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Navigating the Sea of Navigation Lights

December 13, 2011

Navigating the Sea of Navigation Lights

Why Navigation Lights? If you plan to boat in the dark OR if you end up boating in the dark and it is unplanned OR if you are subject to local, state, federal or international regulations, you need some navigation lights. If you fall into the category of unregulated boats (kayaks, canoes, rowboats, small sailboats) you may still choose to use navigation lights to make it easier for other vessels to see you when you are out there in the dark. There are also navigation lights in LED or incandescent bulbs, that are made for unregulated boats and may be clamped, tied or suction cup mounted.

How big a Navigation Light do you need? Pleasure boats fit into the smaller boat category and typically require lights set up for either <12 metres / 39 feet or < 20 metres / 65 ft. You won’t get in trouble if you use a light that is sized for the next class up. You can get into trouble if your lights are too small, improperly mounted or not putting out as much light as they should.

What Navigation Lights do you need? This varies from vessel to vessel and even from how a vessel is used. Powerboats are pretty straight forward. Sailboats can act like powerboats OR sailboats and they may have different lights depending on their size as well as their use.

To understand the graphic below, Powercraft means the vessel is under ENGINE POWER (and this includes sailboats), while Sailing Vessels means a sailboat that is actually using its sails to move at night. There are also light combinations for anchoring and similar situations. Recognition goes to Aqua Signal for the following graphics – The information shown is based on the International Regulations Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (IMO).

For example – If you own a 34′ sailboat, then it must be equipped with the correct lights for sailing as well as the correct lights for powercraft. What this means in short is that you will have all your sailing lights plus a 225 degree forward facing steaming light. Visit Go2marine for all your navigation light needs.

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