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HeartofGold 04-01-2004 11:44 AM

Require Navigation lights
I have a question on required navigation lights. I have a 20'' sailboat with a 5hp outboard. What navigation lights are required for night time operations under sail and power?

I am somewhat confused because of information I found at the following website: If I am reading this correctly, I do not need any navigation lights while under sail, except for the ability to illuminate my sail. Conversely, while under power, nothing is listed for vessels under 15hp.

Can someone please clear up what what lights I am required to have, and (if applicable) what lights I "should" have for sail and power applications.



WHOOSH 04-01-2004 06:07 PM

Require Navigation lights
Doug, you would benefit by picking up a copy of the free USCG brochure: Federal Requirements and Safety Tips for Recreational Boats. It will outline by length all the safety, navigation and other requirements you should honor when using your boat, and would serve as a good (tho'' basic) checklist for you. These can sometimes be found at a WM check-out counter, from any USCG Aux, or perhaps buried somewhere at This would be a far better reference than someone''s website, and I''d suggest you carry it aboard for future reference.

Nav light requirements for smaller vessels according to my (now dated) copy are:

When power driven and <12M in length, you should display an all-around white light OR a 20 point steaming light and a 12 point stern light AND, if practicable, port & starboard sidelights (combined or separate). It''s probable that, for your boat, sidelights are quite ''parcticable'' to rig and, in any event, wouldn''t you want to indicate your heading to another vessel, if possible?

When sailing, you are allowed to choose: either display the same stern and sidelights or a silly little flashlight ''in time to prevent collision''...which, if it occurs, will probably be claimed by the other party was not shown in sufficient time, as proven by the collision.


HeartofGold 04-01-2004 07:46 PM

Require Navigation lights

Thanks for the tip, I will certainly look for a copy. Your information agrees with a number of significant (but unofficial) sources. What was confusing me is that at the site I listed in my original post, it listed sail vessels above or below 22'' and power vessels above 15hp (with no listing below that power rating).

I recently ordered some portable naviation lights (I have no power source on my boat) and I was in the initial stages of determining proper arrangement of those lights. (I am in the midst of a complete restoration of my boat). I will look for the CG pamphlet you suggested.

I hope your spring warms up quickly over there.


paulk 04-03-2004 10:18 AM

Require Navigation lights
Part of the fun with websites is that there''s often no way to know how current they are. The rules may have changed five years ago, but if the site you''re consulting was built in 1998 and not touched since, all their official-sounding verbiage won''t make them up-to-date. I tried to find the pertinent running light rules on the site, (where they make a point of saying when things were last changed) but lost patience wading through all the navigation requirements. THAT
website will be current.

hamiam 04-05-2004 12:30 PM

Require Navigation lights
I hope this doesn''t come off the wrong way but I would focus on what is prudent vs what is required. Obviously even if regs dont require lights, I would certainly have them. You can buy various battery powered lights that will fit the bill if you have no onboard power.

HeartofGold 04-08-2004 11:26 AM

Require Navigation lights

No, that cetainly did not come across the wrong way. In fact that was exactly what I intend to use. I am using my boat primarily as a daysailor, and have no onboard power and was looking to use the smaller battery-powered lights. I was trying to determine if I could meet CG requirements with this product (while under sail OR power). I kind of got off on a tangent when I discovered that website, as it was quite vague. I have since been able to pick a copy of USCG reqs and am compliant with the portable lights. I am working on a "temporary" permanent mount and expect them to work well.

Thanks again everyone for the tips.

s/v Heart of Gold
Pensacola, Florida

hamiam 04-08-2004 12:47 PM

Require Navigation lights
In addition to the nav lights you get I would suggest getting a nightblaster or similar rechargeable hand held spot light. This way you can train it at other boats and/or illuminate your sail to avoid problems.

paulk 04-09-2004 10:46 PM

Require Navigation lights
Ham''s idea is a good one. Small sailboats -even with the proper navigation lights- aren''t easy to see, and flashing a bright spot on your sails once in a while not only lets you make sure they''re trimmed properly, but alerts others to your presence. We were reaching back home in the dark one night after completing a race and almost ran head-on into another competitor who was still going close-hauled the other way to the finish line. His P & S running lights were on, and we knew there were other boats behind us (we''d won our division), but his angle of heel, the waves, and our sails kept us from seeing him until the boats were about 30'' apart. A light on his sails every few minutes would have been a lott safer for both of us. At 8 knots, our 15 ton 40-footer would have sliced right through that Soverel 27 and barely slowed down.

HeartofGold 04-11-2004 07:04 PM

Require Navigation lights
Yes, that is a very purdent suggestion. My orignal intention was to use a powerful flashlight, but as soon as I read that comment about a rechargable spotlight, I realized that even a 3-cell Mag-light would not be sufficient. Thanks.

Without bleeding over to gear and maintenance, would anyone care to recomend a rechargable spotlight?


sailingdog 03-19-2006 09:30 PM

Under sail at sea, a masthead tricolor would be good. Under sail, for coastal and harbor work, a bicolor bow light with a stern light would work.

Under power, you would need a white stern light and a white steaming light and the bow bicolor light. At sea, the masthead anchor light would work for the white stern and steaming light, which can be combined as a single all-around white light. Inshore, I would recommend using separate stern and steaming lights.

A strobe and a powerful spotlight are both good for safety, but be careful with the spotlight, as if you blind people on another boat, you may be liable for any damage that occurs from their inability to see.

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