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Navigation Rules COLREGS The International Regulations for the Prevention of Collision at Sea (COLREGS) apply to all vessels

upon the high seas and vessels on most waterways, bays, inlets, rivers connected to the sea. Rule 3(a) defines 'Vessel' as all manner of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water. Rule 20 states that all vessels must display the proper lights from sunrise to sunset and in situations where there is limited visibility. Rule 21 Defines the various navigation lights - see below.

Masthead Light Rule 21(a) Masthead Light: The 'masthead light' is a white light placed over the fore and aft centerline of the vessel showing with an arc of 225 degrees.

Sidelights Rule 21(b) Sidelights: Sidelights are red (port side) and green (starboard side) lights than shine in an arc of 112.5 degrees from straight ahead to a point 22.5 degrees abaft the beam.

Stern Light Rule 21(c) Stern Light: The stern light is a white light placed as near as is practicable at the stern. The light shines in an arc of 135 degrees.

Towing Light Rule 21(d) Towing Light: The towing light is a yellow light placed as near as is practicable at the stern. The light shine in an arc of 135 degrees.

All-round Light Rule 21(e) All-round Light: The all-round light (such as the white anchor light) shines in an arc of 360 degrees.

General Rules
At first glance the myriad of navigation lights and shapes don't seem to make much sense. Here are a few basic rules to follow to make learning the navigation lights easier.

a vessel will only have red, green sidelights and a stern light when it is underway (i.e. not anchored, moored or secured to a dock); if a vessel is under power it will have one or two masthead lights depending on it's length (over 50 meters two; under 50 meters one). Since it is underway, it will also have the red, green sidelights and a stern light; a boat that is anchored, it is not making way and therefore it will only have one or more 360 white anchor lights depending on it's length ( under 50 meters - one anchor light; over 50 meters but under 100 meters - two anchor lights one at the bow and one at the stern; over 100 meters - two anchor lights, one at the bow and one at the stern plus deck lights). Any vessel anchored will display a black disc which is the day shape indicating the vessel is anchored; a sailboat (i.e. a boat under sail alone) will have red and green sidelights and a stern light but since it is not under power, it will not have a masthead light

In addition to the above, a vessel will have other lights and day shapes to characterize the nature and activity of a boat. below. Navigation Lights for Sail Boats - Rule 25 Rule 3(c) Defines a "sailing vessel" as any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being used.

Rule 25(a) Sailboats - Under Sail Only:


Red and Green side lights; White Stern light.

Rule 25(b)Sailboats Optional Tricolor Light:


Sailing vessels less than 20 meters in length may use a combination mast top tri-color light in place of the standard red and green sidelights and white stern light.

Rule 25(c)Sailboats Optional Mast Top Lights:

Not required by law, but to make your sailboat more visible, you can use theoptional Red over Green mast top lights in addition to the required:

Red and Green side lights; White Stern light.

Rule 25(d) (ii)Sailboats Less than 7 Meters:


A sailboat less than 7 meters is not required to display lights as set out in Rule 25(a) or (b) but must have ready and at hand, an electric torch (flashlight) that shines a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent a collison.

White Stern light.

Rule 25(e)Sailboats Under Power (Motorsailing):

A sailboat, either fully or partially under power, for the purposes of the Rules of Navigation, is treated as a power driven vessel (powerboat). This means that if you are motorsailing, you are now considered to be a powerboat and not a sailboat. In addition to displaying the proper lights, a vessel under sail when also being propelled by machinery shall display a conical shape, apex downwards. (Vessels under 12 meters are not required to display this day shape.)

Navigation Lights for Power Boats

Rule 23(a)Power Boats underway - 50 Meters and Over:


Red and Green side lights; Two White Masthead lights (front lower); White Stern light.

Rule

23(b)Power Boats underway - less than 50 Meters:


Red and Green side lights; White Masthead light; White Stern light.

Rule 23(d) (i)Power Boats underway - less than 12 Meters:


A power vessel less than 12 Meters in lieu of the lights prescribed in Rule 23(a) may exhibit:

Red and Green side lights; All-round White light.

Vessels Not In Command A vessel 'Not in Command' is defined in Rule 3(f) as a vessel which is unable to maneuver as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of other vessels. A vessel is underway when it is not anchored, docked, secured to the shore or aground.

Rule 27(a) (i)&(ii) Vessel Not in Command - Not Making Way:

Two all around Red lights, inline, one above the other; Shapes - two round discs, inline, one above the other.

Rule 27(a) (iii)Vessel Not in Command Making Way:

Two all around Red lights, inline, one above the other; Red and Green sidelights; Stern light. Shapes - two round discs, inline, one above the other.

Vessels at Anchor There is no distinction between power vessels at anchor and sailing vessels at anchor.

Rule 30(b) Vessels Under 50 Meters in length:

An all-round white light placed where it may best be seen.

Rule 30(a) Vessels Over 50 Meters but Under 100 Meters in length:

An all-round white light in the fore part or one ball; An all-round white light at or near the stern.

Rule 30(c) Vessels Over 100 Meters in length:

An all-round white light in the fore part or one ball; An all-round white light at or near the stern; Use working or other lights to illuminate the decks.