What are the mandatory way lights in the boat? Get your act together before the vacations!

Street lights - Which ones are mandatory and when they should be turned on
Street lights – Which ones are mandatory and when they should be turned on

When sailing a sailboat, especially at night and in very crowded areas in summer, it is essential to keep an eye on the status of the different types of navigation lights. Their use is most important to safeguard safety-your own and others’-when at sea. Let’s see with the
SVB Marine’s comprehensive guide
what the different types are and when they should be turned on.

Mandatory lights according to IMO COLREG international regulations.

The types of lights that are mandatory to have a boat are identified by international regulations, specifically IMO COLREG 72 Regulation. This regulation prescribes which types are useful for clearly and unambiguously identifying the identity and orientation of all navigation units. Here are what they are:

1. Starboard and port side

Green on the starboard side and red on the left side with a visibility from the outside of 112.5°. If the boat is less than 20 meters long, the pair of side and stern lights can be replaced with a single combination one, to be placed at the masthead.

2. Stern

A white crowning light with 135° visibility should be installed at the stern. The height should be adjusted according to the position of the side lights (should not be higher). If the boat is less than 20 meters long, the pair of side and stern lights can be replaced with a single combination light, to be placed at the masthead.

3. Tricolor combination lights for sailboats

Sailboats under 20 meters in length may replace side and stern lights with a single tricolor light installed at the masthead. When the boat is motoring, however, this substitution is not possible.

4. Masthead lights

The white light at the masthead must have an aftward visibility of 225° and must be mounted at least 1 meter above the position of the side lights.

5. Signal lights, anchor lights

The signal lights are visible 360° and emit white, red or verse light. They are used when needed, such as to report breakdowns and problems or stranded or unmaneuverable boats, in conjunction with the black anchor ball.

What about when we are in the roadstead?

When anchoring in roadstead or within a demarcated and marked area (e.g., a buoy field) you must signal your presence with the black anchor ball, combined with a white signal light at night.

What for a sailboat less than 20 meters in length?

Inside the SVB Marine online shop you will find all the wide selection of street lights for your boat, with well-known brands such as Hella Marine,AquaSignal and Lopolight. For a sailboat up to 20 meters you can, for example, opt for this configuration:

1 Red port light
1 Green starboard light
1 Stern light
1 Red, white and green 360° masthead navigation light
*in cooperation with SVB Marine



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