Study Topics
Boats in Action Section Quiz Site Map
Navigation Lights

Click on the links below to view the navigation lights animations:

Light Shapes, Colors, and Positions Animations

Masthead Light Animations

Commercial Barge Traffic Animations

Masthead Light

A white light placed over the fore-and-after centerline of the vessel, showing an unbroken light over an arc of 225 degrees, from dead ahead to 22.5 degrees abaft (behind) the beam on both sides of the vessel. On boats less
than 12 meters (39.4 feet) in length, the masthead light may be off the fore-and-aft centerline, but must be as close
to it as possible. The term "masthead light" is something of a misnomer. More often than not, this light is not at
the top of the mast. On motorboats, it is often on a short staff at the top of the cabin. On sailboats, it is usually
part way up the mast, and called the "steaming light". Another light, the anchor light, is usually at the masthead.

The following diagram shows typical lighting patterns that you will see on power vessels under 12 meters.
All of the following light patterns are legal, and there is no preferred pattern.

Sailboats under sail alone

Sailboats under 20 meters in length and UNDER SAIL ONLY may display
a tri-color masthead light instead of side lights. They may also display a
red and green all around light, with the red being the top light. As soon
as the engine goes on, even if your sails are up, you must also
display sidelights.


Masthead Light Animations

Non-Powered Vessels
Anchor Lights

Anchor Lights
A common Navigation light that you will see near harbors or popular cruising destinations is the anchor light. The anchor light is an all-around light that must be visible for 2 miles in any direction. No other navigation lights should be on while at anchor. Vessels under 7 meters, and not anchored in areas that boats normally navigate do not need to display an anchor light, though it is a good idea to do it.