We've covered the lights that you need for powered recreational vessels, now let's look at the requirements for sailboats and other unpowered boats.
If you are operating a sailboat that is over 23 feet in length, or 7 meters, you need to display the following navigation lights when operating between sunset and sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility:
- A white stern light that is visible at 135 degrees and from two miles.
- And one pair of red and green sidelights that are visible at 112.5 degrees and from one mile away.
Another option for sailboats of this size is to display an all-around light configuration, sometimes called a tricolor light, which is visible from a distance of two miles. This light configuration has three sections: red at port, green at starboard and white at the stern.
- Sternlight (aft) - 135 degrees visible from two miles.
- Sidelights (either combined or separate) - 112.5 degrees visible from one mile.
- Tricolor light combined in one lantern (red, green, white)
- White - 135 degrees (stern)
- Green - 112.5 degrees (starboard)
- Red - 112.5 degrees (port)
Note: A tricolor light can only be displayed while underway under sails alone and must not be used when under power whether or not sails are hoisted. This light must not be used when the regular sidelights are on. Either the sidelights or the tricolor light may be displayed, but not both.
Vessels Under Oars or Paddles and Sailboats Under 23 FT
If you are operating a sailboat that is less than 23 feet or 7 meters in length, you are only required to display a white light, such as a lantern or a flashlight, when operating between sunset and sunrise or during periods of restricted visibility. However, it's still a good idea to display the navigation lights for larger sailboats if possible.
The requirements for small sailboats also apply to other unpowered boats under 23 feet in length, such as canoes, kayaks and rowboats. When boating between sunset and sunrise or during periods of restricted visibility, you need to display a white light so that other boats can see you in time to avoid a collision.