Nose boat with spotlight and anchor on a sunny day

Key Things to Know About Boat Navigation Lights  

One of the best experiences you can have on the water is by driving a boat. Even if you have little or no experience piloting a boat, you can learn, and most people who can drive a car will find it easy to operate a boat. There are a number of rules you have to learn as a part of that process, including rules related to boat navigation lights. Lights are not just for ensuring you can see what’s around you but also as a type of communication with others within sight of your boat.

If you’re thinking about booking a week or weekend on the water, check out Callville Bay Resort & Marina. While you’re here, you can rent a houseboat or one of our small boats to take some time out on the water. We’ll give you all the help you need to do so safely.

What to Know About Boat Navigation Lights

Boat navigation lights are one of the most important types of gear on the boat itself, even if it is not dark outside yet. Those red and green lights provide information about your actions for other boats and people.

They are a requirement after the sun goes down and can be one of the most important components in situations where there is restricted visibility on the waterways. If it is foggy on the water or you come into a period of the day that’s dark and overcast due to an impending storm, you need to know how to use your lights properly.

Who Sets the Boat Navigation Lights Rules?

The U.S. Coast Guard has created rules related to the use of navigation lights to ensure there is a well-understood and clearly outlined process. There are some additional local and state-level additions to those boat rules in some areas.

The best way to learn everything impacting you on the water is to check out the USCG navigational rules online and then speak to the marina you are renting a boat from to learn of any local rules.

What Are the Basic Rules of Boat Navigation Lights?

Boats Under 7 Meters

For boats that are under seven meters that cannot reach above seven knots, it is critical to have all-around white lights. These boats may also display green and red side lights in addition to the white light.

Powerboats Under 12 Meters

For boats that are under 12 meters, it is critical to have all-around white lights that can be seen from all angles, often as a masthead light. In addition to this, they must have red and green side lights that can be seen at 112.5 degrees.

These lights are to be located at least one meter below the masthead light and above the hull. The masthead light must be visible at 225 degrees (as an alternative) but then needs to have a stern light that’s also visible by 135 degrees.

The lights must be bright enough so they can be seen from at least one nautical mile. In addition to this, the lights on the masthead and term have to be visible for at least two nautical miles.

Boats Under 12 Meters

For those who have a sailboat that is under 12 meters in size, it is required that the boat have green and red side lights. This is the same rule as powerboats. In addition to this, these boats must have a white stern light or, in some situations, may be able to have a three-colored masthead light instead.

Powerboats up to 20 Meters

For powerboats that are up to 20 meters in length, it is a requirement to have side lights, masthead lights, and stern lights, all as noted for smaller boats. In addition to this, the side and stern lights must be visible for at least two nautical miles. The masthead light must be even brighter so it can be seen for at least three nautical miles.

Sailboats up to 20 Meters

For a sailboat that is up to 20 meters, there must be side lights as well as a white stern light, as noted previously, or a three-colored light. In addition to this, these boats must have visibility for at least two nautical miles.

Boats Over 20 Meters

For those who have a boat larger than 20 meters, it is necessary to have all of the lights described so far. In addition to this, the masthead lights have to be bright enough to allow for as much as five nautical miles of visibility.

Limited Visibility Light Usage

One of the most important times to have boat lights in place is when visibility is low. Any boat with a powered engine must meet all of the requirements for powerboats. It is a requirement of the boat operator (regardless of the ownership of the boat) to be sure the lights are working properly. It is not enough to just have the lights in place – they have to be operational and being used.

The only time you use the forward-facing white beam lights is when you are docking. If you are operating the boat in open water, you do not (and should not) use these lights.

Remember, too, that local rules can differ when it comes to where you display lights, how you display them, how intense the lights are, and their overall visibility. It is up to you to know the rules in the local area. If you are unfamiliar with them, do some research before you set out onto the waterways.

Rent a Houseboat at Callville Bay Resort & Marina

Having the ability to get out there and have some fun is well worth it. You don’t have to worry about not being an experienced pro, though. The staff at Callville Bay Resort & Marina will work closely with you to ensure you have all the information and training you need.

During your initial booking, you’ll learn what these expectations are, and then we will review all the safety standards you need to follow. This type of one-on-one support allows us to ensure that you are getting the type of education and training you need to remain safe on the water.

Are you ready to head out and start exploring Lake Mead? Reach out to Callville Bay Resort & Marina with questions, or book your houseboat now.

POSTED IN: Houseboat Tips