Light up the night: A guide to boat lights
The sunsets and you’re ready to take your boat out on the water. You turn on your engine, feel the excitement of the waves, and you’re off! But wait… As nightfall quickly approaches, so does an important question – will your boat be seen? What boat lights do you have in place?
If you’re an avid sailor, you know the importance of having appropriate boat lights on board your vessel. From navigation lights that make it possible for other ships to spot you after dark to interior and exterior lights that help you read a map or find something in the dark.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about boat lighting and how to keep your boat well-lit no matter what type of voyage you are embarking on.
Boat navigation lights
Navigation lights are the most critical category of lights you need aboard your vessel. These are used by other ships to identify your location. Under the COLREGs regulations, all vessels must have navigation lights visible from two miles away during night-time journeys.
The exact set-up will depend on the size and shape of your boat; There are three main types of navigation: stern, portside, and starboard.
Recreational craft needs to display navigation lights while underway so they can easily be seen by larger vessels that may not be able to spot them otherwise due to their smaller size.
For boats up to 39.4 feet in length, red and green sidelights should be placed along the vessel’s side to be visible from any angle when it is dark out. The red light should always be on the port (left) side of the vessel, while the green light should always be on the starboard (right) side.
Additionally, a stern white light should be located near the back of your boat facing backwards at switched on at night so that other vessels can quickly tell which end of your boat is forward or aft while navigating.
Tip: Red navigation lights on the port side mean that the boat has the right of way, whereas green ones show it is giving way.
Interior and cabin lights
Interior lighting can illuminate your boat’s cabin and living areas so that you can move around safely when it is dark. This can include courtesy lights and LED dome lights.
Tip: Consider red light bulbs to help maintain your night vision.
Good illumination is essential to provide a comfortable and enjoyable space while cruising. Most modern boats will have LED lights installed as these are energy-efficient and long-lasting, producing a soft glow ideal for living areas, cabins, steps and even compartments.
Exterior and docking lights
Exterior lighting is essential for dockside activities such as fishing or enjoying a meal outdoors after sunset; for these applications, consider investing in waterproof LED marine lighting, which can be installed anywhere on board for added illumination when needed. You may want to think about adding spreader lights as an option.
Tip: When shopping for new marine-grade LED fixtures, always check the IP rating to ensure they meet the standards for water resistance and durability against saltwater corrosion.
Underwater lights offer an aesthetically pleasing look by adding accent LEDs around the yacht, perfect for those wishing to make their boat stand out. A wide selection of options on the market offers vibrant colours and bright LEDs in various shapes and sizes – from strips to underwater spotlights.
Deck lighting is also important for safety and aesthetics – it helps to provide illumination when walking around the outside of the boat or performing tasks such as rope work while creating a pleasant atmosphere for you to relax in.
Deck lights provide illumination for activities like fishing or docking in the dark. Typically, they are placed around the circumference of your boat so that other boaters can quickly identify its size and any obstructions that may extend from the bow or stern.
Masthead lights mark the highest point of a sailboat. According to COLREGS, sailing vessels must display a white light high up at the masthead, visible all around the horizon. This helps to indicate the size of the sailboat, especially when it’s under sail and can’t show its running lights.
What is a running light?
A running light is used to indicate a boat’s movement. This type should be mounted on your vessel’s bow, stern and starboard side to signal direction and size to other ships.
The lights should also be visible from both front and back, so others easily see them. Running lights are essential for boating safety as they help prevent collisions while cruising in low-light areas such as foggy seas or during nightfall.
What is an anchor light?
An anchor light should be illuminated when your boat is anchored and stationary. This light should be placed at the highest point above the water line on your boat so that others can easily see it. Ensure the LED you select is bright enough to be seen in low-light conditions by other ships.
According to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), boats must display an anchor light from sunset to sunrise when anchored in or near a channel, fairway, or any other area where other ships are likely to be present.
What is a stern light?
A stern light should be displayed when your boat is underway. They should be placed in the back or stern of your boat and emit white light. The purpose is to let other vessels know which direction your boat travels in and its size.
According to COLREGS, boats must display a white light at the stern visible from behind. This helps other ships to identify the direction of movement of the vessel, especially when approaching from the back, allowing them to make necessary adjustments to avoid collisions.
Whether you are planning an overnight trip or want extra boat lights while docked at marinas, adequate illumination is essential for any sailor looking to maximise their time spent out on the open waters!
With this comprehensive guide as a reference point, you’ll be able to get up to speed quickly to enjoy safe sailing experiences during evening voyages!
Boat lights are essential for safe operation and communication with other vessels at night. With an understanding of the various options, their intended function, and compliance with maritime regulations, you’ll be able to confidently light up the dark and enjoy a more enjoyable boating experience.
- Always carry spare bulbs and batteries on board in case of emergency.
- When navigating in poor visibility conditions, such as fog or heavy rain, make sure to have all the lights on and increase the visibility as much as possible.
- Buy LEDs; they are energy efficient, durable, and have a longer lifespan than traditional incandescent bulbs.
- Be familiar with the COLREGS and special lighting requirements for commercial vessels.
- Please always ensure that the anchor light is switched on and visible to other boats when anchored.
Q: What are the different categories of boat lights?
A: They include anchor, running, the masthead, stern, and all-around lights.
Q: What is the purpose of anchor lights?
A: Anchor lights show a boat’s position when it is anchored. They must be displayed from sunset to sunrise when anchored in or near a channel, fairway, or any other area where other boats are likely to be.
Q: What is the purpose of running lights?
A: Running lights mark a boat’s position and course when it is underway. They must be displayed between sunset and sunrise.
Q: What is the purpose of masthead lights?
A: Masthead lights mark the highest point of a sailboat and must be displayed as a white light that is visible all around the horizon.
Q: What is the purpose of stern lights?
A: Stern lights help to identify a boat’s position and direction of movement with their white light visible from behind.
Q: What is the purpose of all-around lights?
A: All-around lights indicate a boat’s position and course when it’s either anchored or not underway with their white light that is visible all around the horizon.
Q: Are LEDs better?
A: Quality LED bulbs are a great choice due to their energy efficiency, durability, and longer lifespan than traditional incandescent bulbs.
Q : What are the COLREGS ?
A: The COLREGS (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea) establish rules for both boats and ships to prevent potential collisions on water.