What Lights Are Required On A Boat At Night?

Light requirements for a boat at night

Now that 2022 is here, the boating season is fast approaching. This means that it’s time to start preparing your boat and ensuring you have all the necessary gear and that all boat light requirements are met. The requirements depend on the size of the vessel, and PlashLights offers marine lighting of all kinds, including:

We want to help you make sure your vessel is ready to go for your next boat day! 

Boat Light Requirements

One of the foremost boat light requirements is navigation lighting. The type of light requirements changes for each vessel because the bigger the boat, the more powerful and visible the lights need to be. 

Powerboats and Sailboats When Under Power

One of the basic rules of navigation lights is that sidelights, a masthead light, and a stern light are required. 

  • Powerboats less than 12m (39.4’) can substitute a single all-around light for separate masthead lights and a stern light.
  • Powerboats and sailboats under power that are less than 20m (65.7’) can substitute a single bi-color light for the sidelights.

Note that Sailboats operating under engine power are considered power-driven and must follow the “Under Power” rules. 

Sailboats When Under Sail

Sidelights and stern light are the basics required. There are variations to this rule that are also allowed. 

  • Sailboats less than 20m (65.7’) can substitute a tricolor light for separate sidelights and stern light. A bi-color light with a stern light may also be substituted. 
  • Sailboats less than 7m (23’) can exhibit lights like explained above. An alternative that is also accepted is to have a ready-at-hand electric torch or lighted lantern (flashlight) that shows white lights in enough time to prevent a collision.
  • Sailboats, during the day, that are under power with sails hoisted are required to show a motoring cone with its apex pointed down. 

Oar-Driven and Paddled Vessels (Rowboats, Kayaks, Canoes)

  • Vessels that are rowed or paddled may exhibit the lights for a sailboat. Keep a ready-at-hand electric torch or flashlight that shows white light in enough time to prevent a collision. 

Vessels at Anchor

  • When a vessel is anchored at night outside a designated anchorage, an all-around light visible from at least 2m is required.
  • During the day, an anchored vessel must display a black anchor ball. 

Minimum Visibility Range

  • Boats less than 12m (39.4’), sidelights are required to be visible for at least 1nm. The rest of the lights must be visible from at least 2nm. 
  • Vessels less than 20m (65.7’), a masthead light must be visible for 3nm. All other lights must be visible from 2nm. 
  • Boats over 20m (65.7’) but less than 50m (164’) should display a masthead light visible for 5nm. The rest of the lights should be visible for 2nm.


Note that a copy of the Navigation Rules and Regulations must be kept on board at all times for boats greater than 20m (65.7’). 

Shop With Us

While regulations require boaters to have the standard U.S. Coast Guard-approved lights, our PlashLights team offers additional marine lighting of all kinds. Our LED lighting systems are not only top quality and come with a lifetime warranty, but they also keep you safe and visible to other boaters while you navigate darker waterways. Much like high beams while driving, we recommend turning off any light bar or spotlight when you see other boats so you do not blind or obstruct other boaters. 

Each of our marine lights is meant to add to the safety of your boating experience, especially at night. With the legally required lights, plus even one of our LED light bars, you’ll be one of the brightest and safest boats on the water. 

Contact PlashLights today for more information on all our marine lighting or our marine LED light bars!

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