U.S. Coast Guard Requirements

Lighting

Revised by BoatUS editors in April 2012

Boat lightCoast Guard minimum equipment requirements vary with the size of your boat, type of propulsion, whether operated at night or in periods of reduced visibility, and, in some cases, the body of water on which it is used. Boats carrying passengers for hire have additional equipment requirements. For more complete details on how many and what types of equipment you must have aboard your boat, request a copy of the free brochure, "Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats" from the BoatUS Foundation, or, to go directly to the USCG Navigation Rules (often called the Rules of the Road), see http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=navRulesContent .

Please note that requirements shown below hold true for most areas, but local regulations are intricate. Be sure to check with your local government for marine safety regulations in your area and the Navigation Rules cited in the preceding paragraph. You can visit your state's boating page by surfing to the Foundation website at http://www.boatus.com/onlinecourse/statehomepg.html.

Navigation (Running) Lights

Required on boats between sunset and sunrise. A sailboat under motor only, or under sail and motor, is considered a powerboat, and must display appropriate lights.

Boats under 12 meters(39.4')

Sailboats-Separate or combination red and green sidelights, 112.5°, visible 1 n.m. White stern light, 135°, visible 2 n.m. OR, tri-color masthead light.

Powerboats-Separate or combination red and green sidelights, 112.5°, visible 1 n.m., placed above hull at least 1 meter (3.3') below masthead light. Masthead: white, 225°, visible 2 n.m., at least 1 meter above side lights. White stern light, 135°, visible 2 n.m. OR, one all-round (360°) white light (should also have sidelights).

Boats under 12 meters (39.4') to 20 meters (65.6')

Sailboats-Separate or combination red and green sidelights, 112.5°, visible 2 n.m. White stern light, 135°, visible 2 n.m. OR, tri-color masthead light.

Powerboats-Separate or combination red and green sidelights, 112.5°, visible 2 n.m., placed above hull at least 1 meter (3.3') below masthead light. Masthead: white, 225°, visible 3 n.m., at least 1 meter above side lights. White stern light, 135°, visible 2 n.m.

More information...FREE!

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety, a national nonprofit safety organization supported by contributions from individual boaters, publishes and distributes free safety brochures on a variety of subjects, including Life Jackets, Hypothermia, Boating and Alcohol, Weather, Free Boating Courses, the Boater's Source Directory, and a safety brochure for kids with stickers.

The Foundation also produces a series of consumer tests on boating equipment called "Foundation Findings." Topics include Visual Distress Signals, Navigation Lights, PFDs, Fire Extinguishers, Bilge Pumps, Anchors, Life Rafts, Mooring and Docking Lines, and more.

For copies, write to the BoatUS Foundation, 880 S. Pickett St., Alexandria, VA 22304, call (703) 823-9550, or visit us at www.boatus.com/foundation.

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