Navigation Lights

Types, Identifying, & When to Giveway

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Navigation Lights Summary

Review the summary on Navigation Lights.

Key Navigation Light Points on the WATER
  • Lights differ by aspect angle to the other vessel –telling which way they are going.
  • Lights differ by type of vessel - identifying what they are.
  • A RED or GREEN light visible on another vessel indicates - a crossing situation.
  • A RED light on the other vessel’s port side – YOU give way.
  • A GREEN light is on their starboard side – YOU are the stand on vessel.
  • A single WHITE light visible on the other vessel suggests:
    • a) A vessel going away from us
    • b) A small vessel
    • c) An anchored boat
  • A WHITE light visible ABOVE the RED or GREEN suggests - A power-driven vessel, NO WHITE light suggests - A vessel under sail.
  • Other lights:
    • a) Law enforcement (BLUE)
  • A light pattern you do not recognize or remember - STAY CLEAR


Take a Quiz on Navigation Lights

1. Under what circumstances do you need to show navigation lights?

Whenever another boat is nearby
After 5 PM until daylight the next day
From sunset to sunrise
At all times while underway

2. If you see a red light at night, what does that indicate?

Observing a sailing vessel on a port tack away from you
Observing a sailing vessel crossing from your starboard side
Observing a power-driven vessel head on
Most likely looking at a red lighted buoy

3. When you see the red light of another vessel, what should you do?

Reduce speed and steer to starboard to pass behind the other vessel
Slow down and flash your lights
Speed up to pass ahead of the other vessel
Wait until you see a green light after the other vessel turns

4. If you see a white light higher and in between red and green lights, where are you?

Along-side of a power-driven vessel
Passing in front of a head-on power-driven vessel
Heading toward a sailing vessel underway
Approaching a vessel at anchor

5. When you see a steady single white light on the water, what does that indicate?

Small sailboat
Kayaker fishing
A vessel at anchor
A vessel being towed