Do navigation lights depend on the vessel size?

Where is the cutoff? Do navigation lights depend on the vessel size?


  • Running lights or navigation lights definitely depend on boat size as well as boat type but the basic rule is that you need side lights, a masthead light and stern lights which indicate the side of the boat others might be looking at. If your boat is larger than 65 feet in length, the light output must be stronger. Red and Green side lights must be visible from 2 miles if your boat is greater than 40' in length or one mile if your boat is smaller than 40 feet.

  • @BigNauti76 Navigation lights not only depend on the boats size but they depend on the boat type as well. I found this image in another thread that will help differentiate all navigation light requirements for all boat types and sizes.

  • Navigation lights on boats depend on boat size and boat type as well. Motorized, sailing or paddle powered have different requirements. As well as the size of each vessel.

  • Thank you all for the input. What about navigation lights for boats over 40' in length @YellowFin

  • You might want to note that the USCG regulations have now gone metric, i.e.; the old 40" length is now 12 meters (39'4"), the difference is small, and older boats can continue to operate under the regulations they were built under. However if you have a new(newer) boat you might want to ensure you are compliant with the new regulations which were enacted to bring the US into compliance with the rest of the IMO (International Maritime Organization) world. This should not be an issue unless you have a boat that needs to be compliant with the new regulations and the builder is still operating under the "old" standards. It has happened. All the new regulations can be found in "Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook" published by Skyhorse Publications. It also has all the geographical demarcations between Inland Waters and International and Western Rivers Rules-the Western Rivers Rules are by and large applicable only to commercial vessels, but the differences between Inland and International Rules are applicable to everyone by vessel length and type-in metric measure.

    No one is running around measuring recreational vessels-yet, but the difference will probably only be noted in a worst case scenario, like a vessel accident, and then they might be important to you.

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