navigation lights conform to the international
While the majority of
leisure boaters rarely
there will be
occasions when you are late arriving in port.
Enjoy safe night sailing and anchoring with the correct lights.
Whatever your boating habits, the
lights on your boat should be set up
correctly, for your own as well as other boater’s safety.
For the same safety reasons
those who enjoy anchoring for
the night need to display a recognisable anchor light.
Those "Ships that pass in the night,
and speak each other in
passing;” can only do so because they can see and recognize each
at night can be
a wonderful and rewarding experience.
One of my favorite times at
sea is at dawn, as the
horizon begins to harden (time to shoot those stars) and as the sky
lighten with the promise of another day.
In days of old, sailing at
night really did mean
sailing in the dark.
Today we are blessed with,
sufficiently lit, navigation
aids both on land
and afloat to make night sailing as safe as possible.
There is no reason to fear boating
You are sufficiently versed
in the art of navigation
You keep a good lookout.
You are aware of how your
depth of perception is
affected by reduced visibility.
Are aware that bright shore
lights and reflections
can be misleading, especially if you wear glasses.
You are able to interpret
the navigation lights you
see on other vessels as well as on shore.
And just as important, are
confident that other
vessels can see and correctly interpret your own boat’s navigation
In order to keep adequate
watch at night you need to
protect your night vision by not exposing your eyesight to bright on
Chart table and binnacle
lights shout be kept as dim as possible.
It is a fallacy that red chart
preserve night vision, the color is immaterial, it is the strength of
light that matters, a red light will only make reading the chart more
difficult by altering your color perception.
It is essential for you to see
other boats and have
them see you.
It is also important not to
reduce your night vision by
using bright on board lights.
Using your binoculars,
believe it or not is an excellent way to bring distant lights into
My own philosophy when sailing
my small boat at any
time but especially at night is to err on the side of caution.
Fishing boats a night call for
vigilance, always give
then a wide berth, stay well away from their aft ends to avoid the nets
never cut between two fishing bats as they may be pair trawling. Also
aware that they are constantly changing direction as they chase the
Larger, commercial traffic is
more likely to be keeping
a constant heading, so easier to avoid.
Always take the avoiding
action when approaching
anything large, regardless of the rules of the road, it can take a
several miles to turn, while a small boat can turn and then resume it's
course in yards.
And besides, there is no
guarantee that the other
vessel has seen your navigation lights.
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The International Regulations
for Preventing Collisions
at Sea (COLREGS) were designed to ensure the safety of every one
They apply to all vessels
using the seas and in all
waters connected to the sea and which are navigable by seagoing
one using these waters
must know the rules and be aware of the correct action to take in the
of a close encounter.
They also require that
navigation lights are shown,
between sunset and sunrise on all vessels operating in these
The ‘COLREGs’ lay down the
the day shapes and navigation lights which a vessel must display, in
indicate its status to other vessels.
These navigation lights are
designed to indicate the
size of the ship and the direction the ship is traveling.
There are also standard light
indicate whether a ship is at anchor, fishing, dredging, etc. which
approaching vessel to determine its approach.
There are numerous
publications available which, are
designed with the pleasure craft skipper in mind, including notes and
references to help him interpret and apply the rules.
is important to be aware
that the COLREGs do not give any vessel "right of way" over
It is up to the ‘stand on’
vessel to take
action if the action of the ‘give way’ vessel alone is not
sufficient to prevent a collision, or if the ‘give way’ vessel
takes no action.
is particularly important
for the helmsman of a
small boat to remember, the
other vessel may not
have seen you.
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rules for small
There are several general
rules governing the type and
positioning of navigation lights on all types of boat.
The colored Sidelights, green
on the starboard side and
red to port, should be installed above the deck level and clear of any
The masthead or all-round
light must be installed at
least one meter / 3.3 ft above the sidelights.
The masthead or all-round
white light, and the white
stern light must be located as close as practically possible to the
fore and aft centreline.
Sidelights should be visible
within an arc from dead
ahead of the centreline through 112.5º.
The stern-light should be
visible through an arc of
135º, 67.5º either side of the fore and aft line.
ships at anchor must show an
It has become common practice
to use and all round
masthead light as an anchor light.
In my opinion this may be fine
for a short mast but for a
tall sailboat the light will be above the line of sight of an
vessel and on a clear night will be lost among the stars.
Better to hang the anchor
light from the fore rigging a
meter or two above the deck.
should, according to the
rules display the same navigation lights as power driven
under 7 meters /
vessel under oar or
paddles and sailboats or less
than 7 metres / 23.0 ft must have an electric torch or lighted
showing a white light which can be shown in sufficient time to prevent
However they should if
possible exhibit the same
navigation lights as those for sailing vessels over 7 meters.
A power-driven vessel of less
than 7 meters /
23.0 ft with a maximum speed of less than 7 knots may
display only an
all-round white light.
if practical, these should also show
7 meters /
Power-driven ships must should be displaying the red and green side lights plus white light that is visible from all around.
On a vessel of less than 12 Meters the white light can be a combination of the (sectored) stern light and a (sectored forward facing) 'steaming light' or an all-round white light, the all-round and steaming lights must be higher than the side lights.
Sailboats between 7 and 20 meters, while underway powered by her sails alone, must show either sidelights and stern light or a tri-color masthead lantern.
The masthead navigation light and stern-light should be visible over 2 miles.
Sidelights should be visible at least 1 mile away.
All-round and a combination lights should be visible for 2 miles.
Navigation Lights for Boats Over 12 meters /
A power-driven vessel of over
12 meters, while underway
must display a white masthead/steaming light as well
If over 50 meters /
164 ft length, then a
second masthead light aft and higher than the forward one must also be
On vessels between 12 and 20
metres / 39 and 66 ft
in length, the a masthead light, should be visible for 3 miles.
Sidelights and stern light
should be visible over 2
For vessels of
50 meters / 164 ft the masthead
light should be visible 6 nautical miles away and the sidelights and
stern-light visible 3 miles away.
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It is important when sailing
at night to be able to interpret the lights of other vessels in your
so you can take appropriate action to avoid any danger.
While the leisure boater
should have on board one of the
numerous publication which list and illustrate light signals for easy
recognition there are some common ones which are worth remembering.
should be given a wide berth.
Trawlers, as well as normal
stemming navigation lights
should show a green over a white all-round light.
If the nets extend for more
than 150 meters horizontally
from the vessel, there should also be an all-round white light to
direction of the gear.
When engaged in fishing other
than trawling they should
show a red over a white all-round light.
Large vessels over
50 meters / 164 ft length
will have forward all round light as well as a higher masthead light
A hovercraft will have an
all-round flashing yellow
light, as well as normal steaming lights.
All ships engaged in
underwater operations, such as
dredging need to indicate that they are restricted in their ability to
by showing a red over a white over a red light.
They should also show a green
over green light on the
side where it is safe to pass and red over red on the side where there
A pilot vessel on duty will
show a white light over red
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