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Encountering Other Boats

Night Time Navigation

You should always be on the lookout for the lights of other boats when boating at night. Several types of lights serve as navigational aids at night. They are:

  • Sidelights These red and green lights are called sidelights (or combination lights) because they are visible to another boat approaching from the side or head-on. The red light indicates a boats port (left) side; the green indicates a boats starboard (right) side
  • Sternlight A white light seen from behind the boat
  • Masthead Light A white light, which shines forward, located on the mast of a sailboat and required on all powerboats. A masthead light must be used by all boats when under engine power. The absence of this light identifies a sailboat under sail
  • All-Round White Light On powerboats less than 39.4 feet in length, this light may be used to combine a masthead and stern light into a single white light able to be seen by other boats from any direction. When sidelights are extinguished, this light serves as an anchor light


Encountering Powerboats At Night
  When you see a white and a green light you are the stand-on boat. However, remain alert in case the other boat operator does not see you or does not know the navigational rules.
  When you see only a white light, you are overtaking another boat. It is the stand-on boat whether it is underway or anchored. You may go around it on either side.
  When you see a red and a white light you must give-way to the other boat! Slow down and allow the boat to pass or pass to the right behind the boat.


Encountering A Sailboat At Night
  When you see only a green or only a red light you are approaching a sail -boat under sail and you must give-way. The sailboat under sail is always the stand-on boat!  

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