can best be seen.”


Main Types & Colors of Boat Navigation Lights

Close up view of a navigation light mounted on a boat

These lights are an essential tool that improves your overall safety when using your boat. On all boats, navigation lights will have a specific color, location, visibility range, and arc of illumination that is requires by marine light laws and regulations. The types of boats that require navigation lights are ones under 65.6 feet. The best types of navigation lights to use for your boat are:

  • Masthead lights, which are white in color and shine from 112.5-degrees on the port side of the vessel and on the starboard side.
  • Sidelights, which are red and green; the red light is located portside, and the green light is located starboard.
  • Combination lights are combined in a single fixture at the center of the vessel.
  • Stern lights, which are white lights that shine at 135-degrees, 67.5-degrees on each side of the vessel.


LED & RGB Boat Navigation Lights for Sale at Sardine Marine

White stern navigation lights sold by Sardine Marine

At Sardine Marine, we know that you want boat lights so you are operating your vessel legally, as well as boat lights that show your unique personality. Whether you are boating for pleasure, rigging, anchoring, sailing, docking, or fishing, different types of LED and RGB lights can make the experience safer and more enjoyable. You can find boat RGB LED lights and super bright 12V LED lights in various sizes for any application. We offer LED boat navigation lights, strips, or under-gunnel boat lights and floodlights for sale.

The LED and RGB boat lights sold at Sardine Marine are all made from premium 316 stainless steel for a long life, more use, and plenty of visibility. We supply high-quality nautical boat lights for every application. We have the marine LED lights for sale that you require for any boating, sailing, anchoring, rigging, docking, navigating, underwater, and fishing needs.

Visit our navigation boat lights page for more information.

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By Jim Radack


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