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Perception is everything.
The questions that you're trying to answer are:
Is this a small, dimly lit vessel crossing me close by or
Is this a large, brightly lit vessel crossing me far away?
They might look very similar.
Things you can do to help determine this are to observe how high off of the water the lights are. That might indicate a larger vessel if they're high off the water.
Then you observe how fast the lights are moving past fixed points on land (or fixed lights if you can't make out a land feature). Also, if you suspect that the vessel might be close aboard, listen for engine and wake noises (though you might not hear any.)
S/V Old Shoes
1973 Pearson 30 #255